Friday, May 30, 2008

Bubblewrap club

I did not start my day right. It's one thing when I trip and fall down while I'm running. It's a whole 'nother thing when I fall down when I'm ... getting my coffee in the morning.

I was early this morning so I decided to head for the Starbucks that I like, instead of the closer Safeway as I normally do. I was walking from my car, quickly since a few people were behind me, noticing that the store was crowded with people and this was going to take awhile. I should have been paying more attention to my feet since I caught my toes on the curb and tripped. I had high hopes that I'd be able to catch myself but no such luck.

Boom, down I went. I landed on my hands, my left hip, my left knee (yeah, that knee). Worst of all was the humiliation. I popped right back up again -- nothing to see here folks, move it along -- but I was shaky and trembly. At a minimum, 20 people saw me go down. The few behind me and a couple in the store asked if I was ok and I brushed it off, Joe Cool-style. "Yeah, I guess I really just need my coffee" yuck yuck. But I wouldn't take off my sunglasses so nobody could look me in the eyes. I wouldn't even look at my hands or my knee.

I finally got my latte and went back to my car. My Levi's made it through with nary a scratch. My knee wasn't as lucky. It's bruised, scraped and swollen. And it hurts.

What a klutz.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Another little swim

Tonight Claudia, Phil and I did our last pre-training swim at Shadow Cliffs. It was cold and breezy and deserted. We inched our way into the water, Phil bravely diving in and heading toward the swim lane. We decided that we'd swim 5 laps and go get warm.

The mid-buoy was still missing and the lane narrowed down to a couple of feet in the middle. After a couple of near collisions with Phil I decided to swim on the outside of the lane, along the straight edge. I worked on keeping my feet up and I can do that fine. Except then I start messing up my arms and breathing. I can't quite get them all right at once so it's good that training is just about to begin.

After we had done 6 laps Claudia kept going, so I did too. We ended up with 8 and I was icy by then. Cold hands, cold feet, cold everything. I was a few seconds faster per lap than I've been so that's good, but the teeny additional speed didn't make me any warmer.

Big weekend ahead; running, partying, swimming, cycling. It's going to be great!

I'm the spam queen

If you've recently received some spam from my work email address, you're not alone. Some nefarious do-badder has stolen my address and sent about a gazallion emails promoting everything from designer purses to erectile aids to mortgage assistance. How do I know this? Because in the fine tradition of spammers everywhere the emails are sent indiscriminately to all kinds of made-up addresses. When they reach an email server that exists, but doesn't have that particular email address name, the server bounces the spam. Right on back to my email inbox.

Over the weekend I had hundreds of these returned emails with subjects stating:

Delivery Status Notification (Failure)
Undeliverable Mail
failure notice
Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender
Mail System Error - Returned Mail
Returned mail: see transcript for details

and the like. Several hundred get filtered by my company's very efficient spam filter (which regularly gets rid of thousands of spams addressed to me each week). A few hundred more get stopped by Thunderbird's spam filter. The rest end up mixed in with my regular email.

I had hoped that it was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, that spammers realize that offender's email addresses get banned for excessive volumes, but no such luck. Today at approximately 11:15 am another batch of spam crap got sent out. Here I am trying to work and hundreds of returned emails start flooding my inbox. It's distracting, to say the least.

The funny thing is that lots of these spams aren't even in English! Heck, they're not even in an alphabet I can read! I just don't get the point. Are there that many stupid people out there with email access who actually buy the product being shilled? Would YOU buy something from a spammer??

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

FO and WIP

I'm still knitting, even though it's not horribly exciting. Well, it is to me but probably not to anyone else. I finished knitting and wove in the ends of my Mistake Rib scarf. I used 1 skein of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Charcoal, a plush superwash wool with lovely dark shading.It was a simple, mindless 2x2 rib with 1 extra stitch (hence the "Mistake" part of it) and I enjoyed just going back and forth while I paid attention to other things. I used size 8, 16" fixed Options circulars and I love these needles. It's my first mistake rib and I like it more than a real rib. It's stretchier and softer and the detail is nicer looking.
It's short, since I only used the 1 skein but this was just a tester, remember? I knit this so I can determine whether I can tolerate the yarn on my bare skin. It's one of the tester projects that I'll be doing before I finally attempt my first sweater (ok, sweatshirt), the Wonderful Wallaby. Now I just have to wait for it to get colder out before I can test it. It's pretty darn cool out but not quite wool scarf weather.My other current project is my Keep it Simple Scarf that I'm knitting out of Tess's Designer Yarns Superwash Merino. The scarf is a 10 row repeat with 6 rows being knit. Couldn't be easier, and it's knitting up quickly when I actually have time to pick it up. I love how the colors are coming through and the yarn is soft and handles well. I could be working on this for a while; training starts this weekend!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We didn't just leave and have hot cocoa

Tonight Claudia and I went to Shadow Cliffs for another swim. We were both dreading it because neither of us was feeling at the top of our game. And it was cold out. Hellllllooo spring, where are you? The temp was hovering about 63-65 degrees but the wicked wind chill had it down to the upper 50s.

The only difference that having passed Memorial Day made was there were lifeguards present. Of course, they turned around and left very soon after we got there, before we had even made it into the water. There was a large crowd of young un's (hi, I'm 87 years old!) hanging out on the sand and acting exactly like people in their early 20s tend to act. Nobody was in the water. Not even the geese.

We stripped down to our swimsuits and walked to the water. It looked cold and surprise surprise, was. We walked very slowly into the water, inch by inch, feeling it was even colder than the first time we swam there. Even though we were both "you want to leave?" and "yeah let's go" we decided we had to go at least 2 laps. We finally dunked under and after some girly shrieks we started swimming.

Even the swim lane was cold and shrunken; possibly one of the side buoys was missing so the lane narrowed down to a couple of feet in the middle. At least only the 2 of us were dumb enough to be swimming so there were no collisions. The wind was nice for training because the surface of the water was much rougher than any other time we'd been there. It wasn't nice for my breathing pattern and I kept swallowing water. Ick.

After 5 laps we gave it up and swam to shore. We were frozen, couldn't feel our feet. The cold water in the outside shower actually felt warm, compared to the lake and the air. It was great after drying off to get in my hot car.

I'm glad we've been doing all this training prep. Maybe on Sunday when the real training starts I'll have left my wussiness at the door and there will be no loud expressions of dismay or horror at icy or inclement conditions. Hopefully!

Made a decision

I registered for the See Jane Run Half Marathon. Kick-off? What kick-off? I figured this is my last change to run a half marathon before training starts on Sunday. I'm excited!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Still no decision

In my quest to determine whether I can run the half marathon next week, I decided to attempt a 10 mile run on Saturday (and notice I said "can" and not "should"). Bree and Sandy were running hills so I took myself off to the Lafayette-Moraga Trail, bright and early in the morning. Actually not so bright; it was cloudy and cold and gloomy. I had brought my iPod with me so I could keep myself from getting bored but decided at the last minute that I'd rather have peace and quiet.

The plan was to run to about 4 miles, turn around, run back to the 2 mile marker, reverse and run to the 3 mile mark, then run it in home. Or limp or hobble, depending on the situation. I carried my cell phone as a just-in-case, feeling uncertain and a bit paranoid about the condition of my knee and not even knowing if I would have to call someone for a ride. I slowly ran along and when I got to 4 miles I decided to continue, see how my knee felt on the couple of hills leading to the 5 mile mark. It was still cool and cloudy and perfect conditions for running.

I turned around at 5 miles, happy to be heading back. I've been having some stomach issues and I was looking forward to stopping at the Lafayette Senior Center, the one place along the route with bathrooms. Unfortunately they were locked up when I got there. Darn, no choice but to continue running.

I wasn't drinking very much and it wasn't too surprising when I got to just about 9-2/3 miles and I bonked. Very strange, my legs just decided to stop running. My brain would be thinking "run run run" and my legs would be moving in a walk. I ate a couple of sports beans and firmly told my legs to get a move on and was able to run the last little bit. My knee was sore, but nowhere near as bad it was in Nashville or even after some recent shorter runs.

I was tired, cold and drippy and so what better idea than to pick up bagels, lox and cream cheese and head over to my mom's for breakfast. I only had a dry shirt with me, and the damp shorts I was wearing, so she gave me a blanket to wrap myself in while we ate and chatted. I should have showered there, saved myself water! Next time I'll remember to bring clean clothes and shampoo.

Sunday morning was another gloomy cold start and Bree and I intended to get our ride in no matter what. I was feeling tired and under the weather and thought riding to the Peet's in Danville would be a perfect ride. Just too short. We rode into Alamo and turned around before our normal turnaround, meaning we wouldn't be riding the 25+ miles we had intended. We did stop at Peet's since I was out of coffee. I bought a pound and had them put it in 2 half pound bags and we each stuck a bag in the back pocket of our jackets. I also got a cup of coffee and sipped some of it before we went on our merry way.

It must have been that extra half pound weight because we were really dragging the last 6 or 7 miles and we had been speedy before we stopped. Unfortunately the biggest hill was ahead of us and I swear, we were only going 5 mph. We were happy to make it back home with no mishaps and no flats. I decided that riding without our usual big headwind was a vast improvement.

Sunday afternoon I headed back to my mom's house. I helped her with her paperwork for a couple of hours, helped set up an cabinet contraption she had bought and then took her out for sushi. Since my stomach was still upset I now have leftover sushi for dinner tonight. Yum.

This morning I met Pam for our usual short short Monday run. Since we both had today off of work we had switched the run to the morning to get it out of the way. I had some little thoughts of maybe running an additional distance but thought better of it when I was actually out there. We got in our 3+ miles and were happy to call it a day.
So what's up with this weather, hmm? It's Memorial Day weekend and it's cloudy/overcast, cool to cold, windy as heck. I know I shouldn't be complaining because we'll get some crushing heat soon, but c'mon. I don't need to be paying for heat when it's late spring, I don't need to be running with long sleeves or cycling with long pants and a jacket. I did not enjoy my time working in the yard after my run today. I should be sitting with my back door open, smelling the fabulous jasmine or peonies in my yard.
Or outside fixing my fence.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Less fish, more geese

Last night Sandy joined Claudia and me for a swim at Shadow Cliffs. It was cooler than it had been and very windy. There were tree limbs and leaves and stuff all over the ground. I had hopes that the water would still be warm from our fleeting heatwave but no such luck. It felt almost as cool as our first swim, so about 67-68 degrees. Big brrrr.

Again the area was almost deserted with only 2 guys horsing around in the water - they got out before we stepped in. Seeing the lovely expanse of empty water the goose families decided that they'd take the little ones in for a dip. As we headed toward the water two different families of stinky poopy geese stepped in and started swimming, with mom (or dad?) in the lead, little goslings in the middle and dad (or mom?) following behind to keep the kids moving. We waded on in and realized that the birds were swimming back and forth right in the swim lane. Great.

I was leading the way as we were wading, kicking up the sand so that we wouldn't see any fishies. We got out to the lane and made noise and splashes and the geese finally turned around and headed to shore. I'm sure they left all kinds of little presents in the water for us though.

We decided to swim 6 laps and regroup, and although I started in the lead Claudia quickly sped ahead. I enjoyed my swim although I didn't get quite the rhythm that I felt on Tuesday. When I finished the 6 I decided I had to go at least as far as I had before so I swam the last 2 and decided my skin was shivering and shriveling off and it was time to go. Sandy and Claudia were waiting for me and as we turned to shore it appeared that the geese were blockading the exits from the water. Really, they were lined up along the shoreline and wading and swimming into the shallows.

We angled away from them and found a gap and got out. My legs again felt like rubber. I've realized that although I'm not really kicking, when I breathe on the right side I do a weird little flutter-kick to keep from sinking. I'm working on it, along with all the other problems with my form. Which are plentiful and hopefully will get worked out throughout training.

I'm hoping to run long tomorrow, a test of how my knee is doing. It will help me decide next week whether to join Bree and Sandy at the half marathon in Alameda or whether to go to Kick-Off. I'm very torn, I want to be both places at the same time. I don't know what to do!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time for a bear, isn't it?

My little side feature of a Gratuitous Bear of the Day, which became the Gratuitous Bear of the Week, looks to becoming the Gratuitous Bear of the Month. Or Season. So in honor of the posting that mentioned cows I thought I'd introduce Elsie.In fall of 2005 Sandy and I were looking for an "easy" marathon to help us train for the Detroit Marathon. We decided on the Sacramento Cowtown Marathon, recently redone with new management. It was a flat double loop with a cute shirt, in a town where we could stay overnight with relatives (Sandy's). Our plan was to run 20 miles hard, then cruise in the last few. Our expectations for race support had been lowered (indeed, erased!) by the lousy New Mexico Marathon we had just run a few weeks earlier in Albuquerque so almost anything would have made us happy.

There was a half marathon that ran only the first loop and most of the crowd disappeared then. Course support was good and even late in the race there were plenty of water stops with water and Cytomax. There weren't always people at the water stops, but lots of fluids available for the hot day.

There was a 6 hour limit and I intended to take most of it, since I wanted to run at least the last 4 miles very slowly. There were more than a couple of dozen people behind me and since there were only about 225 people total running the full marathon, I was surprised that there wasn't much left at the finish when I finally got there. I think they were taking down the mats and lines and the photogs were long gone. There was some food and drinks left so I was able to refresh myself. The medal was the best of all, a functioning cowbell with the logo, on a ribbon.

Amusingly enough I managed to place in my age group; 3rd of 5. I didn't think I'd get anything but a couple of months later I got an engraved little medal. I impressed myself, my first age group award!

There was only one choice when it came to the medal bear. It had to be the funny little Vermont Teddy Bear Holstein bear. I ordered her, and here's Elsie with both medals:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Go fish

I don't like cows. I think we all know how much I don't like cows. It's a combination of a strong self interest against being chased (again) by an big unhappy cow, and a plain old irrational fear of cows. As it says, irrational; don't try to tell me how sweet and gentle cows are, don't tell me I won't get chased, don't tell me to get over it. I have problems running around cows and that's that.

So I understood when my swimming buddy freaked out because there were fish in the water. Laughed my head off, but understood.

Tonight Claudia and I again went to Shadow Cliffs for our swim. Although it's been hot lately, today had cooled down to only a high of mid-70's, and windy. By the time we got there it was only in the mid-60s. Again we saw the other people climbing into their wetsuits and we all smiled at each other. One lady asked us "trying again?" and we had a conversation about tri's and swims and wetsuits.

We walked to the water, this time empty of all other people. Nobody was playing around and the only other swimmers had just gotten out. There were some people fishing way off in the distance but we had the water to ourselves. We started walking in, slowly since it was cold, and Claudia shouted and hightailed out of the water. While I laughed uproariously glanced quizzically at her, she explained that she wasn't going to swim with the fish. I told her to get over it and get in the water. She said the fish was THIS big. I told her the water magnified things and it was smaller than that and to get her ass in the water. I kept inching deeper, she stood on the beach and said that she wasn't coming in.

Ok then. So I dove in and started swimming. I actually had a good swim. I had the entire lake lane to myself so I was able to swim my own pace, working on form and breathing. Since we had swum 5 laps last time I intended to swim a minimum of 6. Back and forth, back and forth, stroke stroke stroke breathe. The water was a little warmer than last week, thanks to the heatwave. Swim count breathe sight. Since nobody else was around the water was clear to the bottom. I was able to see clearly in the water and yeah, there were a couple of fish. But they weren't even keepers, just little guys.

Heading back on the 8th lap all of a sudden both calves cramped up. After an instant of brain freeze I rolled over onto my back, relaxed my legs, and tried to keep moving with my arms. It worked and I quickly flipped back over. I finished my lap and turned toward shore. Depending on whether you believe the lap is 120 or 16o meters, I swam either 960 or 1280. Probably somewhere in-between. For purposes of easymath I'm believing it's 150 and that I swam 1200 meters with only a short pause at the turnarounds to slap the lap button on my watch.

Claudia was sitting on the life guard tower, watching me swim back and forth. She had managed to take a picture of a big school of fish swimming right in front of her. They looked big but I'm pretty sure they were minnow size, magnified by the water. Irrational fear or not, she realizes that she'll have to get back in the water, probably Thursday night.

Oh, and one last thing: ha. Hahah. Hahahahah. Bwahahahahaha. HAHAHAHA!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another little run

Tonight I met Pam for our regularly scheduled Monday night run. Olivia couldn't make it; she had too good of a weekend and wasn't feeling up to it. Heh. Kinda like I felt yesterday, I guess.

We ran our regular short short route, a little 3+ miler. It was pretty warm out, mid-80's when we started. We ran at my pace, definitely slower than last week. A couple of minutes slower total, in fact. At that point just about a mile into the run, where my knee gave out a couple of weeks ago, I got a big painful twinge. I shifted my weight a little and that made it better so I kept on running, but slowed down. Our second mile really was slow, then we sped back up for the last mile. I stretched, we chatted for a while, then we went home.

My knee is feeling pretty darn good now, probably the best it's felt after a run since this whole thing began. There's a little pain, maybe a 1 on that scale that docs are so fond of using. To me, it's amazing. My hopes are up!

Hey, I've got a mentor for next season! I was sitting here eating my dinner salad and watching a season finale when the phone rang and I considered ignoring it. I didn't recognize the name but it was local and I got curious. I'm glad I answered! We had a long talk, introduced ourselves, talked about our TnT history and trainings. I'm pretty psyched now, very excited about the new team, new mentor, new coaches, new training. Heh, she tried to talk me into doing the half IM and nuh uh, no way. Noper, my first tri will be a plain vanilla one.

Hey Phil - we're in the same group! This is going to be fun!


Not the sound you want to be hearing when your sad, hungover body finally gets on the bike to start your ride. But that's not where the weekend started.

Saturday morning I met Bree, Sandy and Anita for a little run along the Lafayette-Moraga Trail. I had subverted Bree's attempt to run hills by shanghaiing her email and saying I'd be staying on the flats for now and anyone was welcome to join me. We changed the run to 7:00 am and were afraid that would be too late. We've been having a lovely heatwave and the temp was expected to soar.

I was hoping to run 6 miles without any knee pain and managed the first part. Anita turned back with me at the 3 mile mark while the others continued on. I was having the normal achiness that I've been having but thrilled not to have any shooting pains. I enjoyed the run, the lovely morning, the company. We finished before it got too hot and headed home.

I scurried to shower and dress then headed over to Claudia's house. I was going to Sonoma with her and Rocky. Ymmm, wine. We had a fabulous day and entirely too much to drink. Yikes, we should have stopped after the first winery. Or the second. Or the third. Maybe the fourth. Absolutely I didn't need dinner, I think that's what sent me over the edge. Ow.

As I tossed and turned Saturday night I considered texting Bree with a plea to cancel our 8:00 am ride. I didn't, but that doesn't mean I was happy about dressing and getting my bike ready. I've been having problems with my tire pump, but after Bree got here we managed to fill the tires and headed out for our anticipated 25 miler.

Which ended up being a 435 footer. Seriously. We were less than a block away from my house when we heard a loud bang. Or pop. Or blowout. I'm not sure what happened but the tired blew and went flat. We got off and walked home.

Sigh. It had to be the back tire, the tough one to fix. Bree asked me how many tires I had actually changed by myself and the total was a big fat zero. We knew the theory, not the practice. So we took a break and went and had coffee, so we could think about it first. We came back and Bree got the tire off the bike and between the two of us, we managed to replace the tube with my (only) spare. We went to inflate it and it just hissed at us. After trying over and over we finally stripped out the tube and found a tiny hole in it. Damn!

So we grabbed the wheel and headed over to a local bike shop, ready to have them change the darn thing. The mechanic very nicely gave us step-by-step instructions for repair, most of which we'd already figured out. He put it all together, went to fill it up and ... hisssssss. Yeah, it was another bad tube with a hole in it. He stripped out the tube, put in a new one and inflated it. I bought a couple of extras just in case and we went back to see if we could get the wheel back on the bike.

After fiddling around the bike was finally whole. I took it for a spin around the block, made sure we hadn't screwed up the gears or the brakes, took it back home and hung it up. Way too much effort! It was late enough that we postponed the ride until next week.

At least I got to run!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Yay for California

Events like yesterday's state Supreme Court ruling about marriage warm my heart and make me proud to be a Californian. I agree that any constitution that guarantees any right to any person has to guarantee that right to all persons. Ditto for duties, but that's another issue entirely.

I can't understand why people feel so personally threatened by this, for other than strictly religious reasons. Yes, I think any religious group has the right to dictate their own marriage rules and regulations. It's the whole separation of church and state thing. The argument that a secular marriage is sacred is ridiculous; the divorce rate is well beyond 50% and climbing all the time. Even church marriages have a horrendously high divorce rate.

The argument about tradition is just as bad. Traditionally a marriage is between a woman and man. Ok then. Traditionally a woman was the property of a man. Traditionally people of color were the property of white men. Traditionally women couldn't work at most occupations. Traditionally only white men could vote. The fight to change those traditions were long and hard and ugly. This fight looks to be just as long and hard.

Everyone should have a right to marry his/her sweetheart. And everyone should have the right to a storybook life. And when that doesn't work, everyone should have the right to an ugly divorce!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bike to Work Day

Today has the unfortunate occasion of being Bike to Work Day. Why unfortunate? It's also the first Spare the Air Day in the Bay Area. That means that there isn't enough air for all the cyclists to breathe. Well no, not literally. It means that ground level ozone is expected to be at such high levels that the air is unhealthy for sensitive individuals. A goal on such a day is to reduce particulates in the air by, say, biking to work! As long as you wear an air tank or carry your inhaler.

It's also finally warm here. Warm now, hot later. At 8:00 am in Walnut Creek it was already 80 degrees. While that doesn't seem too high to people in places with naturally warm summers, you'll have to remember that the Bay Area cools down at night. A warm evening happens only a few times each summer. We're predicting triple digits of smoggy delight by this afternoon.

Perfect weather for our second outing to Shadow Cliffs! Maybe the hot air will warm the water up. Or maybe it'll just feel good by comparison!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

More challenging than I thought

I've been saying that I could probably throw down that tri right now, no problemo. What an asshole. Yes, I could do the swim and yes, I could do the bike ride and yes, I absolutely could run the measly 10k. I could even put the ride and run together with very little problem, even though I'd be tired afterward. And if the swim was in a nice little heated Olympic-sized pool where I could sight along the painted lines and kick off the wall every 25 meters, I could probably even do that. But open water? Ah, there's the rub.

I've been swimming almost my entire life. My first swim lessons that I actually remember were when I was 3 years old, on a Florida vacation we took (long story about my parent's separation and my mom's get-away that maybe I'll tell some other day). I had lessons at the JCC when I was 4 and 5 and by the time I was 6 I was being sent away to summer camp where every year I'd become a stronger swimmer.

Michigan isn't called a water wonderland for nothing. In addition to the huge Great Lakes there are little lakes everywhere. We spent many weekend days in the summer at Sandy Beach (yeah, it was really called that) and at Kensington, a couple of local lakes with nice beaches and all the facilities. In those days nobody was too worried about kids playing alone or drowning, and we were in and out of the water all the time while my mom slathered on oil and worked on her tan (kids, don't try that at home; sun is bad for you!). My comfort level in water has always been very high and although my skills are rusty I still feel at home when I'm swimming.

When we started swimming a couple of months ago at the San Ramon pool I realized that I'd have to refine my swim techniques and form. Waaaay back when I learned to swim we were taught to keep our body as still as possible and breathe to one side. I was taught to flutter kick from the knee. Now I find out that twisting through the water is good, you should breathe from both sides and kicking is from the hip. The kicking part was easiest to fix; if my knee starts hurting I know I'm kicking wrong. In addition, for a tri you want to kick as little as possible, save the legs for later. I'm mostly kicking now just to keep my legs on top of the water, instead of dragging down behind me. Harder than it seems.

Working on the drills in the pool has helped with body motion but I've still just been breathing to the left. My asthma is better swimming than running, but still not great. I need to breathe through my mouth, great gulping deep breaths, and that's where I've been spending most of my effort to smooth out the stokes.

Last night Claudia and I decided it was finally time to hit the open water. Actually, we decided that on Friday after a couple of cocktails. I dunno, drinking with Claudia gets me in trouble, I'm going to have to be careful what I agree to with her! Since we're both registered for the Tri for Fun we thought that we might as well go to Shadow Cliffs in Pleasanton. The heat wave has arrived and it was warm enough to swim outside. We thought.

Last night when we arrived the air temp was hovering somewhere around 80, maybe a little less. The lake was pretty empty, maybe a half dozen guys playing around in there. While we stripped down to our swim suits we noticed two women getting into wet suits and chuckled about their wussiness. As we walked over to the water one of the women yelled out that the water temp was 67 degrees. Oh crap, that's much colder than we're used to. Brrr and no we can't back out now.

Inch by inch we crept into the water, feeling like weenies. Cold weenies. There is one big swim lane at the back of the recreational swim area and we headed that way. We finally decided to take the plunge and ducked under and started swimming. Brrr. We swam over to the lane and took stock.

Hmm. The water was murky and deep and cold and had a bit of wave action going on (not to mention the unsanitary duck-poop-filled water). Not what I was used to. For a moment my brain decided to freak out about it and I forgot how to swim. Heh. Then I remembered that I've been swimming for more than 50 years (yikes) and get a grip lady. We decided to swim to the mid-buoy and take a break if we had to.

Well. That's different. No nice little lines to sight along. I really really didn't want to open my mouth in that nasty water so my breathing was off. I was able to turn my head both directions to breathe but I wasn't getting enough air. My legs were dragging. I had apparently forgotten all the drills I've been doing, forgotten even what I had learned back when I was a little tyke. When we regrouped at the buoy I told myself sternly that I knew how to swim, so do it. Just relax and get over the water conditions.

The second half of the lap was easier because I really did relax. Wasn't swimming much better but I wasn't having mental issues any longer. I realized that I had to sight almost every breath or I'd veer off to the side, wacking into the lane rope and ouch. In the pool I was breathing every 4 count, here I started every 3 count which meant changing sides to breath. That worked well, although breathing on my non-dominant side sent me swimming that direction too. Something to work on. And yes, I opened my mouth in the water and it didn't kill me.

We decided to do 5 laps, a good beginning workout. My hands were getting colder the more I swam, but my form improved until the end of the last lap where I was tired and it got sloppy again. I think I swam twice as far as I should have because of the veering off to the sides. A straight line is quicker but I was swimming back and forth like a drunk driver. It was hard walking out of the water when we finished, I was that tired. And cold, although at that point the air felt pretty warm in comparison to the water.

We think that the lane is 160 meters. That or 120 meters, but more information points to the longer length. So that means for our first open water swim we either swam 600 or 800 meters, not too shabby considering the tri is 1200.

But I'm also pretty darn sure that last night I couldn't have climbed on my bike and then gone for a run afterward. Yep, good thing this is just pre-training. Imagine how well I'll do when I've actually completed four months of real training!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Better this week

Tonight I met Olivia and Pam for our regularly scheduled Monday night run. My plan was to run about a mile with them, at my speed, then send them on their speedy ways while I trailed behind. Not a bad plan, except for that whole rabbit problem I have. If someone I'm with or near is running fast, I'll do my best to keep up. If they're just in front of me, I try to catch them.

We started out at my speed, stopped to stretch, then started up again. Faster. Faster. Fasterfasterfaster. Mile 1 went by at 11:47; not fast for most people but too fast for my gimpy knee. Wave g'bye, send them on their way. I did slow down, some. But they were still right there, juuuuust in catching range.

My goal was to run this 3+ mile route with about a 12:45-13 minute average. And 12:19 is close, right? I'm glad that the reason I was breathing hard was because I was running hard. My knee didn't hurt nearly as much as it did last week, and still isn't feeling too bad. Not good, but not too bad. I could live with this level of pain, if that's my only choice.

I'm trying this week to not eat or drink unhealthy things. I had 2 fabulous nights of food and drink last weekend; one with Claudia and one with my mom at our new favorite restaurant. I ate oysters, a mixed seafood cocktail in la playa dressing, grilled anchovies, brandied shrimp, seafood paella, fried squid; topped with a mojito and a couple Cielo Rosso cocktails. Yum. Er, I mean "shame on me" for going that far off the plan. So this week is the restart of the good-for-me food and no (or less) booze. That's the plan until this weekend anyway. All bets off then!

And since my knee is feeling less sore I'm going for 5 workouts in 5 days. Hahahahah!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Things skittering across my floor might surprise that reaction from me, but didn't this time. Saturday afternoon I opened the door from my house to my garage, opened the garage door, and stepped into the garage. And almost stepped on a snake slithering up to the house door. I leaned over and slammed the door and the snake curled into a hissing ball at the corner.

I ran over and grabbed a shovel and broom, intending to brush the little guy onto the broom and carry him out. I did not want him sneaking under the door and surprising me in my sleep ::shudder:: or in the shower or something. I ran back and tried to sweep him up and discovered he had legs; it was a lizard (or maybe a salamander), not a snake. About a foot-long skinny lizard (or salamander). Okey dokey then, the plan remained the same. Only he wasn't playing by my plan.

There are tons of (heavy) things against that wall and he ran behind everything as I worked frantically to keep him in sight and away from the inside door. At one point he even ran behind the attached sheetrock but I was able to get him out and headed in the right direction. Finally he was outside on my driveway, but still trying to get back inside.

I'd sweep him, he'd hiss and glare and scoot away and try to get back inside; over and over again. At last I swept him into the street and he headed under my neighbor's truck. I warned my neighbor and ran back and closed the garage door. My neighbor looked and looked but we didn't see the lizard (or salamander) again.

Anyone else who thinks he sneaked back inside my garage while I wasn't looking raise their hand!

Friday, May 9, 2008


I've caught a bad case of cranky. I'm tired, achy and don't want to get out of bed. I called in sick to work yesterday because I couldn't face sitting up at my desk and being creative and polite all day, I just didn't have it in me. It would be lovely if I could just stay home and sleep but I it appears that I've given up sleep for the month of May.

Oh wah!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

This is progress?

Last night I met Pam and Olivia to join them for their regularly scheduled Monday night run. I was a little worried since last time they ran wayyy too fast for me, but I decided I'd just drop behind and have a nice run on my own, if I had to.

The weather was cool and breezy, nice. I know sooner or later it's going to heat up to blistering temps but for now it still seems like winter. California winter, that is. Perfect running weather. We all got a good laugh when we started since none of us had a watch. I had left home with Mr. Garmin but as it finally located the satellite it showed "low battery" and shut down. Perfect chance to run without any monitoring, just a fun run.

As we headed off I felt that we were going too fast for my comfort. I was already wheezing and we hadn't even crossed the first street yet. I gasped my way to our stretching point and caught my breath and told myself that I just wouldn't be running with them. We stretched and took off again, this time with me in the lead and trying to force them to slow down to my pace. We were all chatting and talking and running and it seemed to be ok, but then they both eased around me and increased their paces a bit. I still managed to keep up, talking, but then I felt something in my knee kinda slip and pains shot through it. The pains I wasn't having anymore since I've been in therapy.

My initial thought was to ignore it (smart, hmm?) but even Pam noticed that I winced and stumbled. I was going to go on with them but it was really the perfect point for me to take the short short short shortcut and head back. I waved them on and continued running, very slowly. I took a walk break but that hurt more than running, so I ran back most of the 3/4 mile that was left. I went home, stretched and did most of my legsercises, iced. It was painful for the rest of the night.

This morning my knee was back to it's usual slight achy-ness, nothing too bad, maybe a little more sore than usual after a run. I had physical therapy and now he's thinking that maybe what's bothering me really is the torn meniscus. Well crap! He told me not to run tonight (which I wasn't planning to do), to take it easy, and see the doctor if it gets worse.

I'm planning on treating it as if it's a one time aberration, the final last gasp of my sore knee before it returns to normal. Positive thinking!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Passed and kept on blah blahing

Apparently I've written over 300 posts. I missed the landmark somewhere last week or the week before. Darn, I was going to have a party to celebrate! Eh, no probably not. Too many other things to keep me busy.

Speaking of keeping busy, I did my own version of a tri this weekend: run, cycle and knit. What, that's not good enough? I enjoyed it, all of it! Soon enough I'll be doing the more strenuous tri so I'll enjoy the knitting events while I can.

Saturday morning I met up with Anita and Mary Ann for an easy run along the Lafayette-Moraga Trail. It started off cool and overcast but cleared and warmed by our last couple of miles. We ran to the Senior Center and back, a total of 6 miles. I love that run because it's almost automatically negative splits, with the last mile being the fastest. Saturday was no different, we aced that last mile. It was fabulous running with the gang again, even though most of the gang was MIA. My knee? Not so good, but not so bad either. I'm slowly resigning myself to the fact that I may never run pain-free again, and those 6 miles could have been worse.

I didn't help it any by spending the next few hours gardening. I have a very low maintenance garden, but it isn't no maintenance. I pruned the lemon tree (and have the scratches and cuts from the thorns to prove it), weeded in a couple of spots, watered the dry places, tied up the peonies. I also hosed down the gazillion insects on the plants; I have a veritable bug feast growing out there. Aphids, ants (oy, are there ants), thrips, beetles, spittle bugs, gnats, moths, grasshoppers; they're all out there chowing down. I don't use any insecticide, at least I haven't for a while, but it sure is tempting. The only thing that stops me is a lot of the neighborhood cats pass through the yard, and there are lots of birds out there too. Don't want to cause any harm.

After that my knee was well and truly sore, so I iced a couple of times during the day. I'm trying to stay away from too much ibuprofen since I bruise so easily and had a glass of wine instead. At least it helped me fall asleep.Sunday morning Bree and I went for our third big bike ride. This time Mr. Garmin actually worked. Except for the altitude thing, where it's claiming we gained and lost about 1400 feet each direction. That would be a big fat no, it was more like 350. Not like we were climbing Mt. Diablo or anything. If you could actually read that chart above, the elevation is in the dark color, speed is in the purple. The reason our speed is up and down like that is that we hit every single damn stoplight as it turned red. One after another after another. Stop stop stop. Good workout for our brakes. We went 20 miles again, up and down San Ramon Valley Road from my house to Walnut Creek. I was tired afterward, but not as badly as last time. I'm improving! And my knee again felt much better after cycling than it did before I started.

The knitting was simple, mindless back and forth on my Lorna's Laces Mistake Rib scarf. I love this yarn and hope my skin will tolerate it for the Wallaby. The scarf will be much shorter than my normal scarves since I only have the one skein. I don't know how long it'll take me to finish it since I don't get too much knitting time these days.

The rest of the weekend was normal weekend stuff; laundry, errands, unpacking my mom's shit beautiful belongings, bill paying, dinner at my bro's, etc. Tired and ready to start another busy week!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Country Music Half Marathon report

Way back in December when I decided to run the half as an excuse to visit my sis in Nashville, I was under the impression that it would be just another race, a piece of cake in a full marathon training season. I convinced my sis and bro-in-law to join me on the run; she's done 2 halfs but he's never gone that far in a race. Sandy decided to come along since she needed Tennessee in her 50 state quest; it would be just one of many spring full marathons for her too.

Fast forward to late April. I had no way of knowing that I would spend the entire first quarter of the year trying (only partially successfully) to rehab my painful knee ailments. My bro-in-law was sick in January and February and then developed a bad case of something that manifested as Achilles problems. He would hardly walk a block and didn't run at all. My sis didn't get in training because of a busy work schedule. Sandy's training was pretty slack too; she had shin issues going back to her first run of the season over 10 miles. Her longest training run was in the mid-teens. Sandy and I decided that we were doing our races no matter what; my sis decided to sleep in and my bro-in-law became our chauffeur.

We went to the expo on Friday. It was located at the Nashville Convention Center, which we had to find. Neither sis nor bro-in-law have done much exploring so this was an adventure in itself. We had to drive around several blocks before finding a parking lot with an empty space.

We picked up our race numbers and chips and shirts. The tee shirt was was one of Elite Racing's trademark cheap 100% white cotton shirts. The designs weren't bad, but the shirt is pretty crappy compared to most of the shirts provided at races of this size and cost. Different shirts were provided for each race, with designs on the front and back:
Pickup went quickly and we were herded into the official race merchandise section. There's a pretty impressive selection of branded stuff and if this had been my first (or even maybe my 21st) race I might have bought bunches of stuff. But I have a few Rock 'n' Roll hats (and these looked the same except for the race name), I have a RnR jacket, a RnR mug, a RnR bear, etc. Been there, bought that. I didn't find anything else to buy and headed to the greater expo.

It was good, a varied selection of sports clothing, foods, Saturn (thank you, I already have one), other races. I had been looking to buy a couple of pairs of shorts but the vendor who provides the ones I like wasn't there. In an unprecedented move, I bought not one damn thing at the entire expo. How weird is that? I had plenty of free samples but there was nothing I needed or wanted to spend money on.

The goodie bag was loaded with the usual ads and promotions and coupons but not much else. There was a training log from their local grocery which I kept (who knows when you'll need a new log), some chips, I think an energy bar, and that was it.

Early Saturday morning I was woken by the sound of thunder and bright flashes of lightning. Uh oh. From about 1am I lay in bed for a couple of hours, resting and listening as the storm moved in and then out. At 4am I heard Sandy showering and realized that I had prepared for this race the way I normally do, with no sleep the night before.

At about 5am, after showering, dressing and eating we headed out toward the start area. My bro-in-law hadn't been there before, but he was pretty sure of where we were going, if not the exact place we needed to end up. It was still raining and windy but the thunder and lightning had moved on. We found the start without too much difficulty and were able to park on a nearby street and wait in the car while the sky started to lighten. Finally we decided to find the sweat check trucks and sent my bro-in-law on his way. The trucks were easy to find and we dropped off our bags. After waiting in line at a portapotty, we headed out to the street to find our corrals.

We'd been informed that there would be staggered starts, each corral waiting about 1-2 minutes until the previous one was out of the way. In theory a good idea, but I was in corral 24! Sandy and I split up since she was in 20 and I didn't think she needed to be waiting back with me. I had put my finish time down as 2:35 (hahaha) but there were tons of walkers in that corral too. Not the race walkers, who are pretty much indistinguishable from runners, but the people with seventeen layers of clothing, backpacks, coffee, newspapers and chairs (maybe not those last couple of items). I had my doubts that they'd be going sub-11:30 miles, but people misjudge me too so I kept my mouth shut.
The gun went off at 7:00 and we stood there. Slowly, oh so slowly, we inched forward. The rain had stopped but the wind was brisk, most people were shivering. It took almost 55 minutes before I finally crossed the start line, and my legs were already cold and tight. Sure enough, there were very slow walkers mixed in with the runners. I found my pace to be very comparable to most of the people running around me and only had to dodge the walkers. Some people were passing me, but very few at that point.

My race strategy was something like "just finish before the race is over in 4 hours and don't need surgery." Good plan, hmm? I set my watch at 4:1 intervals, intending to ignore the middle beeps and run:walk a 9:1 for as long as I could. Since I hadn't trained with any real hills, I didn't know how my knee would react. Judging by walking stairs, I was worried that downhills would be my nemesis in this race.

The hills started immediately and continued for most of the race. I remember lots of ups and downs, a few flats, and very few grades. I started out walking up and gingerly running down. That was mostly because my breathing sucked (heh heh - pun not intended). I had three really good miles with no pain, but that was it.

Water stops were plentiful and the volunteers were great. There was water and some electrolyte drink that I was ignoring in favor of my own Ultima, and gels handed out mid-way. There was one point where fruit was being distributed (I think the stop was sponsored by a store adjacent to the route) and that was tough. Picture 500 people eating orange slices and throwing the peels on the ground. Then 500 more people run over those peels, throwing down their own in turn. This leaves a fine, slippery layer of peel/pulp for the next group, which then throws down their apple cores and banana peels for someone else to run over. By the time I came through 20,000 people later, the ground was treacherous. I'm amazed there weren't people skidding through on their faces.

The weather steadily cleared and warmed up. I was glad I had decided on shorts and a short sleeved shirt, and could almost have worn a tank top. I continued with my 9:1 pattern and walked through the water stops. If I walked up or down a hill, I skipped the next walk break and ran instead. My knee was getting increasingly sore and I pretty much whined in my head while continuing to run.

More hills, more pretty neighborhoods, more scenic places. Honestly, I couldn't tell you half of the places we ran by or through. I was watching the crowds, running around people, concentrating on foot placement so that my knee wouldn't get worse. The full marathoners split off after about 11 miles but it didn't make too much difference since there were mostly people running the half (about 25,000 to 5,000).

Long past the point where I had thought I'd be strolling toward the finish in a slow walk, I was still running. Part of that was it hurt a little more to walk on the flats than to run, part of that was I was noticing that I just very possibly could break 3 hours if I didn't totally fall apart. That became my new goal.

I was amazed at how many people were just walking the last few miles, just given up. I think people just aren't training for these big music marathon/half marathon races, thinking that anyone can go 13 miles. They realize their mistake at about 8 miles, keep going on hope for another 2, then still have a few to go before they're done. [I actually heard a couple of women after the end saying "ok, I can cross that off my list, what's next" and thought it sad that they hadn't gotten anything else out of the experience.] I really enjoyed running past all these people, thinking what wusses they were, while my knee was killing me.

Mile 12 was unfriendly, a very big hill when I didn't want one. I ran most of it, only walking when I was breathing so hard I thought my eyeballs would pop out of my head. I kept running, feeling remarkably well (except for the ol' knee). I crossed the line and was astounded to see that I had finished in 2:52ish, right in the range where I normally finish.

I was handed my medal (nobody was draping them around necks) and handed a bottle of water. Chip removal was next. I stopped at their very small medical tent and said I needed to ice my knee. The woman ducked into the tent, came back out with a small baggie of ice, and handed that to me. Now I just needed a place to sit down! I saw people with space blankets and towels but couldn't find where they were being distributed. I think they were just being handed to the full marathoners, but I wanted a towel to help with icing. I finally saw a few in the full marathon secured zone and while he wouldn't let me in, a guard walked over and grabbed one for me.
The rest of the secured zone had food: little plain bagels, muffins, cookies, fresh fruit and fruit cups, more water, bottles of electrolyte drinks, pretzels and chips. Nothing, of course, to carry any of this stuff with. I juggled my towel and ice and some food and kept walking out of the zone where huge crowds awaited. It was hard to tell what was where and signage was nonexistant. I wanted to get my gear, which had my sunglasses and sweatshirt, before sitting down to ice.

It took another 20 minutes before I could find the trucks with sweats, and in that time I didn't see where they had the free beer (although I saw where they were selling it). There was nowhere else to sit except the ground, so I plopped myself down at what turned out to be the 26 mile marker. Finally, about a half hour after I finished the race, I was able to ice my knee which by this point was in severe pain.

I sat, I iced, I drank water, I ate some food, I watched the full marathoners passing 26 miles, I iced some more. I knew I had about 2 hours before Sandy would finish, even if she was having a good day (and she wasn't planning on setting any speed records). After a while I decided to track down the beer tent that had been promised. After wandering around for a while I found the tables distributing small cups of warmish lite beer. Yum? It's the principle - if they offer a beer tent ya gotta go, right? I wandered some more, called my sis to see when they were coming ("after lunch"), wandered more, sat a bit, wandered more.

One very cute sight: a group of young people (why yes, I am 83 years old thank you) who had finished the race were sitting and standing around, congratulating themselves and talking and laughing. One couple was talking when the guy reached into his pocket, pulled out a little case and dropped down to one knee. Dude! You just finished a marathon and you can drop down to one knee to propose? Bravo! While his girlfriend looked on in stunned amazement, their friends started whooping and hollering (with one wag yelling out "Hey! He went to Jared!"). She must have said yes because it ended in a tight clinch of smoochies. Awwwww.

The crowd was starting to thin out and sis and bro-in-law finally arrived. We watched Sandy run up past the 26 mile marker (and almost missed her since she was passing a crowd). They walked to the end to meet her while I sat in the sun getting toasty.

By then there was no problem leaving the lot or the area. Traffic wasn't an issue. I wanted a shower, some food and some ibuprofen, stat. Then a nap. Then some wine and more food. My sis graciously provided all of those.

So to wrap up this long report. Elite puts on a good race, normally remembering to dot the i's and cross the t's. The crowds are enormous and except for the ridiculously delayed staggered starts, were handled well. Good course and finish line support. Nice medals, different for the half and the full. Crappy shirt. The route was hilly but for the half at least, mostly scenic and not horribly crowded.

Knowing that I probably would not cause any permanent damage I ran harder than I perhaps should have, but that turns out to have been the right decision (have to love hindsight). I can't describe how thrilled I was to have been able to be out there racing again. A couple of times I just thought to myself how damn lucky I was to be able to be there. A couple of times I also thought to myself that I wouldn't be doing any long races again very soon because it hurt like hell! But those turned out to be just normal highs and lows of running. I can't wait for my next race!

Getting back to routine. Again. Again.

I've realized I have less than a month now before I start training for my first triathlon and I'm scared to pieces thrilled. This means I'm going to have to kick up both my pre-training and my diet. Not my "diet" as in "so many calories per day" or a certain company's plan, but "diet" as is "what in the world have I been shoving in my mouth??"

So in light of that, Wednesday night I took myself over to the San Ramon pool and swam for almost an hour. For a warm-up I did 200m swim, 100m kick, 100m pull. Then I did 3 sets of our earlier drills: kick/drill/swim, alternating the drills. That was another 900 meters (right? 75x4x3?). I ended it with 100m swim and called it a night. My poor math skillz total that little outing to be 1400m.

The triathlon I'm preparing for is 1500m swim so I'm almost there. Hmm? You say that 25m at a time in a pool is nothing like 1500m straight? Darn, here I thought I had that part of the tri licked! Yeah, it's looking like I'm going to have to find a place where I can swim longer distances without having the nice side of the pool to kick at every turn.

Last night I met Olivia for a run on the Iron Horse. It felt like old times, back when we were training for New York. Except it was cooler than when we trained last summer. And I wasn't breathing as well. And my knee hurt. Otherwise, exactly the same! I had convinced Ms. O that we should go my pace on the outward bound direction so that we could chat, then she could take off at her own speed for the way back. The first part of the plan worked ok, we were going slow enough that it wasn't killing me, but I was pooped on the return. We walked at least a mile of the return and the running part was slower than the first half. Oh well, we got at least 2 good miles of running and 4 miles total on our feet and that counts for something.

Since we had run earlier than normal, I got home at a decent hour and was able to knit my way peacefully through a couple of hours of trashy television. Nice to watch Survivor when it's actually airing, instead of a week later on tape. The project I'm knitting is a simple scarf to see if my body can tolerate the touch of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted. It's one of the tests I'm doing to find the perfect yarn my Wonderful Wallaby. Yes, I will someday knit a piece of clothing. It's just if I'm gong to be using a gazillion skeins of expensive yarn and knitting a project for months on end, I want to be able to wear it. I love the touch of the Lorna's Laces, I'm just not sure I can keep it on my body for hours. We'll see. Even if I have to turn on the a/c to test it!