Monday, April 30, 2007

Race Week which I just checked in at our friend Erin's blog and, upon reading some of her recent adventures familiarizing herself with the joys of riding in the wind, it occurred to me how much I miss the insane levels of training, and the absurd discipline required to Become Ironman. I can't wait to do it again. I wonder when I will. Realistically, I think in '09. That's not an announcement or anything, just thinking out loud. I am happy to be living near Madison, where come September I can go volunteer and support and be part of the moment, at least in whatever way I can.

Anyway, so yeah - race week. Cripes, I have never been less prepared for a race in my life. And, it turns out, I'll be heading to Madison tomorrow night for the home inspection first thing Wednesday morning - so probably one or both of those days will be sacrificed on the training front as well. Sigh. I'll just do my best, I guess. Hope to get in the water and on the bike one or both days, if I can.

Goals: Well, the goal of Saturday's race is to just enjoy the ride. It'll be a fun weekend with friends anyway, and I'm not going to get obsessive about race day. It'll come, and I'll just go out there and have fun and do whatever my best is right now. I am concerned about the strain in my right leg - I jumped on it last night and felt it still twinging, so I may not run at all this week, which is fine because I have work to do on the bike and in the water.

As of now, because I knew going into the season that this (then prospective) move might change things, I only have through July 15th scheduled for races - the Lifetime Triathlon. I think I'll treat that race as my A race, at least in phase 1 of the season - Phase 2 being whatever becomes of the rest of the summer, living then in a different place and continuing to deal with whatever changes life has in store with all of that. That gives me just over two months to get in gear. I have a significant, if not terribly solid anymore, season of base training in on the run, so I'll just have to start trying to get consistent. Yet, that may not come terribly easily either, so whatever. All of my races this season, I think, may just be about doing the best I can at the time. No major goals. No attempted assaults on personal records. And I suppose that'll just have to do.

Anyway, much more to come this week!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Reality Check, Part 1

Whew. Hi. How's things? So. Maybe the Weirdest Spring Ever can finally start to...well, it's not going to slow down, I guess. But at least it's taking some concrete form.

I have alluded, I think, but let me reiterate my life for the last...oh, 6 or 7 weeks. First, it was a solid 4 weeks of home improvement projects. Little ones, mostly, nothing huge, but all time consuming. These projects, of course, take place when possible - after work and on weekends. And they were, and had to be, top priority, because we needed to have the house ready for market when primetime hit - early April - to get moving on our moving. After a great season of base training, and just when it was time to actually develop fitness and technical skills, training went completely out the window.

I just realized, I think this'll be a long one. S'okay, I haven't been able to write in awhile.

Then, the last 3+ weeks, our house has actually been on the market. This has been a far more surreal and stressful experience than I would have ever imagined, and I'm still not sure why. None of my usual tricks worked - educating myself completely of the complexities of home selling...limiting my expectations...working hard...doing "all I can do" and then trusting that I've done "all I can do" - still, I've been sleeping horribly and just in a general mental state of stress. Not good. And, I'm not a stressful person. Amy says, therefore, I lack skills to deal with stress. I disagree - I've dealt with all kinds of stress, and the kinds they make movies about - this is just different, and unique, and for whatever reason the stress of having our home in a constant, sterile state of ready has been a major burden on me. In addition, I've been always on call. My evenings have frequently meant leaving the house for a showing. My training was reduced to one, maybe two solid runs a week, no time in the pool, and very little time on the bike. And so added, my main outlet for dealing with stress largely removed, I've been about impossible to live with.

I realized last week or maybe the week before that I think I've hurt my right rotator cuff, and I think it's been injured for a long time, since before Ironman. I can only lift my right arm comfortably to just about my shoulder-height. Then, it hurts. I can wind it just fine, but it's the lifting, on kind of a 90 axis from my body, that hurts. I don't know where that comes from. Can anybody educate me on what a hurt rotator cuff actually feels like?

I went for a twenty mile run on Thursday - which was supposed to be my weekend run from 4 days previous but kept getting delayed - and I made it 10 miles. My left knee, about 7 miles in, started killing me. And my right achilles/calf felt strained, so that I was changing my form to accommodate the pain, which is the first step in progressing to serious injury. I was obviously asking my body to do more than it was prepared for. I simply can't expect sustained performance at long distances without frequent and sustained training. Triathlon 101.

My weight is okay, but I have, like, zero muscle tone.

So, I've been in something of a significant funk, but none of it had anything to do with attitude adjustment. I've certainly been ready to get on my bike when it's 65 and sunny outside, I just haven't really been able to, or have had to modify to mountain biking around the neighborhood, lest I get a call to have a showing when I'm 20 miles from home. The reality was that this house selling thing was what it was, and requires what it does, and I am subject to that. It's ripped my early season triathlon training to shreds. And that has sucked so much. One does not wait all winter to not finaly revel in a new season.


Last weekend we were in Stoughton. This is a little town some 13 miles from Madison, where I spend a few weeks each summer with my family - Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt & Uncle - who live there. It's also, by the way, is where Stu lives, and where I and others (Pharmie, Steve, TST, Wil, Chris, others) had dinner the night before Ironman last year. Just incidentally. Anyway, we were there on a dedicated home search. Our own house had had something like 13 showings in 2 weeks, and we were having an open house last weekend, so we figured it was a good time to get out of town and get proactive. I'll simplify a great deal of discriminating evaluation and many, many, many hours and conversations into manageable pieces here: We saw a lot of houses, and we found The One. And we love it. And it has a tiled exercise room in the basement where Ol' Blue will live in the wintertime. And a huge office for me. And a humongous master bedroom. It just kicks ass. We saw it on Saturday last week, and loved it. Then we spent Saturday night trying to find reasons to not love it. So we went back on Sunday - after seeing several others (this was one of 14 or something we'd look at over the weekend) and loved it more. So we made an offer on it. Contingent on the sale of our house. And they accepted. So we had, in theory, a home we loved and was ready to love more...if only we could sell our house.

Which, of course, ratcheted up the stress level.

Thursday of this week our house had a showing. A second showing by the same person on Friday. An offer late Friday night. A counter-offer. Haggling over the closing date.


Guys. We're moving. To Ironman Country. On June 15th.

Thank you Jesus.

It's hard to describe how I feel right now, because it's different than anything I've ever experienced. Relief isn't it, because it's not that simple. Today Jack had a nap on his favorite bed. He's not been allowed up there in 6 weeks. I left a dirty bowl on the counter. I didn't take off my shoes the second I walked in the house. I did not, as planned for today, have to haul my two dogs and a cat around for 2 hours to kill time while there was an open house. I didn't have to not make plans with friends because there were too many unknowns. I slept - hard - all night, and a nap in the afternoon. And I daydreamed about our new life. Still so many unknowns, still so many questions. But now - it's the adventure I was waiting for. This part, this part sucked the fun out of it. I feel a little like I got my life back.

And everyone around me is happy for us, and our house sold in, like, 25 days or something, which isn't happening a lot around here, and so I realize that things weren't as difficult as they could've been or maybe are for many, but thank God because I do not know how I would've coped. Mike says I would have, I would have just figured it out, and of course I would have, but I'm glad - so glad - I don't have to. I'm so happy about this. I can't even tell you.

But - part of its cost has come at my fitness. So, I adjusted my marathon registration to a half marathon on May 19th. I'm not beating myself up about it - it is what it is. My life hasn't allowed marathon caliber training, and part of being a triathlete - an Ironman - is respecting that, in light of the bigger picture. I still have time to get in shape and have a good summer, I think. Yet, I am moving in 6 weeks and I'm not going to kid myself about the realities facing me there with continued interruptions. I'll just have to deal with it, however. Make adjustements where I can. My goals for this season have become less about triathlon-related goals, and more about triathlon-minded goals. Find the balance in my life in this strange time. I have no idea how it'll go. I'll just do my best.

Meanwhile, I have my first race on Saturday, which is almost laughable I'm so unprepared. But, it's a Sprint, and an indoor swim, and I'm doing it with Todd (I've never done a race with friends, not counting Ironman, and those people were theretofore unmet and we were traversing hundreds of miles and most of a day, so I wasn't really doing a race with friends so much as sharing experiences on the same terrain, where perhaps this one Todd can pass my slow ass and I can shout Go Toddzilla Go! or the like) and our friends will be around to support, and I'm just going to go have fun. I'm going to enjoy myself and treat it as the official kickoff to my season - whatever my season is this year. That's the best I can do.

I should have, finally, some stillness to be back here more regularly now, so thanks for your patience, and thanks for the positive vibes, everybody. Keep 'em coming - there are many many more miles to ride.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Appropro of Nothing

I'm headed out soon for a long run, so stay tuned, but meanwhile...

Things That Amuse Only Me:

The Scene: Me, perusing Jest Guy for a new camera

Cute Jest Guy girl: Any questions or anything today?

Me: (dammit, I was hoping we could do this without conversation. But since she's here...) Uh, yeah. Why is that 7.1 megapixel cheaper than this this 6.1?

Cute Jest Guy girl: (With zero hesitation) See how that one has 10x zoom? This other one has 12x zoom. So that's the compromise. Do you do a lot of blowing up of images?

Me: (Huh, that was an intelligent question that will lead her to understand my knowledge of megapixels. This may be the first intelligent thing anybody has ever said at Jest Guy, ever.) I do, well, sometimes. I'm hoping more zoom will make it wouldn't have to as much, but I like to have the option and keep the images clean.

Cute Jest Guy girl: Sure, well, then I think it comes down to preference.

Me: (Pondering...)

Cute Jest Guy girl: I'll let you look, let me know if you have any other questions.

Me: (Impressed with her choosing to leave my atmosphere at just the right time.)


Me: This one mentions Ni-MH batteries, but this one doesn't. Does that mean this one isn't rechargeable?"

Cute Jest Guy girl: No, this one is, but it uses Lithium Ion batteries. They have just slightly less power. Do you already have the charging base for this? (We're assessing two Kodak cameras, which is the brand I'm most familiar with.)

Me: I do. (Startled that she actually knows what time it is with the batteries as well. Realizing that I'm having an intelligent conversation with an employee at Jest Guy. Shudders slightly.)

Cute Jest Guy girl: Okay, is it pretty new? (I know what she's getting at - last year Kodak changed their charging stations, so the pins on the new cameras - and bases - are smaller. You need a newer base to charge a new camera.)

Me: You know, most of the time at Jest Guy nobody that works here has a clue what they're talking about. You seem to really know what's up. This is actually helpful to me. Yup, so it has the smaller pins.

Cute Jest Guy girl: (Genuinely taken aback, then huge grin) Well...thanks! I'm glad I can help! Great, then yeah, this will work just fine with that one you already have.

Me: Does the plastic cover come with the camera (Different Kodak models come with differently shaped covers that go over a generic base station, so that any type of camera can fit.)

Cute Jest Guy girl: (Still grinning)...You know...I'm almost positive, but let me open up a box to make sure for you.

Me: (Elated that she's not just making shit up, but actually investigating.)

Later still...

Cute Jest Guy girl: So, do you need any additional memory cards with this?

Me: (Thinking how I have a couple at home of at least 1 GB each) No, I'm good. I've got big ones.

Me: (I just said "I've got big ones." Heh heh. Heh heh heh. Ha ha ha ha!)

Me: (At the counter, honestly about to laugh out loud because of my big ones remark. Smiling stupid at the counter, unable to stop.)

Cute Jest Guy girl: Do you want the extended service plan with these?

Me: (Still on the verge of cracking up)...No thanks, and thanks for not assaulting me about how badly I need one.

Cute Jest Guy girl: Yeah...they're kinda useless, really.

Me: (What am I, in the 7th grade? Big ones. Hee hee hee! Still funny after, like, 45 seconds!) Yeah, I agree.

The End.


The Scene: This morning, when Kristie the Insurance Lady came over to play nurse. Only not like that, but in a draw blood and take urine for life insurance kind of way.

Kristie: ...and now I'll take your height and weight. How tall are you? (As she stands behind me preparing the tape measure.)

Me: About six feet. Six - one with the afro. (Ha! Fletch! Any day you can interject Fletch comments is a good day. We'll both have a good chuckle over that charming quip.)

Kristie: (No response whatsoever to my Fletch line.)

Me: (Maybe she didn't hear me.) About six-one with the afro (he says again). Heh heh.

Kristie: (Looks at me weird. Guess she did hear me the first time. That means of the two of us, I'm the only one laughing at my jokes.)

Me: (Feel kinda dumb. I think I'll just do the rest of this quietly.)


Kristie: (Preparing stethoscope around her neck) Okay, I'm going to check your blood pressure. (Wraps thing around my arm...puts stethoscope in ears)

Kristie: (Suddenly freaking yelling, with stethoscope in her ears, as one does when he's listening to headphones and thinks the rest of the room won't be able to hear him over the music in his head.) SO YOU'RE SELLING YOUR HOUSE, HUH?

Me: (A moment after literally jumping out of my chair.) Um, yeah.

Kristie: WHAT?

Me: YES! WE'VE HAD IT ON THE MARKET JUST ABOUT TWO (Kristie removes stethoscope headphones) WEEKS NOW.

Kristie: (With same awkward expression as the Fletch quote that didn't go over, now apparently wondering why I'm yelling at her.) Uh, well good luck. Okay now I need some urine...

The End.

Ah, to live in my world. Such good times.

Monday, April 16, 2007


First, let me say that selling one's house does not do well for one's training schedule. You've got to be kidding me with this. Last week, the house went on the market late Monday night - by end of Saturday I think we'd had, like, 10 showings. All of which is great - totally what you want. 'Course, no offers in any of that, but whatever, these things take time. But since I work at home, I'd get the calls for the scheduled showings. I'd then do a quick tour around the Estate to tidy up, load the dogs and cat into the car, and go find some place to be for an hour. Some days this would happen two or three times - that's 2 to 4 hours away from my workday. So then in the evenings I'd have to make up work, and it would come at the expense of working out. By Saturday I was so worked up with house-selling frenzy, and so mentally unstable from not having a single workout, that I think everybody around me wanted to ring my neck. These are some seriously crazy times. I'm grateful I don't have Ironman this year. I just don't know how it could be done, certainly not to my obsessive compulsive standards.

But - yesterday I was finally able to get out for several hours and knock down 16 miles. My longest mileage to date, and strangest of all is that I felt really good. I'm running stronger right now than I deserve, with my spotty training the last 6 weeks. I think I can only attribute it to a pretty solid base, January through March. Add to it the weather (yesterday was perfect, and I was out in shorts and a tshirt for the first time all season...5 days ago I ran 12 miles in tights, gloves, and hat), and I haven't been on my bike hardly at all this season. That will hopefully change this week, depending on house showings.

Anyway, 16 miles, at a consistent pace in the 9:40s/mile. I was never suffering, never pushing hard, never going outside myself. If I'm running that well with this limited training, it makes a guy wonder what he'd be accomplishing with some damn consistency in his life, but whatever - these aren't the days of consistency, and I've made my peace with it. Still don't like it, though.

Best of all, though, and I don't know why this always sort of surprises me, but after my run I just felt recalibrated. Lighter. Better. Not so obsessed with this house stuff. Not so consumed with the what-ifs of it all. Lighter in my life. Not so thoughtful about the minutae. It's not like I dissected anything on my run, or gave any of these things tremendous thought. It's just like the run kind of shakes everything in my head loose a little bit, and they filter out and sift through a little in the course of the mileage. By the time I'm in the shower afterwards, life wasn't quite so overwhelming. Good stuff.

So - I have my first sprint tri in about 3 weeks, and I have zero expecations for it. I'm just going to go out there, enjoy the day, and take it as it comes. I have about 3 weeks left of real running, too, before I start to taper for my May 19 marathon. If I can get up to 20 miles by next weekend, and maybe max out at 22 or 23 in the next couple weeks, I think I'll feel as good as I can expect to feel. If I can't get in that mileage - well, my longest run for IM training was 18 miles, so I'll just have to find ways to cope.

So that's it from my end of the sphere for now. A shout out - my friend Ali is running her second Boston Marathon today. I'm getting updates on my email all day, so I'll keep you apprised. She's also apparently running in a monsoon out there (one thing I can tell you from when I lived in Boston - NOTHING turns a meteorologist on more out there than when they get to use the word "Nor'easter". Seriously. It's like, weather porn for them. They lose their minds with glee, much like weather-people out here get in a lather when major rush-hour snow is expected, or when we have a summer thunderstorm of significance. Break into programming! Execute cool crazy graphics! Send reporters to the scene - "Belinda, I'm here in Eden Prairie where you can still here the thunder rolling behind me. Moments ago, it was raining, and there are unconfirmed reports that a tree was struck by lightning!" Deploy the rain slickers! Send in the clowns! Wheee!) today, so everybody send Ali good vibes that she has a decent race, and that she brought inflatable arm floaties, in case it gets to that point.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


12 miles today - my longest run in almost a month (sheesh). I headed out for a long lunch break, as - get this - later tonight we're supposed to get the start of 7 inches of snow. In April. Winter can puke on itself for all I care. Just get the hell away from me.

Anyhoo, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I certainly slowed down from my last 6 compared to my first 6 miles, and I wasn't without some discomfort at the end. But I tried to just relax, not overdo anything, and ride a nice comfortable pace. Interestingly, I tethered my Garmin to my arm for the first time (side story: my Garmin 305 crapped out about a month ago or so. I emailed the company, they said to send it in. I had a new one on my doorstep within 10 days from the initial email. That's customer service at work.) I've suspected that my iPod has been a little slow, despite my efforts to calibrate it, but didn't really care - it's not a serious training tool, just a helpful aid. (Did anybody ever see the South Park with Jared the Subway guy who loses a lot of weight because he has aides - as in, "people who assist" - like a nutritionist and a trainer and stuff - but everybody thinks he means AIDS, so they freak out when he says how helpful aids [sic] have been to losing weight. Good times.) Anyway, it was interesting; not only is the distance off (significantly - like, half a mile or a little more), but it's also about 15 seconds slow. How that's possible I have no idea, but there you go. And I generally trust that it's not the Garmin that's bad, because it's always extremely close to my official results at races.

Anyway, what's it's meant, though, is that all this time I've been training with the iPod, my goal has been to just hover around a comfortable 10:00/mile pace. But because it's been running slow - as I learned today - I'm actually running around a 9:35 pace when I think I'm at 10:00. So when the iPod tells me my pace is around 9:35, I look at the Garmin and I'm maybe 9:09 or something. What's interesting about that is that I found my body's conditioned right now to run a "comfortable 10:00/mile pace" - on the iPod. I'm actually running a comfortable 9:30ish pace. Sweet! So - 12 miles, after nearly a month away from such distance, finished at at 9:36/mile pace. That's pretty dope.

I'm going to try and get another long run in this week - probably 15 miles on Saturday. If I can get 15 under my belt, I think I won't feel quite so unprepared for a May 19 marathon - I can finally be getting back into the swing. Meanwhile, the house is finally, officially on the market, and I feel less all-consumed with it. Everbody send good vibes that it'll sell (my positive visualization says within 2 weeks!).

Two things of note today, running at lunch time - I ran by a playground full of kids running. Kids, when the run, they don't really jog or meander - they full-on, all out sprint. And then they don't stop to catch their breath - they maybe slow to a trot while they catch up with friends, or they cut around a tree to tag somebody who will then chase them at full sprint, etc. Their energy is totally amazing to me. And always, they run with a stupid grin on their faces. Ever noticed that? You never see a kid running without a smile, because that would mean it's not so fun, so they just walk then. I caught myself evaluating my facial expression, all gussied up in Lycra and out here for a Very Serious Run, and thought the kids had it down better. So I tried to smile more, and have fun, and remember that as children, the whole reason we go from walk to run is because it looks like more fun.

Also, there's this dog. This little terror who has a great big fenced-in yard that angles to this weird point, about 15 feet across, where it faces the trail I run on. The dog's primary objective, of course, is protecting his vast kingdom, and he spends his time surveying and patrolling the area. When I'm running up the block, I can see him sitting back by the house, serene but alert, evaluating smells and glancing casually at interesting sounds. Then he'll turn my way and see me approaching. In an instant he goes from sitting comfortably to all-out sprint, timed perfectly to intersect with my approach on his fence. And the little dude - he looks kind of like a scruffy Eddie from Frasier - he runs absolutely all out, top speed reached in moments, and hurls himself at the intersection point (which is fascinating in itself, his awareness of momentum and distance and time so that he never misses too early or too late) so fast that I swear he's going to face plant into the fence, all the while snarling and barking and growling with lips curled over impressive teeth, ears back, eyes squinted, seriously ready to kick my ass. But then at the last opportunity, maybe with 5 feet to go, his hind legs that have been so far driving his fierce charge instead dig in on every step, and he comes skidding to a stop in less than a second, all the while glaring at me and hating my guts. It's so primitive. I enjoyed it. Not maybe the part where he hates my guts, but I guess if his hatred fuels his impressive and entertaining display, so be it. I gots other dogs that love me.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Crazy Times

Well, yesterday I was due for 10 miles. Instead, I was fighting the most violent flu I've ever had. It was horrible and insane. It almost seems like it was food poisoning...but from what? That Kashi cereal I had? A bagel with sun dried tomato spread and cheese? Can't figure it out. But man, it was some miserable stuff.

So today I'm a thousand percent better, but still pretty weak and dehydrated. I gotta say, it's been a tough spring to be a triathlete. I've said before that, after the countless hours spent last year training for Ironman, I think it's a fair exchange to this year focus more on the rest of my life. Still...I am a triathlete, after all. I have my first race in (geez) less than a month. A marathon in 6 weeks. And it's been nothing but interruptions and derailments to my training schedule this spring, with the efforts to get the house moving (it goes on the market on Monday, by the way. Everybody cross your fingers), and now getting sick - it takes a few days just to get back to workout-ready status. And the weather - are you kidding me with this weather? It's, like, 26 degrees today. April effing 6th, and it's seriously January outside. No big deal for running, but tough to spend quality time on a tribike when it's so damn cold. Just - a weird spring. I've had to just insist on patience, and attitude - that this is a different kind of season, that I'll have to take what comes, that my expectations will have to be different than they were at the pretty elite (for me) levels I was at last summer. Sigh.

Anyway, that's what's up with me. What's new with you?