Friday, April 29, 2011

Out of Commission

Tuesday evening I went swimming. I swam a mile in 45 minutes. I was so proud of myself. Too proud perhaps. When I pushed off the bottom of the pool to sit on the side, my left calf cramped to the degree of me leaning over in agony, wanting to howl but not wanting to scare the few others who were enjoying the pool. Hubby tried to massage the pain away, but the muscle had turned to rock. For what seemed like a very long time, though I know it was most likely less than two minutes, I endured what was the most painful experience of my life. And that's saying something after having given birth naturally to a 10 pound 9 ounce baby. Today, the calf still hurts to the degree that running is definitely out; walking alone is an ordeal. Swimming is out since every time I flex my calf in the way I would while swimming, it wants to cramp up all over again. I'm  not sure about cycling--I think I could do that though there would be pain with each revolution. In general, it appears I'm out of commission for the next few days.

A couple of things I understand much better now after suffering through this cramp are these:

1. Why a person swimming in an open water situation would drown due to a muscle cramp. I used to think it strange that this happened, but now, I totally get it. I couldn't focus at all when my calf cramped. The pain was that intense. For someone in open water, where the bottom is more than four feet down, this could mean a catastrophe.

2. Why a person becomes depressed upon getting injured. I used to think suck it up and continue on with life. Now I'm the one bumming over not being able to run (and I hate to run), not being able to swim, not being able to participate in the sprint tri this Sunday. I've been looking forward to this particular tri as it is the anniversary of my first sprint tri, and now I'm going to be the one on the sidelines.

I know the pain will pass. I know I'll be back at it most likely within a week. My comfort zone is working out almost every single day, and I guess I've just become so used to doing all the things I do that not being able to do them is out of my norm. I'm having to practice a certain kind of patience which doesn't come easy for me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mixed Results

Now that Lent is over, along with my giving up spending so much time online and wasting vast amounts of breathing on watching mindless TV, I need to assess how I actually did with my "sacrifices." In the end, the result is mixed.

The internet wasn't difficult to limit. I allowed myself to write twice a week on the blog, visit MyFitnessPal to record my meals and exercise (which has been invaluable for helping me finally break the plateau of 148 pounds), and record my daily mileage on DailyMile. I checked in with Facebook here and there, posting after my sprint tri's and liking some of my friends' posts, but I found I wasn't really missing Facebook at all, so I'm thinking I might keep that particular site to a minimum all the way around. If I need to get in touch with any friends, I can call them or text them from my cell. Other than that, the internet wasn't a huge part of my life during Lent. I do admit I missed blogging. For me, blogging is more about recording my life so my kids have something to read in ten, twenty years. My life isn't at all exciting, and maybe my kids won't care to read about all of these things since they're part of these events, but who knows? Maybe they'll share it with their kids, giving them a picture of who their grandma was.

The TV was a totally different issue. I failed epically. Living with someone who spends most of his free time in front of a TV tends to influence my behavior. I've done a good job of not allowing his eating habits to influence me any longer. Believe me, a 23 pound gain since marrying him is a loud and insistent wake-up call. I now fix separate meals for me, sometimes for the kids, and because of this, I have more energy, my skin is clearer, and I've lost 13 of that 23 pounds. But the TV watching, which seems harmless on the surface, has been tough to let go of. Since we have a TV in almost every room of the house, getting away from it is nearly impossible. Sure, I could just not turn it on, and I didn't when I was in the office. When I'm in the office, I work. I can focus. Outside the office, the impulse to sink into the comfort of the couch or to lie back against the down pillows on the bed was difficult to resist. If it wasn't the NCAA basketball championships, it was Blackhawks hockey or "The Killing." My kids convinced me watching a movie with the family wasn't TV (see how weak I am?), so we watched quite a few movies, my favorite so far being Hereafter. Needless to say, I still have a lot of work to do to let go of the TV. Do they make a pill for this?

Overall, I did manage to get three books read, along with too many short stories to count, and I worked on several of my own pieces. One of the best books I read was the biography of Bernard Malamud by Philip Davis. Really good stuff. Fascinating. I'm now in the middle of another Malamud book, Talking Horse, and am loving it, too. With my own writings, I'm really struggling with one of my new short stories. Though I didn't keep track, I know there were way too many hours spent staring at the screen, pleading with the muses to show me the direction, to no avail. I'm now thinking a whole new approach may be the answer. I'm completely in love with the idea I have, like I was with my most recent short story publication about an older woman selling her cherished possessions in a garage sale, which kind of took the same route that my new idea is taking. I started the garage sale story about a year ago, got ten pages into it, and hated the direction it was going. I kept the main idea but came up with a completely different story. Maybe that's the answer, a whole new story.

So, some work to do to reduce the TV watching. I just have to dig deep and say no when the urge to sit and vegg strikes. I still wonder if they make a pill for this problem.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Day in the Garden

With yesterday being a warm, dry day, and today being a warm, dry day, I took advantage of the opportunity to work in the garden. The last two weeks have been rainy and cool, so putting out seeds didn't seem like a great idea. A lot of hard work most likely would have ended up water-logged. Though it's a bit later than I like for starting with seeds, I'm glad I waited.

After a short time sitting on the deck this morning, I pulled all the materials together and started in. Around 11, my lovely daughter called me in for Easter brunch. She loves to work in the kitchen, and between her and her boyfriend whipping up brunch, we all enjoyed veggie omelets, waffles with blueberry syrup and whipped topping, bacon, sausage gravy and biscuits, and coffee. What a feast! Talk turned to past vacations we've taken over the years, and for a little while, we sat and laughed, remembering little moments we all now cherish.

The dirt JK made!
As my daughter began cleaning up the kitchen, I slipped on my rubber garden boots and returned to my work. Hubby joined me, and with his help, I was able to get my first load of compost dirt shoveled onto a tarp and dragged to the garden. I started composting a year and a half ago. Today, the garden received its first dose of dark, beautiful compost. Thinking about how leaves, grass, and food waste combine to make dirt amazes me. Just think if every family composted. What a wonderful thought that is.

A baby tarantula?
Once the compost was in place, Hubby and I began cleaning up the fruit garden. The grapevines are beginning to leaf out. The strawberries are beginning to spread new sprouts. The blueberry bushes are beginning to send out new shoots. Even the raspberry vines are showing new growth. I'm still very much a newbie with fruits, so I need to read up on how to help each plant be as healthy as possible. I did find out that my two dwarf apple trees most likely won't bear for another year; usually it takes four years of growth before they're mature enough. So next year, maybe I'll see some apples from my two little trees. While in the fruit garden, I was joined by a rather large spider. It seemed a little sluggish. Perhaps I disturbed it from its winter slumber.

By 4 o'clock, I was ready to call it a day. The onions are set. The potatoes are cut and drying and will be ready to plant in a day or two. The lettuce seeds, arugula seeds, and spinach seeds have been sown. Still a lot of garden to plant, but for now, I'm going to stand back and enjoy what we've accomplished today.

Friday, April 22, 2011

While The Thunder Rumbles

The weather has been a downer most of the week. Rain, lightning, more rain. Not a whole lot of cycling happening right now, which is definitely a bummer. And the thunder rumbles as the letters appear on the screen. Despite the gloomy days, it's been a truly beautiful morning for wrapping myself in the warmth of the the covers, burrowing into the down pillow, which is what I did for two hours beyond my usual time for getting up. Delicious.

With the end of the semester just in front of me, I'm turning my attention to the summer. I've decided not to teach summer classes, and while this may turn out to be a bad financial decision, and while I might have to find a summer job of some kind come the middle of June, I'm going to try and enjoy the time away from the office, the classroom, the students. Two projects already in the works will be the focus of my summer. The hope is that by August 1st I have tangibles to show for both of these projects. For me, having a clear "due date" helps me stay on task, hence my August 1st deadline.

In between working on these two projects, there will also be activities with the kids, tending the garden, training for some longer cycling events, and hopefully just relaxing. Simply thinking of what the summer holds makes me eager to finish out the semester, close and lock the door to my office. The shifting of the energy, going from the teaching and the students to all the "other" things that get put aside because of the teaching and the students, is hard to control, contain, but I know I have a job to finish before fully moving another direction.

Happy Good Friday. Happy Easter. Happy day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pioneer Sprint Tri Results

Warming Up
Beautiful weather plus beautiful countryside helped me finish under my goal of 1:25. Though my run was the usual "somebody please explain to me why I do this" run, the swim went well, and the bike proved challenging yet faster than I've ever cycled before. I crossed the finish line at 1:22.11. Definitely a sprint tri I'll do again--maybe.

The swim was in a 25 yard pool with six lanes, which meant we had to swim one way in each lane then turn and swim back in that lane, going under the lane ropes to get into the next lane. Trying to breathe when water is lapping up into your mouth because of swimmers passing from the other direction makes for a tough swim. I submitted a time of 5:30, hoping not to get stuck behind a slower swimmer. Didn't work. I got stuck behind a slower swimmer. I managed to get around her and continue on, but soon came up on another slower swimmer. I just backed off this time and settled in as much as I could. My swim time ended up being 5:46. That's a minute six seconds faster than my last 300 yard swim.

My transition to the bike went smoothly. I just pulled a shirt on over my swimsuit top, put my helmet on, slipped my bare feet into my shoes, and was off. Transition time: 1:07. Three minutes faster than my last swim/bike transition time.

The bike was great, an out and back. The first three miles were flat and fast. The next three and a half were hilly and challenging. I got a "good turn" from the guys manning the turn-around, which was nice to hear, then I was on my way back. Bike time: 42:46. Average speed: 18.3. That's 1.2 mph faster than the last sprint tri, even with all the hills.

The transition from the bike to the run was good. My legs were tired, but I managed to run from the transition area and onto the course. Transition time: 1:11. This transition was about 2 minutes faster than my last bike/run transition. I went into this tri determined to work on getting my transition times down, and I was able to do that.

Then the run. Sigh. I.Just.Hate.Running. The course offered great views of old Victorian homes, and the community was this quaint, river town, but my body kept begging for me to just stop the nonsense called running. Several hills only added fuel to the whining fire. The last half mile included a hill that was tough and long. And it was on this hill that the woman who won my age division caught me and passed me. In the end, I finished at 31:28, thirty seconds faster than the last sprint tri.

In the end, I'm very, very happy with my performance overall. Last year, the swim was incredibly hard for me. I truly didn't think I'd ever improve, but I've worked hard on the swim and it's paid off. The cycling is coming along, and I know I have the wonderful, new bike to thank for the faster times I'm posting. Last year it was all I could do to manage a 16 mph pace. This new bike helps me post faster speeds, and I'm thinking on a truly flat course, I might be able to see 20 mph as an average speed. The run? My thoughts are now turning to competing in aquabikes rather than tri's. Perhaps doing an event of just swimming and cycling is exactly what I need. I have my eye on one scheduled for later in the season, so I'll have the whole summer to train for a longer swim and a longer bike. Not having to deal with the run might do wonders for my mind.

A good day, no doubt. Who wouldn't be happy with shaving off six minutes, even if the run still proved to be difficult? I walked away second in my age group (of only three, but hey, I'll take the plaque they gave me), 27th out of 50 women competing, and 98th out of 144 total.

Friday, April 15, 2011


When I met the man I now call Hubby, I weighed 135 pounds, which was the lightest I've ever weighed since junior high. All through high school, I hovered right at 150. After high school, college, grad school and three kids, I've hovered right at 150. Let's just say I've never been dainty. And more often than not, I'm alright with that. But I worked really, really hard to get to 135, and I truly enjoyed being able to go into a fitting room and try on clothes of all sorts, and come out feeling happy. Well, over a six year period, I put on 23 pounds. When I hit 158, I was one unhappy camper.

That's when Hubby and I started our own Biggest Loser competition. I went with the P90X program while Hubby chose to walk on the treadmill. Over the 90 day period we kept track of our progress. I managed to lose ten pounds during that time. At the end of the 90 days, I switched to running. Over the next four or five months, the weight loss just didn't happen, and in frustration, I quit weighing myself. Part of me kept saying, "JK, you're in your late 40's. Does it really matter what you weigh?" After all, it's not like I was a single twentysomething searching for my soulmate. My clothes were fitting much better, as well, so did it matter that I couldn't get back to 135 pounds? Even though these things were true, it did matter to me, so I decided to keep going with the working out, changing things up to try and move the scale in the downward direction.

When I began training for the sprint tri last year, I thought for sure the scale would move. It didn't. When I began cycling, going for 30, 50, 60 miles at a time, I thought the scale would move. It didn't. Frustration grew, and again, I stopped weighing myself. My clothes continued to fit better, which wasn't making any sense to me, and I even had to buy a size 6 slacks when I shopped for some career clothes. I was stunned at this. Happy, but stunned.

Then I bought the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald. I read that book in two days. I felt like the secrets to becoming a lighter, faster athlete were being given to me through the words on the pages. I knew I had to change the way I eat in order to be a better athlete and in order to lose the weight I desperately wanted to lose. Knowing this and actually following through, however, are two different things.

Three weeks ago, I weighed in, thinking I had to be under 148 since all my clothes were looser, since I was working out anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour five to six times a week. The scale leveled out at . . . 148. At that moment, I knew I had to commit to a change if I was ever going to get under that number. I had to stop allowing myself to say things like, "Oh, that order of fries isn't going to hurt me. I've already burned 400 calories working out." Who was I trying to kid?

So I pulled out my clean eating cookbook and began my journey to better eating. I've been keeping track every single day of every single thing that goes into my mouth. Most days have been really, really good, clean eating days. A couple of days have been really, really bad non-quality foods days. Those bad days I acknowledge, but then they go into the file and I move on, working to make the next day better. After three weeks of this, I decided to weigh in. I stepped on the scale this morning, and it leveled out at . . . 145. Finally.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pioneer Sprint Tri Goal

The taxes are finished after much hand wringing over the weekend. An easy 12 miler Friday afternoon followed by a solid 20 mile ride Saturday did wonders for my mind as well as my body. For Saturday's ride I did the first five miles easy, averaging around 14 mph then ramped it up for the other 15 miles. When it was all over, my average speed was 17.2 mph, and that was with a pretty good wind from the SW, which turned into a near headwind for half of the ride. In the end, I finished the week on Sunday with another mile swim (having done a mile swim on Thursday), giving me the best week of workouts I've had in a very long time.

Today, I'm resting. After the Boiler Sprint Tri and a full week of workouts, I'm tired. My next sprint tri is this coming Sunday, and it's time to ease up to be fresh for it. I think my swim has significantly improved, so I'm really looking forward to the swim on Sunday. I submitted a faster time, hoping to not get stuck behind slower swimmers. I'd be very happy being the slow swimmer behind the faster people while at the same time being the faster swimmer with the slower people behind me.

I'm finding the more I work on the swimming and the cycling, the less I stress about the run. I've come a long way over the last year, in the swim and the run, and in the end, whatever happens happens. My mindset with the Boiler Sprint Tri was use it as a training session. No pressure. Just swim, bike, and run and enjoy it as much as possible. Getting stuck behind slower swimmers, having to get off the bike to walk the hill, then having to walk part of the run didn't matter. Learning where I can make some adjustments and perhaps improve the next time is what I concentrated on. This Sunday, I know the areas I'm going to work on, and while part of what to work on includes the run, I'm not going to obsess over it. It is what it is.

This Sunday, the sprint tri is almost exactly the same distances as the Boiler Sprint Tri. The bike portion is .6 miles further, so I'm going to make my goal the same as for the BST: 1:25. I'm figuring there can't possibly be another beastly hill this time around. At least that's what I'm hoping anyway. I'm also figuring the temps will be warmer, making transitioning a little easier--cold fingers have a hard time tying laces and clasping chin straps. And who knows, maybe my run will be sub 30. Anything can happen, right?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Under Attack

Lots of negative, hurtful, mean thoughts swirl and crash into one another as I sit here, trying to do my taxes. Nothing else in my life sets me off like filling out these forms. It's not so much that the numbers, the rules, and the exceptions make my eyes glaze over. Believe me, they do. It's just that I don't make much money considering and having to justify every little thing is mind-numbing. Each year, when I do my taxes, I end up thinking about the education I have (an MA), the amount of time I spend on my job (upwards of 55 hours a week), the amount of time I put into professional development (reading, conferences, publishing), and the amount of money I bring home (enough that I can save a little out of each check--not a huge amount but enough to create an emergency fund). All of this combined makes me feel like I make squat compared to a lot of other people who have less education, spend less time doing their job, and aren't required to participate in professional development. It's all completely and utterly depressing. Tears have already fallen once. Tears will fall again before it's all over with.

Perhaps a long bike ride will ease the pain and clear the mind.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trolling the Trail

Took a nice, leisurely ride this evening. Since the day was sunny and warm, lots of people were out, using the trail.

I passed a young couple running together, and each of them had earbuds in, I presume listening to music. I found it kind of funny they were running along silently, not talking to one another. Hopefully they chatted some as they jogged, or it could be they didn't need to speak.

I passed a dad with his two very young daughters, one on a trike and the other on a scooter. He walked a few steps behind them, holding his arms out at times as if he was herding them, trying to keep them going in one direction. The girl on the scooter wanted to go one way while the girl on the trike wanted to go the other. Dad coaxed scooter girl to turn around and go with her sister.

I passed a couple, she pushing a stroller, he keeping their rather larger German Shepard reined in as a woman walking her very small Dachshund took a wide berth, watching the Shepard out of the corner of her eye.

I passed a wooded area and saw an old refrigerator with no door amongst the still-bare trees. I thought maybe that fridge could become a part of a short story, the final resting place for a character. A bit on the morbid side for what was supposed to be a leisurely ride, so I tucked that idea away and continued on.

I reached the end of the trail and kept on going for another mile or so, then decided to turn around and head home. The trail isn't my favorite place to ride because of all the people, but it definitely provides amusement and gives me lots of ideas for possible characters.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Boiler Sprint Tri Results

Boiler Sprint Tri 2011
Well, I didn't meet my goal of 1:25. While that's somewhat disappointing, I'm happy with how things went considering. I finished at 1:28, 13th out of 41 women, 112th out of 156 overall. I know where my weaknesses are, and I just need to dig deep to overcome those weaknesses.

The swim went okay. I've never timed myself swimming a 300 or 400, so I just guess when I enter my swim time while registering for an event. Stupid move number one. Each time, this has meant I've seeded myself lower than what I should have. I end up behind slower swimmers, and when they swim three abreast in the lane, anyone behind them can't get around. This happened yesterday. Although, I will say that yesterday the event organizers allowed people to jump ahead in line even if their seed time was slower. Three guys decided they were faster than what they really were and jumped in front of me. Then they swam side by side most of the swim, preventing others who wanted to pass from doing do. Finally, the last 50, things opened up and I was able to get by them. Swim time: 6:52.

The transition from the swim to the bike was freezing! The event started at 9, and though the sun was shining, the temperature hovered right around 37. Add in a slight breeze to make things feel even colder. So the run from the pool to the bike was cold. I couldn't feel my feet by the time I reached my bike. I quickly donned my pullover and the rest of my equipment then grabbed my bike and headed out of the transition area. Transition time: 3:26.

The bike was fun. This was the first real opportunity to see what it can do. I found out it can fly. As I got going, I was feeling really good. Passing people just makes me all the more hungry to see how many others I can pass. The first major hill I handled well, shifting when I needed to and powering up. At the top, I started shifting to get my speed back up. The chain came off. I tried all the tricks to get it back on without having to stop, but no go. The chain became locked up. No way around not having to stop, flip the bike over, gently slip the chain out of its wedged position, and ease it back onto the sprocket. I was able to do this quickly, so I was back on and riding again without having lost too much ground. Around mile 7 the biggest challenge loomed in front of me. I've never seen such a steep hill. I, the lover of hills, felt fear tingle in my limbs. About a third of the way up, I was done, and I am so ashamed to say I had to get off the bike and walk the rest of the way. From the top of that hill to the finish, I pushed it as much as I could to make up the lost time on the hill. At one point, I was coming up on anther participant. He looked over his shoulder and saw me coming, and I could see him do all he could to get going faster. It was actually quite comical watching him. I sailed by with what I'm sure was a huge smile on my face. Bike time: 43:30. Average speed: 17.1.

At the transition, my legs were jelly and my hands were freezing. I had a tough time changing shoes, tying laces, and unclasping the chin strap of my helmet. Transition time: 2:11.

The run? Well, not good. I know--surprise, surprise. Ever since doing the stair climb, when I put a lot of effort in with exercising, my lungs tighten and hurt. I started running and the pain was very uncomfortable. I walked for about a minute then ran for about two, walked for one, ran for two, and kept doing this until the lungs felt better. The first mile and an half wasn't good at all. In mile two things began to feel much better, and I was able to settle into a relatively comfortable pace. Mile three I slowed down again for just a bit. The last half mile I tried to keep a nice, steady pace and crossed the finish line feeling good. Run time: 31:59. Average pace: 10:19.

In the end, I'm happy with how I did. I certainly wish I had been able to climb that monstrous hill, but now I have something to look forward to next year. I'll return and conquer that beast. I also wish I had had a better run, but knowing how I was feeling, I'm really quite happy with the average pace. Plus, I now have something to work on for the next event in two weeks.

I do have to say, one of the very best things about participating in these events is crossing the finish line and seeing Hubby waiting for me, a huge grin on his face, and the high five he always gives. There's no one I'd rather see standing there waiting for me.