Finish Line 70.3

Finish Line 70.3
Finish Line 70.3

70.3 Finisher!

70.3 Finisher!
70.3 Finisher

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cool Running Stuff

Now that I've spent all my money on neato swimming stuff, is there room for some groovy running stuff? Oh, for sure, for sure. No one can go out the door with just a pair of shoes and call it running...anymore.

I will be the first to admit that I don't have all the latest and keenest gadgets out there for running. I will also be the second to admit that I probably have more gadgets than a back of the pack age grouper really and truly needs. Look. You gotta find a way to make long runs fun somehow.

Here are my running gadgets:

1. Shoes. The most important device you will ever buy, or have, or use. Throw away the Keds. Go to a specialty running store (this is not, sorry, Walmart or even Academy or Dick's Sporting Goods) and have them evaluate your running style and fit you in some good running shoes. Everyone has a different foot strike and balance, and there are shoes that will fit you better than others. Expect to spend some money. Don't cringe at it. Think of how many times your feet will hit the pavement. Also, running shoes MUST be replaced, like tires, every 300-600 miles. Old shoes are worse than no shoes. One helpful hint: I always thought I needed heavy, thick soled running shoes to protect my feet from pounding. Turned out I was wrong. The lighterweight, low profile shoes really work better for me.

2. Clothes. Okay, your gender is going to come into play on this. If you're a guy, for training runs (not triathlon race day--that's a whole different post) and for running races, running shorts (some like the loose fitting shorts and other guys, like the Patient Spouse, like a form fitting tight-like short) AND yes, a running shirt. We know you gotta great two-pack, buddy, but save it for your significant other. Shirts help wick away sweat and protect from sunburn, falls (yes, those can happen running) and bug bites. For gals, same things but either add a sports/running bra or use a running shirt with a built in bra. For both: NO COTTON. Cotton looks and feels cool, but the truth is, it is miserably bad at holding in sweat and heat and it doesn't breathe worth patooky. Yes, you really do need to buy and wear those synthetic running clothes because they really, really work like a charm. On hot days, dress in light colors and looser fabrics. Cooler days, long sleeves (no cotton!) but be prepared--you will always get warmer as you run and it's tough to strip in the middle of a run, so start out a little chilly in your running gear. For really REALLY cold days, a lightweight fabric running jacket (breathable material again), warm gloves, and a hat work wonders. I also have running rights for cold winter mornings. Socks--go for thinner rather than thicker--you will thank me later. Please try to use wicking fabric socks as cotton socks will get sweaty and stay wet and then cause blisters. You can buy all this great stuff at the running stores.

Some people use those arm warmers that cover part of their arms. I don't. I think they look like you cut off part of your clothes. Still, I know people swear by them. It allegedly keeps your muscles warm. I still think they look kooky.

3. Watch(es). You really don't need a special watch for running if you don't care about your time or distance. (hahahahaha....ha). No, seriously, if you are just running for fitness and fun, map out a route with the car odometer (or the bike computer--see Neat Bike Stuff to be published soon), and use your own plain watch to note your start and stop times. For the math impaired, like moi, will compute your average pace for you if you enter distance and time.

However. Cool watches for running are just out of the ballpark fun. I have a Garmin 400 GPS watch/distance/pace calculator that is the size of a small Dick Tracy watch phone to strap on my wrist. The more updated versions are smaller and lighter. This one is six years old and I hate to replace it; it has worked perfectly for those years (other than when it hasn't) and those suckers are costly. There are other brand model GPS watches out there, but IMO Garmin leads the pack. The only downside about Garmin is that is doesn't compute with my Polartech heart monitor, so I end up wearing two...sometimes, looking for all the world like a street corner flasher trying to offload some knockoff stuff.

My Garmin calculates my distance in miles, my pace, and my time. It does other things too if you ask it nicely (it has elevation, which is fun when hiking in the mountains). It's not totally perfect. My marked out 3 mile run is sometimes 2.9 or 3.1 miles, but usually not much further off than that. And I've discovered my running pace usually tracks about 30-45 seconds behind my actual pace--if I start running faster, it takes a while for Mr. Garmin to realize that. And tall buildings, heavy trees, tunnels, or atmospheric blips can sometimes cause it to tell you it can't find your distance or pace right now, sorry. Every time I do the 8 mile Turkey Trot in downtown Dallas I lose it for about 2 miles midway in the shadow of the buildings.

But there is really no better gadget to calcuate miles and pace on an unknown trek than a GPS watch. I think it's a good investment.

I'll leave the heart rate monitor for a separate post, as it's really its own animal.

4. Sunglasses. I don't know how people run or bike without glasses on. Even on a cloudy day, the wind blows grit and bugs into my eyes. I wear contacts, so my eyes don't really like small foreign objects blown into them. You can buy sunglasses that have interchangeable lenses for those cloudy days, but for me, the clouds usually roll in halfway through my bike or run and I don't carry the extra lenses with me, so I just suck it up and peer through the dark lenses and pretend it's nightime. Buy a cheap pair of glasses for training and a good pair for racing that don't get scratched up. Make sure they fit snugly enough to block glare and wind.

5. Hydration and nutrition on the run. The old rule of thumb seemed to be if you are gonna run/race less than 60 minutes, you shouldn't need to drink, and if you are going to run/race less than 90 minutes, you shouldn't need to take in calories. To that I say, horse bunky. All of the hydration/nutrition stuff TOTALLY depends on (a) how hot or cold or humid it is out there, (b) what kind of shape you are in, (c) what you have ingested or drank in the last 24 hours (including margaritas the night before), (d) how old you are, and (e) how hard you are gonna push it that day. I found this out the hard way on my first sprint triathlon. Relying on the wisdom of the books and the blogs, I only took in water during that 1:55 race, which included a 15.5 mile bike and the standard 3.1 mile run on Labor Day in 97 degree heat at 12 noon (the race started at 10 a.m., not a good idea IMO). I bonked so badly on the run that it wasn't funny. But I am a fast learner. My next sprint tri, only 2 months later, I ingested Gatorade during the 16.5 mile bike, and also took in most of a Accugel (chocolate, my favorite) during the bike. I came off the bike strong and had my fastest 5K run in ages on that 3.1 miles (10 minute mile average). Yet that was a longer bike ride than the first tri. I did something right on nutrition and hydration that day.

What I'm saying here is everyone is different, and you gotta experiment with what works for you best. On a hot day, you really need to take in hydration pre run and during the run IMO if it's longer than 45 minutes. Older, slower, less fit athletes (and that would be me) also may need some calorie intake on runs or workouts lasting over an hour. Sometimes just a sports drink is enough; sometimes you need something more. You need to try different things and see what gives you your optimal performance. For heaven's sake, don't try something new on race day. That will certainly entertain the crowd watching you dash for the bushes, but you? Not so much.

I have a small lightweight fabric mesh belt I wear on runs that last over an hour. It can just hold my car key, my cell phone (hint: turn it off or lock the keyboard. Otherwise, like my friend Matt, you may dial your friends 3,459 times during your run. They won't like that), a chocolate gel, and one of those small sized Ozarka plastic water bottles that gets squished a bit by me in the middle (I wash it out and refill it, like a good green girl). It holds just enough water or sports drink to get me through about a 10 mile run. Any further, and I have to plant water bottles along my route (hide them well, or a good green person will come throw them away). There are larger and more intricate fuel belts that have mutliple water bottles dangling all around them like little maypole dancers. I've tried those and hated them. They are heavy, hot, and the bottles can fall out. In a race, there should be aid stations located every 1-2 miles on a run, but even then, they may not carry your brand of sports drink (again, do NOT try anything new on race day).

6. Other fun and weird gadgets.

Road ID: I asked my husband for two of these for Christmas (one for the bike shoe and one for the run shoe--for swimming, I'm just going to have to remain unidentified). These are little metal tags that velcro onto your shoes with your name, address, emergency contact, and a line for your mantra or other smart saying (the Patient Spouse put on mine: A Longhorn and A Lawyer. Both true. Though not necessarily what I want to read at mile 22 of a marathon). This. Is. Important. Stuff. To. Have. If you have an accident or get ill during a run/bike, first responders are going to need to know whom to contact RIGHT THEN. Do not expect them to locate and scroll through your cell phone immediately for your ICE, although that is a good idea too. Having it right there on your shoe is a great thing. These are cheap lifesavers. Get one.

Doo rag. This is actually a specialized headband that wicks sweat off your forehead. Didn't use to need it as I avoided running in the heat. Now, it's a lifesaver. I wear it around my head like the original Karate Kid. Makes me look like a biker chick at the post race snack table. Also helps hide helmet hair, somewhat.

Reflective vest. I have to run in the dark sometimes, and that's the way life with jobs goes. But I am not going to be stupid about it. I wear a lightweight reflective vest (hint: the sizes run large, buy smaller), carry a flashlight, and also have a hat with a flashing light attached. I look like R2D2, okay, but I'm visible. Hint two: run on the side of the street FACING traffic. I know you know that, but I really mean it. That way you see the cars coming and can go into defensive mode, and they can see you more clearly. Keep your head up and be on the lookout at all times when running (hello, racer from last Saturday--looking at the ground doesn't make you go faster).

That's the general smorgasboard of my running stuff. Go assist the economy and buy some!

This morning was a moderately paced 3 mile run to set my base speed for longer run. I didn't run fast (race pace or interval pace), but I didn't poke along (heart rate monitor pace) either. My average pace for the 3 miles was 11.05 minutes per mile, which is right between my pokey long run pace (about 12:15) and my short run race pace (about 10:15). Tonight I have a 2 hour bike, but the weather is looking iffy, so it may get moved indoors, and trust me, no way I am riding an indoor bike for 2 hours.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cool Swim Stuff

Part of the joy of being any kind of athlete (even the slow kind) is the thrill you get from buying and using "stuff." I realize that for a triathlon, all you really need is a bike, a bike helmet, a swimsuit, and some running shoes, but hey, let's face it: the stuff is what it's all about. You may end up last in a race, but you will look so cool doing it.

Swimming stuff is the neatest of all stuff because it is designed to get wet and still work. The unfortunate news about that is most swimming stuff doesn't transfer well to running/biking stuff, and therefore you will need different stuff for those things.

Here's some of my stuff that I have found works well (and sometimes not so well) for me with regard to swimming:

1. The Place. Gotta have a place to swim. Your (or your neighbor's) backyard pool just won't cut it. I know; I tried buying one of those tie you up and swim in place geegaws and that was a mistake; not only did it not work but it plays devil with your swimming form as it keeps dragging your rear down. Unless you are wealthy enough to own (or smart enough to know someone else who owns and lets you use) an Endless Pool, you have to find a big pool to practice (and about those Endless me, I would go nuts having to swim in the same place for hours at a time). I was using the community pool for a while, pretty reasonable fee and it's big, but I finally gave up on being jumped on by all the community kids and joined LA Fitness, where I only have to work around the twice a week swimercise classes. Otherwise I get a lane pretty much to myself, or I only have to share with one other person. Local colleges usually have pools available to the public for a small fee (UT Dallas and SMU both charge $5 to use their pools). Go visit any place you are considering during the times you think you will be swimming and check out the crowd, conditions, and atmosphere. Also, if you are going to swim triathlons, better be prepared to go for an open water swim now and then. Go to a local lake with others (do not try this alone) and test out the lake waters and swim. It's different out there. Be prepared for the shock of not being able to see where you are going (you have to learn to lift your head every so often to sight) and for waves, current, and local flora and fauna to share the water with you.

2. The Clothes. Swimsuits are easy. Good swimsuits for training are not so easy. You want something durable, fast drying, and that doesn't rub you the wrong way. I recommend leaving the bikini and the baggy shorts (if you are a guy, either one of those apply to you) for the beach, and buying a training-specific swimsuit. It doesn't have to be a teeny Speedo, guys, just something that doesn't cause drag in the water. I have a girl's one piece black Speedo that is probably one size too small, but I swear I am not sending it back a third time for a larger size. Anything that is loose and fluttery will cause slow down and drag.

3. The Headgear. I wear a silicone swim cap. Every time I swim. Do I have to? Of course not; only during open water swim races are you usually required to wear a cap of a certain color, so they can recognize you when you are drowning. However, I like wearing a cap all the time for three reasons: (a) it helps a bit to protect my hair from the assualt of chlorine and God Knows What Else Is In That Pool, (b) it helps protect my fellow swimmers from the sight of my hair drifting along under their eyes (nothing gags me more than seeing hair floating beneath my nose in a pool), and (c) it helps to make me more aerodynamic in the water. If it's cold water, of course, it also helps keep my head warm.

4. The Eyewear. Goggles are not required, but I really can't imagine swimming anywhere without them. Chlorine and lake water are not friendly to your eyes. In fact, there are ugly bacteria out there waiting to find your eyes as their nice new home. In addition, you can't see well without them. Get good ones; leaky ones are worthless. Spend some money. Don't buy them at cheap places. I like having tinted ones if you are doing open water swims; if it's sunny, they make a difference. But clear ones are needed for indoor use and cloudy days.

5. The Wetsuit. Here's where the money comes into play. If you are going to do open water swims, you will probably need a wetsuit. If the water is below 78 degrees, wetsuits are permitted by USAT. If it's between 78 and 84 degrees, they are still permitted, but you aren't eligible for any awards. Over 84 degrees, no one can wear one because you will basically cook your patootie out there. Triathlon wetsuits are very specific in type, and your old scuba or surfing suit will not do, and will even slow you down. You can get full body wetsuits, or shorties, or sleeveless. I bought a used full body wetsuit from a local bike shop (after trying it on) for a good price and it's stood up well so far. Wetsuits give you warmth, protection, and BOUYANCY, so you will absolutely swim faster and more efficiently in one. You can always go without, but you will get passed by us slower swimmers who wore one. If your only triathlons are going to be done in a pool, there is no need for this toy. They take a while to learn to put on (use lots of Bodyglide--NOT vaseline as it breaks down the suit--and maybe even some Pam spray) and take off, but you can get the hang of it. Plus, you will look very intimidating if you wear yours to answer the door when your daughter's date comes to pick her up (adding goggles and cap is extra, for those dates you really are not sure about).

Note: wetsuits are meant to be snug fitting. Do not buy one too large. In the water, they will loosen up a wee bit, but you need to be prepared to practice swimming in one so you will get used to the idea of swimming in a girdle.

6. The Tunes. Apple nevers leaves you, even in the water. Of course they make a waterproof case and headphones for your iPod. Well, actually, Apple doesn't (yet) but does. This is not a cheap purchase, but when you have to swim 3,000 to 4,000 yards during a workout, it's a lifesaver. You will have to buy both the case and the headphones but before you do, be sure your iPod is one of the models that fits inside the case, or you will end up buying a new iPod to fit that expensive case. The music from the waterproof headphones is a bit tinny, but it's not that bad. Plus you can now wear your iPod while lounging in the pool or soaking in the hot tub. Hint: don't bother to attach the thing to the arm band they give you. That gets in the way of your stroke. Grab your race belt and fasten it on the back and put the belt around your waist. Other than the occasional flying headphone wire that snags your arm, this works best.

7. The Watch. No athlete feels complete without a super duper watch that has lap times, split times, good times and bad times all contained in one (waterproof) gadget. The problem starts to become that your wrist won't be big enough for everything you will want to strap onto it. Since heart rate monitors still don't work well in water (despite some of their assertions), your heart rate monitor watch won't do for you in the water, and your Garmin GPS isn't happy with water either. So you will want a waterproof watch that times you. I bought a $45 Timex Ironman for women (I know, that sounds wrong) which works great. I wear it in the pool to time laps, and I wear it in the race to time the whole event (assuming I remember to turn it on at the start, which I have only done two of the three times I used it). You can spend more money on this kind of thing, but I am not sure why you would want to.

8. The Sometimes I Use Them But Mostly Not Stuff. The kickboard and the fins and the hand paddles: yeah, once in a blue moon I'll get a drill where I have to use some of these. But not very often. Terry Laughlin, writer of the great books and tapes of Total Immersion Swimming, calls these crack for swimmers. Your best swimming tools are already attached to your body. Using other things helps you figure out correct form at times, but otherwise, they are not really useful. I'd just borrow the ones at the pool and skip the expense.

That's it. Those are my Swimming Toys. Tonight is a fairly short swim--2100 yards--and I'll use my watch, cap, goggles, swimsuit and H2 audio to get me through it.

Happy splashing!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The long and winding road

Long runs are a vital part of any triathlon training program. Of course, it depends on your race goal as to what you mean by how "long" long is, as a former Prez would say. A sprint distance training plan probably will have you at 3-5 miles for your longest run. An Olympic distance, which requires 6.2 miles of hoofing it, between 5-7 miles. A 70.3 calculates 13.2 of those 70.3 miles in shoe leather. So your longest run is going to be bewteen 12-15 miles in training.

Of course, you don't just out and run 15 miles one day just because it seems like a good plan. You gotta build up to that distance slowly and easily. Long runs are like novels, intervals and tempo runs are your short stories (I want to say SOMETHING is like a tweet, but the only thing I can think of is a sprint to the refrigerator during a TV commercial).

Long runs are meant to be run slowly, and within your aerobic heart rate range. This may end up giving you a shockingly slow pace time, but speed is not the point here. Distance and building up endurance is the point. The hardest lesson I ever had to learn was to pace myself on a long run to trot around a 12 min or easier mile pace--until I got my heart monitor, which lectures me willingly about not going out fast.

On Saturday morning, I did a 5.4 mile long run--my longest run since the May 12 triathlon. It's time to start building the miles and minutes back up, as I want to run another half marathon in December this year. I've been bumming around the last six weeks not running any longer than 45 minutes or about 4 miles, so it was time to get the feet on a longer path.

It was miserably hot even at 7:45 a.m., with little breeze and the sun beating down like a hammer on your neck. Not my favorite weather to run (my favorite weather to run in happens about 4 days a year, but then again, I'm very particular). I have a small fabric mesh waist belt that can hold my car key, my phone and a squished small bottle of water, so I strapped that on, put "Classical Gas" on my iPod to start, and off I went on a fairly flat run (still remembering that I am recovering from a hamstring injury and saving hills for when I know it's totally healed).

The first 15 minutes weren't so bad; I paced myself easy and ran into the wind (so I'd have it at my back on the second half; a good plan that I often forget to implement), smiling at people and trying to ignore that Big Hot Ball In The Sky. Ag the 15 minute mark I stopped for a 3 minute break and slugged some warm water (gotta love it). Then back running again, this time managing to run smack into a 5K race at the local park which caused me to have to jump off and run on the grass a little bit (hello, racers? Your head should be looking forward and not down, capize?). Anyway, the wind was picking up so this leg was a little harder and it was also a little hotter, and I was glad to take another 3 minute break at the 31 minute mark and have another drink. Back to running again, this time the sweat is pouring down into my eyes (dadgummit, I forgot my headband again) and the little inclines are seeming like big hills. I am getting buzzed multiple times by a guy on a recumbent bike. Is he trying to flirt with me? Nah, it's just a small park. Plus I am wearing my sweaty wedding ring which I never take off, and which consequently has to go get repaired every so often (I'm sorry, but it's my good luck charm).

At 47 minutes very glad to take another break for more water. It's really hot now; I have made the turn downwind, which makes running easier, but hotter, since the wind is no longer in my face. Back to running I go, and I come back upon the 5K racers again, this time on the back stretch, and high five the guy who is in third to last place but is trying very hard which is what counts here. (I also noticed the young cocky dude who was in second place on the first mile--is now at the back of the pack and walking. Hey, I've gone further than him and I am still running. Ego bomb!).

Around 60 minutes my hamstring starts to wake up and say, "oh, we are running here?" This is actually good news since the last time it talked to me it did it at 45 minutes, so I know it's getting better. I keep running for another 7 minutes to see if it will shut up, but no dice. So I know my run is over for the day and I stop. There is no need to ask for trouble here and push that hamstring recovery. I have gone further than I have in six weeks, and there are more long runs to come.

My only problem is that I stopped earlier than I had planned, and therefore had a long hot walk back to the car. It was really terribly miserable out there and I once again thanked the technology gods for letting me live in an era with air conditioning and running water.

Sunday and Monday are off days full of preparation and attending a minor medical procedure that everyone over 50 needs (and I mean it). I will definitely lose weight those two days, but not the way anyone likes! Back to training on Tuesday.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pill Pusher

My mom became a big believer in over the counter health supplements about the time she started to get old and have age related problems. She then became, IMO, a bit too much of a True Believer in alternative medicine--not that some of it ain't helpful and true, but not all of it. Like anything else in the world other than chocolate of any kind, supplements and vitamins have their uses (or we would all be suffering from scurvy and rickets) but they are not always the Holy Grail of health.

After my mom died a couple of years ago, as executor of her will I become heir apparent to every magazine and advertising flier that she was getting, and man, you would not believe some of the stuff I got (PS: if you just woke up from a seven year nap, when you buy or order stuff, the people you buy it from keep a record and sell your address and name to people who want to sell you similar stuff). Powders to make you younger. Pills to make you stronger. Drinks to clean out your system from excess, um, you know, and therefore get rid of your pot belly because they assure you (in capital letters) that your pot belly is nothing more than old stored, um, you know.

No wonder we buy a lot of this stuff in the hopes it will make us faster, stronger, healthier, smarter, and wiser. Some of it does. A lot of it simply makes the seller a lot richer.

I am not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV. I recommend you get solid supplement advice from your local MD (not from those advertising fliers!). Your age, your health, and your gender may play an important role in what's necessary for your body to stay as strong and healthy as possible.

In addition, we all know (but would like to ignore) that the best way to ingest necessary vitamins and minerals and other Good Things is to eat them in our foods. Eat lots of varied plant foods and less sugar and fat. We don't do this, of course, because we'd rather eat that chocolate cream pie and take a multivitamin and hope they cancel each other out. As if.

Here's what I ingest in pill form and why. Again, this isn't a recommendation. It's just information.

Fish oil capsule: one a day. Giant size. There is scientific proof that omega 3 helps slow down heart disease. There is also some evidence that it increases muscular strength in athletes.

Vitamin D capsule: 1000 mg a day. Yes, I get out in the sun a lot. But Vitamin D is essential for strong bone systems and other good health things and with sunscreen, you aren't always getting the amount you should get. You can also have your MD check your Vitamin D levels now with a simple blood test.

Vitamin C capsule: 1000 mg a day. Yeah, I know, Linus Paul was wrong. No studies indicate that additional Vitamin C (assuming you get enough in your diet) helps stave off colds or cancer or even bad karma. However, this is one of those where I am playing the odds against scientific research. Trust in Allah, but tie your camel. Excess C is excreted naturally, so if I don't need it, it's going away anyway.

Calcium capsule 1000 mg a day: very important for females, but I understand it's now being deemed important for males as well. Bone loss is a major issue with women especially as they age. Calcium is critical at a younger age, but even at an older age it can help slow bone loss.

Magnesium pill 500 mg 3 times a week: this is to offset some of the fun effects of taking calcium, which, without going into detail, may otherwise tempt you to buy one of those advertised drinks to clean out your system (and allegedly lose that belly fat instantly!)

Juice Plus vegetable and fruit pill supplements: another off center thing for me. JP is a pyramid sales item so it's hard for me to trust anything that makes its salespeople dough mostly when they convert--er, sign up other sales people to sell more of it (think Amway). Still, the idea behind it is intruiging: take fruits and veggies, dehydrate them, and crush them into powder and put that powder into pill form (or drink form). No evidence exists that this stuff really does get fruit and veggie goodness into your system. But there's no evidence it doesn't either. Just my momma in me coming out on this one, I guess. I noticed an increase in energy when I started taking these supplements. But that could be all in my head. Then again, my head or my bod, any increase in energy is welcome at 53!

That's all I take. If I were younger, I might also be taking a folic acid supplement. I eat a lot of leafy greens though, for the average American, and a great deal of fruit, so I hope I offset what I am not taking with what I am eating and drinking.

I'm always interested in hearing what supplements others take and why/how they swear by them. But don't try to sell me on that cleanser drink. I'll lose my belly fat the old fashioned way--by closing my eyes and wishing it away.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How to go faster

The one rule I have read again and again (reading about working out is so much fun; there is minimal sweat and your heart rate stays nice and even) about how to go faster, and here is the rule:

You go faster.

No, really, I'm serious here. It sounds like nonsense, but in order to get faster, you have to go faster.

I realize that it's truly not quite that simple. However, a lot of long distance training working out is done at the areobic level--where you are in a zone 1 or zone 2 effort, not over your threshold heart rate, and cruising along. Generally not so fast (with me, not fast at ALL). You are supposed to be able to go a long time (and query just what is a long time? that depends on your fitness and training level and how hot, windy, and hilly it is, and how tired you are, so there is no right answer) at that pace. You are using what they call your "slow twitch" muscles and neurons--believe me, I am full of those, although I think mine are labeled "crawling-twitch" muscles. Go fast, and you will burn up and out quickly--you are then using your "fast twitch" muscules and neurons. Sprinters have lots of those. I have maybe one.

But in order to ever increase your base speed at anything, you simply have to learn to go fast at times. Not all times, and not most times, but sometimes. Interval or fartlek training is designed to help your body increase its speed at longer and longer distances before you crash and burn. This also helps improve the speed and distance of your aerobic pace (allegedly. Remember if you are older and less fit, like me, things happen so slowly in this regard that an ice age or two can go by before you see results).

Last night I was due for an easy (aerobic) pace bike ride for 1.30 hours. Unfortunately, I didn't get out of work very early (work does interfere with training, dadgummit) so I was pushing daylight. I had two options: go for a one hour easy ride or a one hour fast ride, pushing speed.

I chose the latter because I was feeling a bit cocky, 98 degree heat and all. This was not an interval or fartlek ride; I simply rode at a fast race-like pace for 18 miles, which is often called a tempo or race pace workout. I pushed myself to pass people (yay! I even passed a few on road bikes wearing fancy bike gear--including 2 guys!), powered up the small hills, got down low on the bars for most of the ride, and forced my legs to pedal at a high cadence. When I felt myself slowing down I would switch to an easier gear to allow my legs to keep spinning at the same pace. I was also very careful to hydrate a LOT; I was working hard and it was very, very hot and windy.

I did the 18 miles in 1 hour 8 minutes (twice around White Rock lake) for a 15.9 average pace, which is very fast for me right now. It's not fast in the world of biking, but I was pleased to see I could keep that pace up and not be terribly tired at the end. I was happy to be done, and very eager for my post ride granola bar, but I could have continued on without falling over completely. My goal is to sustain a 16-17 mile pace for about 27 miles (3 times 'round the lake) by Sept of this year. There are no major hills on this ride, so then I will have to take that goal to a hillier course and work on sustaining that energy on harder terrain.

I think my 5 times a week crunches, yoga and planks are helping with my biking strength.

Now, I was feeling quite smug about this ride until I was buying gas for the car on the way home. I looked down and noticed I had managed to put on my bike shorts backwards. A charming look, I can assure you. But maybe that was my secret to speed!

Happy faster times.....

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Serve warm

Science, like attitude, changes daily. What was once a pillar of requirement for an athlete is now deemed bunk, and what was once scoffed at as voodoo is now lauded as the next best thing for a workout. It's so hard to keep up.

At one time, athletes were encouraged--nay, mandated--to stretch their muscles pre workout in order to warm up. Countless videos were sold that showed you how to bend and shake your muscles prior to your workout. Everyone did it.

Now new science comes along and says, fergetaboutit. Studies have shown that pre workout stretching does not improve performance or lessen injuries one whit, and if done incorrectly, can even foster injuries.

At the same time, science repeats that warming up, per se, is still a good idea.

Well, that sure makes life easy.

Actually, stretching in and of itself isn't bad for you. It's stretching cold muscles (those without blood flowing into them), or doing the stretch until it hurts (remember the old Jane Fonda "feel the burn?" tapes? Burn those babies. She was wrong, apparently, about lots of things). I have chronic bursitis in my left hip, and stretching exercises are the only things that have made it basically go quiet.

And no question about the fact you need to WARM UP before you WORK OUT. I have been guilty of failing to do so at times--you get in a hurry, you gotta get home to cook dinner and the clock is ticking or you gotta get to work, and you skip the warm up and go straight to the meat of the workout and hope your body just catches up. Bad. Way bad. I know it and you know it.

So today's science suggests an easy warm up before asking your muscles to swing at the fences, and then a cool down, and then maybe some stretching (gently--when the body is warmed up) or yoga or pilates to strengthen and flex those hard working muscles.

This type of routine is so critical for the older, slower, less fit athlete because we cannot force our bodies anymore into unnatural activities without paying a price for it later.

So how do I warm up? Before a run, I usually walk briskly for about five minutes, swinging my arms and breathing deeply. The first quarter mile of ANY run, no matter the distance or type, is creakingly slow. Before a race, I may do some stand in place jumping jacks and torso swings--great at a crowded start line, by the way. Post run or brick, I will walk for five minutes to cool down, and then gently stretch my hamstrings, quads, back, and hips with several stretching routines.

Before a bike, I will often jog in place for about a minute (fun to do in bike shoes), swing my arms, touch my toes, or do some jumping jacks. The first mile of a bike again, is always easy pace and one gear higher (easier) than I would normally use on that terrain. Last mile of a bike is again a high spin, and then once off I gently stretch legs and especially torso and back.

Before a swim, I will swing my arms to get blood moving in them, and do some toe touches. The first 100 yards is always easy--I may backstroke or breaststroke to wake up different muscles, or freestyle easy and slow without kicking until my body says it's awake and ready. Before a triathlon, I always, always get in the water and swim around for a while about 5 minutes pre race time. I also try to jog a little and if time permits, bike a bit as well. I used to worry I would use up my energy on a warm up. That's silly talk.

About five mornings a week, I do some yoga (there are great tapes out there with easy yoga poses) and crunches, maybe some planks and weights for strength. And every morning right before I get out of the shower, I stretch my hip flexors because they are warm and happy from all the hot water.

I've paid the price for working out and racing without warming up and it was a high one. If you do nothing else in your workout program that makes sense, warm up regularly. You'll save a lot of dough by not visiting your favorite othorpedic doctor.

If you aren't sure what stretching will work best for you, check out or and look up some articles.

Last night was a HOT run at White Rock lake at 7 p.m. and 96 degrees. Back to the heat acclimation with me! After a pre run half granola bar (70 calories) and a five minute warm up walk, I headed into the 25 mph SW winds determined to go further than before on a hot run without running my HR into the ozone. Last hot run I did was 15 minutes before the monitor went nuts; last night I went for 20 minutes before it scolded me and I stopped to walk briefy and drink water from my water belt. Then back to running again to 37 minute mark where the monitor said, rest now, and I took a 2 minute walk break for another drink, then ran out the last five minutes with sweat pouring into my eyes and fogging my glasses. 11:41 mile for 45 minutes in the heat--3.85 miles--not winning any races with that, but I'm learning to run in the heat without falling over. A great goal for anyone to have. I love Texas summer.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Team Effort

I did my first relay race this weekend and it was a hoot. I highly recommend doing one of those, especially if you haven't done a tri before -- lots of races (generally sprint distance) have relay teams, either 2 or 3 people to do the swim, bike and run as a team. It's fun to cheer on your teammates; easier on you because you only have to do 1 or 2 events; and for your first race it eases you into the atmosphere of transitions, timing chips, clothing, etc.

We did a family duathlon (a duathlon is run-bike-run) with my 16 year old stepdaughter as the lead off runner, my spouse as the biker, and me as the anchor runner. The distances were easy--2 mile run, 9.3 mile bike, 2 mile run--and although it was VERY hot we managed to eke out a 3rd place of six in the mixed relay division. The first and second mixed relay teams were young strapping athletes who eat older slower athletes like us for breakfast, so we never had a chance against them, although we might have posted better times if my husband hadn't gotten confused on the bike and briefly turned around at the RUN turnaround sign. :-)

I ran the 2 miles in 20 minutes 16 seconds (10.8 min mile) which was fairly fast, but I coulda gone faster--I was terrified of the heat, which at 8:30 a.m. was already 94 degrees, and so I made myself go slow the first 1.5 miles in fear I would simply wilt. At 1.5 miles I realized I still felt very strong so I turned it on, unfortunately the last .5 miles of the run was all uphill so it was harder to run faster. In retrospect should have gone harder on the first segment which was downhill and I think I would have still had plenty of gas for the final push. This is why running races sometimes as workouts (like this one was for me) is so important, so that you can find out just where you are and what you need to do to run smarter (not faster, just smarter, and smarter usually ends up being faster).

I had a bagel and peanut butter about an hour pre race, and sipped a lot of water before my start, and afterwards found a banana to devour.

It was a lot of fun to cheer Sarah off on her run leg--it was her first real timed race-- and wait anxiously for her return and when we saw her, to start jumping up and down and cheering her into the transition area, where she high fived Jim, and he ran out with his bike. Sarah and I then paced nervously awaiting his return--I had thought he would be done in 33 minutes (it was actually 32) and around 30 minutes I got into transition, warmed up with some jumping jacks, and sure enough here he came, jumped off the bike and ran to high five me and I was off through transition and onto the course. When I came around the corner for my last quarter mile before the finish, both Jim and Sarah were there cheering me and encouraging me to go faster up that darned last hill. It was a lot of fun and we'll do another one before the summer was over.

So find some friends and sign up for a relay if doing a full tri scares you. Pick a cool team name, train together at least once, and go out and have a blast.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Excuse my fartlek

Part of the fun of working out is that you get to increase your vocabulary. You learn to "talk the talk" even if you ain't yet "walking the walk"--you can discuss negative splits (not a backwards leg bend, but going faster on the second half of a workout or race than the first half), PRs (not your old Public Relations class, but personal records--which you can track every day if you feel like it), bonk (this is not, like I always assumed, hitting someone on the head, but instead, hitting "the wall"--during a workout, feeling like you have lost all your energy), and my personal favorite, the fartlek.

Fartlek actually comes from two Swedish words, speed (fart) and play (lek). Leave it to the Swedes to have a word for speed that in English, is considered base bathroom humor. It's a method of training (usually running, but not always) where you interpose fast paced running sessions followed by normal or easy running portions, on and off, for a set period of time.

The difference between fartleks and intervals is that intervals are based on a certain period of time to do the fast pace, while fartleks are based on how you feel--i.e. run fast until you feel you shouldn't run fast anymore, then go slow for a while, then start up fast again when you feel you have recovered. Very Zen-like. Personally, I feel like I shouldn't run fast anymore after the first 10 seconds of running fast, which is probably why my coach gives me intervals rather than fartleks. Still, I like to THINK of them as fartleks so I can show off the word.

So I did intervals this morning on the track at the gym--a warm up period, followed by a timed interval of fast effort, followed by a timed interval of slower effort, for five times, then a cool down walk. I hadn't done intervals in about 45 days and was dreading it, but it wasn't all that bad. I enjoyed flying my feet faster for a change (telling the heart rate monitor to go fish) and stretching it out, although truthfully, the last 15 seconds of each fast interval were a bit of an oh, dear, this is never going to be over thinking thing. During the slower recovery periods the first minute or two I was really breathless, but then would recover nicely even while still running, and my heart rate would politely assume the correct position.

I chose the indoor track not to go around my heat acclimation route, but to try and keep the whining hamstring quiet by staying off of any possible inclines and downhills. It behaved marvelously for me during the session. It's not 100 percent healed; I can still hear it behind closed doors at times, but it's on the way.

I fueled with a whole wheat tortilla smeared with a teaspoon of peanut butter 20 minutes pre run, and then had a 100 calorie breakfast bar post run.

Tomorrow is an easy bike, and Sunday is a dad's day duathlon at White Rock. My spouse, daughter and I are running the mixed gender relay. Sarah will be the starter runner for 2 miles, Jim will bike the 10 miles around, and I will be the anchor leg running 2 miles as fast as I can in 95 degrees with 98 percent humidity. Afterwards a healthy but fun family breakfast at Cafe Brazil!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Get outta my way

When we start to grow up (which, for some of us, is around 49 years of age), we realize that the universe is full of other people who amazingly, have different agendas than ours.

Nowhere does this become more obvious than when you are working out at a gym, on a track, in a shared pool, or biking or running on a street or pathway. Unless you are the strange and X ray visioned athlete who works out at 2 a.m., you are going to have to play nice and share your space with cars, other bikes, other runners, walkers, skunks, snakes, skaters, dogs, squirrels, children, tonka toys, and the occasional runaway housecat.

It's easy to get annoyed--I know I get that way a lot--when a slow strolling couple holding hands decides to take up the entire trail pathway and you are barreling toward them on a bike with no room to get around them. Or like last night with me, when I am swimming a timed 500 yard distance and a couple of kids decide to jump into the lap lanes (this happens a lot when they close the outdoor pool at 7:45 p.m. each night) and I bounce off them and right into the lane dividers (and then they elect to stay in my lap lane splashing and playing, to the obliviousness of the lifeguard and the multiple signs that say "lap lanes are for lap swimming ONLY").

Life is crowded. Other people cram on our treadmills, cars buzz by us on our bike rides and runs, and dogs roam unleashed to charge us and make our heart rate a personal record that day.

Well, we can continue to be annoyed, and post blistering e mails on running/biking/workout sites and blogs (believe me: the people who you want to hear you are NOT on these sites), and make complete jerks of ourselves by yelling at or nearly running over poor Grandma who just wanted to take a leisurely bike tour around the lake without being run over by a crowd of brightly colored racers down on their aerobars.

Or we can figure out that it isn't always about us and what we want. Our workout time, speed, distance, etc. is important to us, but not to the majority of the free world. Their casual evening stroll with their pooch is just as important to them. Yes, they often break the rules (see the lap swimming one above) or seem ignorant of common courtesy (walking in the middle of a bike path). But let all of us who have never made an error be the first to throw the bike chain at them.

Ride, run, walk, swim and work out with one eye out for those who are going to be in your way (accidentally or not). Be kind and polite. If you feel the need to tell people the rules (I had to remind one lady who was walking in the "run" lane on a track that it might be safer for her to move over one lane--she looked at me as if I had just given her tyhpoid, so I decided to move myself into the "walk" lane and just move on with my workout), do it nicely, and if they refuse to accept your suggestion, then adapt.

I'm not a fast biker, as you have seen, and believe me, I have lusted in my heart over those who scream past me so close that they nearly touch my derailer--not in a Jimmy Carter way, but to go catch them and remind them that slower bikers are just as entitled to their space and place as they are. And when I pass those who are slower than me (not often, but it is happening more and more), if I have to wait to go around them, I wait, I call out "on your left," and I pass with plenty of space between us. Karma happens. Rudeness is not a good way to raise that heart rate.

I did my 2600 yard swim last night (some drills, some intervals, and some long swims) even with the commotion in my lap lane. A half banana before and the second half afterwards. Thursday's a day off although I am going to dog agility class and will do some crunches and planks before bedtime.

Go forth and play nicely with others.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Oh, just go have fun

Remember what it was like before heart rate monitors, GPS distance watches, stopwatches, negative splits, and just went out and ran for fun, or you rode a bike with your friends and didn't care how fast or far you went, or you went for a swim in the lake or ocean and simply enjoyed gliding through the water?

Yeah. Me neither.

In the middle of training or working out out with a goal in mind (whether it be a race, or a weight goal, or a fitness/distance goal), sometimes I think you just gotta stop and smell the bike chain oil. Not always--structure is there to help you meet your goals in a sane manner. But still, sometimes, you gotta just go have fun.

Last night was a 90 minute easy bike. I started out as usual, worried about riding faster each ride so I can get up to a 16-18 mph pace by next May, staying down on my aerobars for longer periods of time to build up my neck muscles for them, climbing hills with power, keeping a high cadence on my pedaling, and etc. and etc. and etc. Then a shaft of sunlight fell across my face as I mounted the bike, a bird called, and I said, screw it, I'm just gonna go ride tonight.

And I did. I rode 22 miles down White Rock Trail, stopped at the NW Highway light, onto the White Rock lake path and around the lake, and then back down the trail with the wind (hooray) finally at my bike. It was warm, windy, sunny, and everything was green and blooming and it wasn't all that crowded. I quit looking at all my gadgets (except my watch--have to drink every 10 minutes!) and just pedaled away in the sunshine.

Suprisingly, when the ride was over, I had accomplished a reasonable speed (14.6, which for me, is a nice reasonable speed for 22 miles), had climbed the minor hills without any problems (these are not Big Hills but Little Hills, but hills still the same), and had used my bars pretty consistently through about mile 17 when my neck started to tire and I had to sit up. I smiled a lot, talked to some other bikers at the stoplight, and even passed a few people which is rare for me. Some of them even weren't on mountain bikes!

I had half of a 140 calorie granola bar before the ride, and I was quite eager for my post ride banana as I was starting to run on empty at 90 minutes with nothing but water.

Tonight I will strap back on the watch and timer and go for a swim with some goals, but sometimes, it's fun to just go out and play.

Play hard. Have fun. Look at the sunshine.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Never Eat Anything You Can't Lift (Miss Piggy)

I would love to say that mantra is true, and that as a (semi) athlete, you can lift a LOT so you can therefore eat a LOT. People always (incorrectly) assume that if you are training for a long course tri, you can pretty much stuff yourself with anything that you can catch.

The road to weight loss, however, is littered with the plump bodies of those who swore by their workout, and forgot that the most important exercise of all is putting down the fork. Mine included.

I learned the hard way that hard exercise is certainly wonderful for you in all kinds of ways--but it just doesn't take the weight off by itself. I have muscular calves that can be registered as lethal weapons, but they are still plump calves.

I started out training to eat and am learning now how to eat to train. Obviously, age and hormones have added to the inability to shed 10 pounds simply by skipping that extra cookie like I could when I was 20. Things Are Different When You Get Older.

Exercise is crucial for a weight loss/fitness program, but it's only one leg of a three legged stool. The other two legs--sensible eating and getting rest--have to be part of the stool, or the whole thing falls over. I think this is one of the reasons a lot of people stop exercising--they don't see immediate weight loss results.

Notice I said sensible eating. I've never met ANYONE who was on a 25 year diet and stuck by it for those entire 25 years. Sensible eating is a lifetime adventure, and it involves all those things you have heard about forever, but don't have to pay a diet clinic or a book to tell you--eat smaller portions, less empty calories like sugar and its relatives, more fruit and vegetables, easy on the fried stuff and salt. So easy to write. So hard to accomplish. The civilized world teems with temptation.

The worst thing about working out regularly is that you just get HUNGRY. You burn those calories on a 25 mile hard bike or a 3 mile fast run, and your body will simply point and say GIMME THAT. It's necessary to fuel properly for optimal exercise and racing, but when and how you fuel is important. Ditch the candy bar and cookie thing and grab a banana, plain yogurt (not that stuff with sugar added) and fruit, or a half a bagel with a teaspoon of peanut butter. Drink water or skim milk or unsweetened tea and coffee if you gotta have your caffeine jolt, and leave the fruit juice (sorry, but it's all loaded with sugar), sodas and non-light beer in the fridge for the elves to fatten up with.

Clif bars and gels and other workout snacks are great for those 28 year old runners with bodies that would fit between raindrops, but they are simply loaded with calories. Eat them sparingly, only when on a hard workout, and not as TV snacks. Gatorade, Hammer, and other sports drinks are not meant to sip while sitting on your front porch swing. I use them only on workouts lasting longer than 90 minutes (your mileage may vary). They add good things to your body like electrolytes and sodium, which you need on a long and hard workout, but for a 2 mile jog, you'll intake more calories with those babies than you will release. It's hard NOT to eat and drink all those nifty sports snackies and drinks, because the marketing for them is really cool, and you wanna look and run like those guys and gals on their commercials. But take it easy on those things--they are lethal pound packers, and if you aren't working out hard that day, stick with water and a pre workout banana and a post workout half bagel instead.

I've gained 3 pounds since I started triathlon training last year at this time. No, this is not gaining muscle. Muscle weighs the exact same as fat--one pound is one pound; it does not weigh any more or less. It's simply a lack of discipline on my part and giving myself too much permission to eat bad things as a reward for sweating over a hard bike or run. Did 7 miles on a run? Great--let's go to Braum's for ice cream! Not a good way to think.

Also, each pound of weight you have is something you have to lug up a hill with you on a bike or a run. We can strip our bikes down to lean machines to make them featherweight, but until we strip ourselves, that hill will still eat our lunches. Figuratively. We unfortunately will still eat our real lunch anyway, and pass the browines.

My goal is to drop 5 pounds before September in a reasonable and sensible manner. That means cutting out a lot of the sugar (I am a total sweetaholic) and some of the other mistakes I make regularly, like white rice (now, just what good is white rice?), too much bread, and continuing to eat even after I am full because my mother told me that I should be a member of the clean plate club (a habit many of us fall into). I don't intend to give up everything yummy (what fun would that be?), and me and a juicy burger will still have brief and satisfying affairs (but only about once a week). Because I don't intend to make any drastic changes (which I know I won't keep up), it will take 2-3 months for that 5 pounds to go away. But it will go away, I assure you. Now I've made this public, I will have no choice.

Tonight is a 90 minute bike, fairly easy, so I intend to eat a banana about 30 minutes before, drink lots of water during (it's hot here) and then nosh a quarter bagel with peanut butter afterwards, before eating a sensible dinner with fish and grilled veggies (thanks to the Patient Spouse will has offered to cook tonight).

Last night being an off day, I did a few crunches and planks. I want to get my core strengthened to try and stave off position fatigue on the bike. I also did some yoga for flexibility; running a lot will lessen your core flexibility.

Here's to some healthy eating habits for us all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Heartbreak Hill

Well, we rode the 39 mile Collin Classic bike rally this past weekend. I love the CC, it's very crowded but a lot of fun; great rest stops and a wonderful fajita lunch afterwards. If you are thinking about racing some day in a tri, bike rally or run, think about volunteering for one first. Hand out water or pretzels and cheer on the competitors. It will get your blood moving to do it yourself, and EVERYONE loves the volunteers!

My computer said the ride was only 37 miles, but I was glad to give back that extra 2 miles. It was hot and very, very windy--about 30 to 35 mph--which makes the hills extra hard when you are riding into a headwind. My spouse joined me and also my secretary Elizabeth--we sent spouse on ahead as he is a bit faster, and E and I rode together (she was nice enough to ride slower for me than her usual pace). We sang songs a lot of the ride as loud as we could bellow--including a rendition of Petula Clark's classic "Downtown" as we rode the McKinney downtown bricks that caused the spectators to clap and cheer.

About 12 miles into the ride we hit the Big Hill (there are lots of hills on the CC, but this one I dub the Big Hill), which forced me to gear into my smaller chain and plow up it into a 30 mph headwind at a wobbly 7.5 mph. Many others were forced to walk this hill, but it wasn't all that bad except for the wind in your face. The hill ended in the first break stop (thank goodness)but after we had a short break and started again, I found I had lost a lot of energy and couldn't gear up even on the flats as fast as I wanted to. In retrospect, I think I didn't hydrate properly the first 12 miles of the ride--it was hot and humid and although I did drink, I didn't drink much. I am just not a heavy fluid guzzler, and this time it bit me. After I wobbled through the next 10 miles at about a 12 mph pace, I downed 3 small cups of Gatorade and some salty pretzels at the 23 mile rest stop, and found my energy return and managed to go back to a 14-17 mph average, even with the wind and hills, on the last 14 miles.

So I learned some lessons: one, you gotta drink a LOT when it's that hot and humid, and remember that strong wind makes you work even harder and dehydrate you even more, and two, I am not ready for a 56 mile bike followed by a 13.1 mile run quite yet. Wind is common here in Texas, and I need to be ready for it at all times.

My requested birthday gift from patient spouse is a bar mounted bottle so I don't have to sit up and fumble for my bottle in order to drink, which will help me hydrate better because once I get in a rhythm on the areobars, I am relunctant to sit up and sip.

E and I finished the last 5 miles of the ride with "On the Road Again" accompanied by several nearby cyclists' applause. If you can't be good, be entertaining.

Sunday was an easy 1700 yard swim, I posted some good times during the first half but fell off the second half as my energy level just wasn't where I wanted it to be on Sunday. But...I remember when 1700 was a HARD workout!

Monday I have a meeting so it's an off day. And why did I GAIN a whole pound after this weekend of working out? Surely couldn't be what I ATE. :-)

Friday, June 11, 2010

The magic number six

People think of triathlon as a three-discipline sport: you gotta swim, you gotta bike and you gotta run (throwing up is not a discipline, no matter what you might think).

The fourth discipline in a triathlon is transitions--where you entertain onlookers by squiriming out of the rubber-band wetsuit and buckling on your bike helmet backwards, or putting on your running shoes and forgetting to take OFF said helmet when starting on the run.

Of course, we all know there are two more disciplines to doing a tri, or really, doing any kind of exercise or athletic activity: nutrition and REST.

Hard exercise breaks down your system and creates little tears in the muscles, which must heal to become stronger and faster. The only way healing occurs is during rest.

Once we get bitten by the tri bug, or any other kind of athletic bug with a goal, sometimes we get TOO eager to rush into training and forget that rest and recovery are a critical part of getting into condition.

The general rule is one day off a week, and every four weeks a reduction in training volume, but that rule is just a general one. If you have a monster workout one day, you don't want to follow it with a monster workout the next day. You go on a easy run, or easy bike, or even take an extra day off (maybe do some yoga or go for an easy walk). If you are overtired, or your heart rate is high for no reason, you should take a day off and recover. Give your body a chance to recoup all the good things you are doing to it with exercise and conditioning.

Triathletes generally do not repeat workout types two days in a row, with some exceptions--i.e. if you swim one day you will bike the next, etc. This gives your system a chance to work and stress different muscles. However, you still need that recovery day.

I took yesterday off. Off days are like mini vacations, although I cram them with errands, laundry, dog grooming, and everything else I don't have time for on other days. I try to eat sensibily on off days and really tank up on the water intake and veggie/fruit thing.

This morning I had a very easy bike ride--50 minutes for 11.5 miles at around 13.8 average pace--from 6:45 to 7:45 in order to warm up my legs for the Collin Classic tomorrow (I'm doing the 39 mile ride). No hills, no intervals, just steady even pace around the 'hood and a local lake park enjoying the sunrise and reminding my legs they will have to work hard tomorrow. I had a half bagel with 2 teaspoons of crunchy peanut butter before the ride, and a banana post ride. Tonight I will be cleaning bikes and loading the car for a 7 a.m. out the door time.

Assuming I have a house when I get home tonight, that is. We have a wonderful lady who cleans our house every other week, and whose command of English is better by far than my command of Spanish (despite four years of it in college). We had just refinished our brick floors this past week and they needed to not have soap used on them. So I left her a note in my most excellent Spanish that either told her to clean the brick floors with water only and to use soap and water on the kitchen floors, or else I told her to break all the windows in the house with a hammer and then go to the casino.

Happy resting!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me

I seem to be on a 70-80's song kick, but can't apologize for that. Those songs are in my head. Yes, even Culture Club. Yick.

Injuries and pain are common bedfellows for older athletes (actually, for all athletes, but us older ones whine more about it). Although exercising is without any doubt GOOD for you, there is no question that repetitive motion and pounding will take its toll on you, if you aren't careful out there. The most common causes of injury in us older folk are overtraining (pushing too hard, or not resting enough) and fall down and go boom situations (usually on the bike, but I have also fallen quite easily on a run).

Last night I was so pleased with my run. It was a 3.92 mile run done in 45 minutes, which breaks an 11:30 min mile, which has been so hard for me to do while obeying my heart monitor. This tells me that my coach has been right all along (amazing!), and my aerobic level is starting to become more efficient. (when I first started with the heart monitor, I was running about a 13 min mile in order to keep the pace within the aerobic ranges--now, I could actually physically run an 8:00 mile, but my heart rate was where the space station is at when I did). It was around 79 degrees and sprinkling (I LOVE running in the rain, I feel like a kid again) although very humid. Sleeveless running top and shorts and iPod set to "Danger Zone" to start.

About mile 3 my right hamstring started talking to me. This hamstring began our converation about 3 weeks before my Oly tri in May. I have never had a hamstring issue before so I sorta ignored the thing and during the 6.2 mile run of the tri it really sang Ave Maria to me. Since the race, I have been very cautious with it, trying to run slower and not as far, but it's been hanging around whispering a bit to me, although some days it's quiet, like yesterday.

Now, the hamstring followed a nasty grade 2 shoulder separation in early April from a stupid bike fall (are there any smart bike falls?) AND a chronic bursitis issue that flared up 18 months ago on my left hip, which I have pretty much gotten under control with stretching, but it also occasionally reminds me that it's still around waiting quietly. I am paying for my orthopedic doctor's kids' college tuitions (he's a runner, so he is always sympathetic. I recommend finding an ortho who is an athlete).

I'm frustrated because I don't want to stop or slow my running down to heal this hamstring. I might be able to just run short and flat for a while (hills really make it talk louder). At this same time, I also know in my head and heart that an injury that is not getting better is getting worse. And the older (and less flexible) you are, the worse it will get if you don't nip it in the bud. Training smart is way better than training stupid.

I've asked my coach for advice and am going to start stretching a bit (when my muscles are warm) and icing. I don't have any more running this week anyway. If it doesn't improve by next week, I'm going on a long running vacation, which will allow me to improve my bike so much that I will be ready for the Tour de France.

Except for the hamstring, it was a good run for me. I ate a granola bar (140 calories) about 45 minutes before the 7 p.m. run, and made sure to eat a balanced meal (I had canteloupe, green beans and pork) within the "magic hour" afterwards. Research shows if you eat a good protein/carb snack or meal within an hour of a workout you will recover quicker and build more muscle. I don't have any issue with eating at any time, so this works for me. Even if you just chomp a banana, you will do yourself some good.

Take care of yourself, both the inner and outer athelte!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baby We Were Born to Run

Last night was a quick, 32 minute run outside and by 7 p.m. it had cooled down to an amazing 86 degrees, although there was a brisk south wind to blow you around.

I strapped on the heart monitor torture device (not that it hurts, but it is always like a blinking yellow light to me: my legs always want to go faster, but my monitor always says, like a good Mary Poppins, no no no, slow down my dear) because this was scheduled as an easy run. I can't figure out what easy is, so my heart monitor does it for me. If I stay within a certain zone, I can be assured I'm running easy. That also means SLOW. Sometimes I think I can knit a full aghan in the time I run in my aerobic zones, but I am determined to make this program work out right. If the schedule says easy, by golly, I'm going to make like eggs and go over easy, even if walking great-grandmothers pass me.

The first half mile of any run for me is complete exhaustion. Doesn't matter if it's a 3 mile jog or a 14 mile long run. I start out worried, slow, and totally convinced I am never going to get more than 300 yards down the road before my systems all collapse and I go down on the asphalt. I mind trick myself through this horror by promising myself I can walk at a mile if I am still feeling totally winded. Around 3/4 of a mile I finally fall into a bit of a rhythm, and by a mile, I'm usually not wanting to take that walk break (although if it's really hot or I'm very tired it may happen). It's just all about tricking yourself mentally, because physically, I know I can run up to 6 miles without stopping if I go slow enough. Do what it takes to get you through the rough spots. Mine is always just starting out.

My spouse joined me for part of the run, which made it more fun to have someone to run next to. We don't talk much--both of us have our iPods crammed onto our heads--but we nod and gesture and check each other's heart rates and slow down or speed up accordingly. I'm mostly a solitary trainer--I like the peace and quiet of working out alone after a long day at work--but I do enjoy having company at times, especially on the long bike rides. Jim was a fast runner in his salad days and I can see it coming back for him, so running together with him is probably going to be temporary, so I'm enjoying it while I can.

Anyway. Around mile 2 the endorphins kicked in. Let me explain. This doesn't always happen, and when it does, it's just so much fun. You can call it runner's high, or getting into the zone, or whatever, but often on runs (sometimes on the bike, and I've had it happen once or twice on a swim) your breathing slows, your feet start moving easy, the sun and sky and road and trees all seem part of the plan, and your tiredness just drops away. You think to yourself, THIS IS WHY I RUN.

This usually happens toward the end of a run, when you are tiring, for some reason and unfortunately, at least for me, it never lasts long. Suddenly I'm tired, sweaty, hot and my lungs hurt. And it doesn't happen all the time. Still, when it does, you will know it and mark it as a good run day.

I only ran an 11:47 minute mile speed for a total of 2.72 miles, but I kept my heart rate low, and enjoyed the short run because it had been a stressful day at work. I didn't need to stop and walk, and the wind, although it was a PIA to run into, was fun to have at my back when I made the turn. I flung my arms out wide and let it carry me along like a six year old kid.

Baby, we were all born to run.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Put Me In, Coach

About 2/3 of the way through my 2500 yard swim workout last night, I thought that maybe my coach was secretly trying to kill me. After all, since my Oly tri in mid May, I had taken 3 easy weeks of light workouts and was just starting back yesterday in full training mode. 2500 yards was a looonnngg way after you have only been paddling around 1300 for the last 3 weeks.

Coach Claire warned me that some of my workouts for this 70.3 would "knock the snot out of me." I don't think this was one of them, because my nasal passages remained intact, but it could have been a warning shot over my bow. Wake up, because doing a half-iron is not for the faint of heart nor the lazy. I get it.

Coach Claire and I met up in January. She was a Christmas gift from my work associates (see? you get bath salts and I get a knock the snot out of you coach). They gave me a free session with her, and I was hooked. Before then, I was training myself, which is probably okay for sprints and stuff, but I knew I wanted to move up. I signed up for her program. She got me through my first Oly tri in an upright position and now she is trying to get me through my first 70.3. She has her hands full, believe me.

Coach Claire's website is She's an accomplished athlete, plus she is funny, cute and single for all you single guys out there (she's also smart, so take that into consideration). For a modest fee, she sets up training programs for me, takes my feedback, holds my hand, answers my questions, and if necessary, meets me for one or one training (she went with me for my first big girl open water swim practice in Lake Lavon).

Do you need a coach? It depends on what you are training for, how self motivated you are, and how well you fall into general categories. I trained myself for half marathons and sprint tris by reading a LOT of books and on line programs. They worked, I finished, but I finished slow, and I kept some bad habits along the way that are hard to discard now. Many on line or book programs don't fit everyone in every situation, especially the older, slower non-athlete. A custom program with a coach where you give feedback (this hurts, this seems too easy, this seems too hard, whatever) really makes a difference.

Another thing that happens with a coach is that you tend to have more reason not to quit or short your training. If I am thinking about bagging out of a workout early because I am tired or frustrated, one of the things I now tell myself is "don't let down Coach Claire." That keeps me moving forward, because I am sure she is sitting home every night wringing her hands hoping I don't disappoint her that day. :-)

So I guess the bottom line is, if you are happy with your progress, if you feel comfortable with your training and results, you can probably use books and on line programs to get you through. However, if you want to get a bit better, faster, longer or smarter (I'm a big fan of training smarter rather than harder), or move up a level in your training, by all means try out a coach. Not every coach will fit everyone, so look for someone you feel comfortable with.

I'm happy with my pre-snot knocking swim last night. Don't think Coach Claire just said "go swim 2500 yards." How boring. No no, it was a 100 yard warm up, then 8 X 50's of drill work, doing exercises like fingertip drag, head tap, catch up, and the Tarzan swim (where yelling is optional), then 3 X 500's with one minute rest between, and finishing up with 8 X 50's 25 sprints and 25 easy, along with a final 100 cool down. It's always something new and different to improve your form and your speed and your endurance. (Now, I'm not going to be giving out any more workout secrets from Coach Claire here, so if you want help, you gotta hire her!).

Tonight's only a 30 minute run, which sounds do-able after the Big Swim.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's NOT as easy as riding a bike

I'll bet there aren't more than 2 percent of healthy, able bodied kids over the age of 8 in the US who haven't ridden a bike. Of course, nowadays (I love to date myself) we have computer games, twitter, iPods, iPads, satellite TV, and facebook, which we didn't have when I was tormenting my parents with "there's nothing to do around here!" which response always promoted: "go outside and ride your bike."

Bike riding was one of the ways we got around as kids, when the world was a lot smaller. We all rode our bikes everywhere, until we got cars, and then we tended to put them away or sell them at garage sales. Very few of us kept up the bike riding habit through college and beyond--those of you who did, are in much better shape.

When I got my first "serious bike" five years ago I bought a hybrid. This bike is sturdier and heavier than a road bike, can be taken off road (with the correct tires), and has flat handlebars like the ones you had as a kid. It's not built for speed, but it can cruise faster than a mountain bike on the road, and I love the fact that it would take a giant tank to make it fall over.

Well, after a while I got tired of my friends zipping past me on their lightweight little road bikes, so I had to have one. I found a great used one--a Trek 2300 with excellent components--on eBay for a super price and sniped it. A couple of rides later and I realized it wasn't the hybrid that was necessarily slowing me down--it was me. Lance says it ain't all about the bike, and ya know, he's right. The rider comes first.

Biking is a LOT harder than I remember as a kid. There's hills, and wind, and lots of cars that seem to have one purpose and that is to drive as close to you as possible. You can't (shouldn't) ride in the dark, or a thunderstorm, or a blizzard. Biking is a fair weather prospect. Plus, look at the time it takes to get ready for a bike ride--you have to clean and oil the chain, pump up the tires, get on your bike clothes, find your shoes, helmet, gloves, load the water bottles--by that time you're tired out and American Idol is coming on the TV.

So it's easy to neglect it. But biking is a crucial and critical part of the triathlon program. You can fake the run by walking some or all of it. You can fake the swim by backstroking or sidestroking it. But you can't fake out your bike. You ride it, or not, as Yoda might say.

I've read until my eyes cross that the important part of a triathlon is how well you run off your bike. I agree with this, but I also think how well you bike comes first. If you swim like a demon, and run pretty well, you will still gnash your teeth if you can't post a decent bike -- because if you can't ride well, you will be too tired for the run, and you will also lose a tremendous amount of time. The difference between a 12 mph ride and an 18 mph on a 56 mile course is--well, a lot of lost time. Even on a 12 mile course it will affect you--you ride it in an hour at 12 mph, or you ride it in 40 minutes at 18 mph--a savings of 20 minutes. You think you can save 20 minutes on your swim leg?

Of course, you can't just go out and start riding at 18 mph unless you are incredibly fit, which if you are, you have no business reading this unless you are laughing your rear off. You have to start small, and get faster in increments by working distance, speed, hills (yes, you have to), wind, and sprints.

Even a fast rider can't ride up a steep hill into the wind at a fast pace, so hills and wind will affect your pace.

Both your legs and your lungs come into play on the bike. You have to have enough leg strength to carry you up steep hills and to keep up a high cadence on the flats, and you also have to have enough cardio to keep pushing for a long time on tough courses. Nothing trains you better for a bike than...well, riding the bike. Spin class is fun, and on rainy or cold or dark days, certainly better than nothing, but you gotta get out and face the wind, sun, hills and bumps before you can get better on the bike.

Aerobars are a great invention if you learned to drive your car with your elbows while texting. If you were smart enough to have avoided that problem (and let's hope you were), you will have to practice using the bars. It took me FOUR months (which seems to be my magic number) before my neck and shoulders accepted the fact that I wanted to fold over like an envelope on my bike. Until then, they hurt like fire in the areo position. Hint: go to a reputable bike shop and get fitted on your bike, AND your bars.

Do you have to have aerobars? Of course not. For a sprint race, definitely not. But I am slow enough on the bike to want incremental speed help, and I notice that if I am sitting up and going 13 mph, if I drop to the bars, same pace, I will go 14 mph. In a long race, that will make a difference. Plus, it helps your rear get a break.

It's been a long time since I've enjoyed biking, because I have been focused on getting better and faster. Lately, on Sundays, the spouse and I are going on what I call the "donut bike rides"--we stop for a donut halfway. Not a bad idea, and when you are powering up those hills it's good to know that at mile 17 or so you can stop for a fritter. We are going longer and harder each Sunday by a little bit, yesterday was 29 miles at 13.9 mph average. And on the turnaround leg (post donut) I found myself ENJOYING the bike ride--the sunshine, the fresh air, the people out walking dogs. Now this is what biking is supposed to be about.

Happy trails!

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

I know the theory that we all came out of the ocean. I actually agree with it. No creature not evolved from salt water would ever think of eating an oyster the first time they see one.

But that doesn't mean that our ancestors didn't strip off their gills, blowholes, and fins for a reason. Consequently, I know there are a lot of us that are dismayed at the fact that we don't swim like, well, a fish.

I learned how to swim back in the dark ages, like so many of us mid packers, from a YMCA program where the instuctors were teenagers who basically taught you how to avoid drowning. I never really got much better at swimming, although I grew up in Galveston, and spent my summers skiing, surfing, snorkeling, fishing and playing in the community pool and ocean. So I'm not afraid of the water, and I also know that I am more likely to be slugged by an angry rollerblader than hunted down by a shark. I love to scuba, and I am a Cancer, born in the sign of water.

Why, then, do I flounder during the swim? I am such a slower swimmer, even on my bestest and fastest day. My feet kick in an odd rhythm (the preferred triathlete 2 beat becomes some kind of tango-samba kick) and the old lady next to me doing a breast stroke flies past me.

Obviously, most of us were taught to swim all wrong, and re-learning anything requires tearing down muscle memory and starting over again, which takes time and patience, of which I have neither.

HOWEVER, there is hope for me and the rest of the dry landers. First, take a swim lesson. Yeah, you heard me--I know you know how to swim. But you may not KNOW how to swim. My very patient coach, Coach Claire, did not wring her hands when she saw my swim form (I saw her shake her head but she didn't know I was looking). Instead, she gave me 5-6 pointers, and several drills, to use to force me into better form and habit. After that, I got slower, which was frustrating, but it was because I was re-teaching my body how to swim the right way, and my body is very stubborn about new things that don't involve consumption of calories.

Then, be patient. I say that a lot. But it's really true, especially for the older, slower mid packer.

I swam Friday night 1300 yards, an easy swim of just practicing strokes and form (the drills start again tonight). And for the first time in four months, I was marginally faster. And I didn't feel tired, and I pushed my stroke a bit, and didn't feel like I was eggbeating myself into drowning. It took FOUR MONTHS of drills and intervals to notice this marginal payoff. (I suggest that others may find their results come faster--I have more slow twitch muscles in my entire body than some have in their little toes). But it's sure exciting when that happens.

Water is good. You are lying down, you are not terribly hot (you might get cold, but you can get over that), you are not pounding your bones on hard concrete, and no one in a truck is going to run over you (of course, someone in a Speedo might do so, but chances are, that encouter won't be fatal). Love the water. BE the water.

Happy splashing!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Training, Interrupted

This is how it goes.

You plan your training for something--a 5K, a soccer tournament, a triathlon--and then life comes along instead. When you have family, jobs, other hobbies, yards, errands, events, sick kids or pets or gardens running amuck--life just interrupts your training all the time.

And you just get over it.

I didn't get my swim in on Wed or Thurs (I am swimming tonight pre-date night with my spouse). I took a day and a half off work to go with my dog to film a TV commerical (hint: not nearly as much fun as it sounds). On Wednesday night filming ran past 7 p.m. and we started again at 8 a.m. Thursday morning, and Thursday night I have agility class with my dog so the two days got away from me.

Now, I was already planning to take 2 days off a week (instead of just 1) through June and July in order to spend more time with my family and do some much neglected work around the house. I just didn't plan to take them two days in a row! I had planned Thursdays as my planned off day, with the second day being a bit of a floater as I saw how the week was going.

So I'm swimming tonight--a quick workout--and then a shower and off to dinner with my extremely patient spouse. Tomorrow a 60 minute run. Sunday a long bike followed by a 10 minute run. All will be well.

However, I want to point something about about training, interrupted. There is a difference--a HUGE difference--between postponing training because life gets in the way, and postponing training because you would just rather be doing something else. Exercising, to me, is like bathing. You need to do it regularly to make life work out right--you can get away with the occasional skipout, but if you do it too often, the consequences aren't necessarily enjoyable. You can't keep putting it off because other things need doing--believe me, there will ALWAYS be other things that need doing, and it's so easy to tell yourself that you will just work out tomorrow instead.

So you need to schedule your workouts like a haircut or a doctor's appointment or Lord help me, your daily shower. Put them on the calendar (my coach has me use Training is a great system to calendar your progress in workouts--it helps calculate mileage for you, which is always a terrible thing for my non mathematical mind). And then unless something really big comes up--and you will know what I mean when I say really big (needs to be more than there is just this great TV show I want to watch, but certainly you don't want to go jogging off for your run when your spouse is undergoing an emergency appendectomy---the truth lies somewhere in between), you gotta keep your appointments. Even if you don't feel like it.

On days that I really, really don't "feel like it," I tell myself this: get dressed, go out and and work out for 10 minutes. If you still hate it passionately after those 10 minutes, you have permission to quit. So far, I have never started a workout and stopped. I mean, you've gone to the trouble of getting dressed and out the door, and if you are like me, you won't want to waste all that effort just going back inside! (obviously, if you don't feel like it because you are truly sick, you need to take the day off and get well).

These type of mental games really work. Don't poo poo them. Your right and left brains don't always know what is going on between them, so fool them as much as you can.

Happy non-slacking!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

It's not the heat, it's the hot that will kill ya

I don't know who thinks running in the heat is fun. Okay, my spouse does. But I'm not convinced he isn't from Mars, that planet close to the sun.

You sweat, you get overheated, you get tireder faster, and oh yeah, you smell terrific when you're done.

Other than that, it's simply a great time.

I mustered out a 45 min run at 7 p.m. last night when the thermometer was chanting 96 degrees and a 98 degree heat index--so really, not that much humidity. So it WAS the heat after all.

I ran slow--I saw a few snails passing me--only 3.7 miles for my 45 minutes (did I mention that there was a brisk SW wind? And that most of my run was uphill into that wind? Or so it seemed?). I ran steady, but took two walk breaks of 2 minutes each at 15 and 30 minutes, because my heart monitor, after the first five minutes of this fun, was ringing the bell that I was pushing myself too hard out there. Your heart rate wiil increase as you work harder (duh) and the heat will really make your body work harder.

However, I have to admit this: two months ago I would never have even considered running in 96 degree weather without a hungry lion chasing me. After 3 weeks of running in the blast furnace that is Texss springtime, it really is getting easier. I had scoffed at the acclimation idea, but let's face it, it works. I am never going to really enjoy running in the heat, but I'm getting better at it.

Let's see if I still agree with this when the heat hits triple digets--which it is supposed to do on Saturday.

Here's some hints for running in the heat:

Hydrate. This does not mean downing a bottle of water ten minutes before your run, which you will carry sloshing around with you. This means hydrating adequately all day long before your run, or if your run is in the morning, the night before. Avoid caffiene and alcohol which will dehydrate you.

Fuel. Eat a small snack 30-90 minutes before the run--something with protein and carbs like a half peanut butter sandwhich or a banana and yogurt. Don't overeat in the heat.

Go slow. Slower than you think you should. Even slower than that. This is not the time to worry about your split times or to try and do a PR run. Save those runs for cooler days.

Rest if you need to. If you use a heart monitor, let it be your guide. If not, don't go over your perceived exertion level (3 max on a hot day) and walk for a while if you need to. Get your miles or minutes in total, but take it easy.

Run smart. Keep hot day runs for early morning and late evening. Avoid high noon through 6 p.m. if possible.

Dress cool. Wear light colored clothing--black doesn't reflect heat--that is loose and comfortable. Ditch the cotton--it won't breathe and will retain sweat.

Now a word to those of you with families and spouses. It's critical that you have the unrelenting support of these guys to do a triathlon training program, whether it's a short sprint or a full Ironman (TM) (did you know Iromman (TM) is a trademarked name? I am making sure the Ironman (TM) police don't come get me. Did I mention I was a lawyer in real life?). My spouse is the greatest at support. Not only does he put up with the constant hassle of sweaty clothes in the bathroom, a wife whose hair matches Don King's, and also one chronically late for dinner, he comes with me to the events and acts as my support team--when he is not competing, because he does the sprint tris with me. He spent a long day at my Oly tri lugging all my stuff, giving me encouragement, feeding me before and after, and sitting around for 4 hours while I came and went in blurs of sweaty transitions. You can't beat the feeling of your spouse at the finish line waving you on (and taking photos). Hopefully, you can recruit yours to participate with you, or at least come as support crew. Remember to thank them for their sacrifices, which are legion. They secretly think you are nuts but are proud of you for your accomplishments. Thanks, Jim. You are my inspiration.

Today I am going to swim. I think. I am taking the day off work to go to a commercial shoot with my dog, Hawkeye, who has a bit part in the commerical. I have no idea how he will do. He's done some still shoots but you just don't know! You see, I do have lots of other things in my life. Commercial shoots are a long day. If I can't make the swim tonight, I will have to swim early in the morning.

Happy training!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

For all us old and slow wanna be triathletes

Somewhere around the age of 48, I got tired of carrying around an extra 20 pounds so I started eating smarter and though I'd start running. My first run was 1/3 of a mile and I threw up afterwards. Not a pretty sight. I won't even begin to tell you what kind of shoes I was wearing.

But I kept running, and somehow got to where I could run a 5K--slowly. Then a 10k--slowly. Then three half marathons--slowly (average pace 11:21 min mile). Then I got bored with running and bought a bike. Which I started riding a lot (slowly--a 13.3 mph day is a fast day for me--at least for now). I entered and rode some minor bike rallies up to 35 miles, although I was always one of the last to finish. I put on areobars and had one spectacular crash while trying to learn to use them. Aerobars are not easy for the uncoordinated like me.

Next I read the book Slow Fat Triathlete which inspired me to enter a sprint triathlon which was near my house. No matter that I can swim about as fast as a turtle can...well, turtle. This tri was on Labor Day 2009 and it was 99 degrees by 10 a.m. and I did it in 2hours 5 minutes and almost died in the heat. But I did finish.

And I was hooked. Entered the next sprint tri 4 weeks later and improved my time to 1:55 and didn't almost die, in fact, enjoyed the run that day (as much as you can enjoy running when you are old and slow and have just done a swim and a bike).

Then I entered my first Olympic distance tri in May of 2010 (.9 mile swim, 24.1 mile bike. 6.2 mile run). I finished in 3:53, 223 of the 225 Olympic entrants. I hired a torturer--er, coach--to help me structure my workouts and learn to swim better before this event and she really did help my swim form. I'm still a very slow swimmer--was one of the last swimmers in the Olympic staggering out of the water--but I am confident in my ability not to drown, or at least not drown quickly. Yes, I finished close to last place. But I am not discouraged.

I turn 53 years old on July 9 of 2010. I am a slow runner, slower biker, and even slower swimmer. However, I've set my goal to do a 70.3 in May of 2011, slow and old or not. And I'm gonna finish it before the cutoff time of 7 hours 30 minutes. It won't be easy.

For all of you who have never thought you could run, swim, or bike without falling over, don't despair. Yes, you can. I'm livig proof of it (okay, I have fallen over a few times--but I survived each one). You can be slow and still do triathlons, even 70.3s. You don't have to be buff or skinny or fast or even a good swimmer. You even can have a full time job and a family and other things that you do--I have all of those things.

So get up and come do this with me. You know you want to.

Yeah, I'm already scared to death and the tri is a long 11 months away. There's a lot of sweat and chlorine between now and then I have to expend and swallow.

When you are training for a triathlon, you need to focus on all three events (swim, bike and run) and also focus on "bricks"--bike followed by a run, because believe me, the most important aspect of a triathlon of any distance is how well you convince your legs that it's fun to start running right after doing a long bike ride (they will strongly disagree with you). Most triathletes (yes, anyone who is training for a triathlon can CALL themselves a triathlete) work out six days a week--2 runs, 2 bikes, 2 swims, and one of those bikes or runs can be a brick (which stands for bike-run-ICK, by the way). For shorter triathlons, you can certainly train less. And if your name is Lance Armstrong, you can train a lot less.

Oh, and triathlons are all different distances. A full Ironman (TM) consists of a 2 mile swim, a 112 bike ride, followed for dessert by a full marathon run (26.2 miles). A 70.3 is half of that fun: 1.2 mile swim, 56 miles on the bike, and a half marathon (13.1 miles). And yeah, you have to do it all on the same day, and within certain time frames. Us slowpokes are always terrified of the clock ticking.

But there are smaller triathlons out there. The sprint distance is very popular--it consists of a swim that is anywhere from 300 yards to 800 yards, a bike ranging from 12-18 miles, and a 3.1 mile run. Anyone can do a sprint. You heard me. Unless you are suffering from a serious disease or have physical limitations (that do not include being slow, old or overweight), you. Can. Do. A. Sprint. Triathlon. Yes, you will have to buy/borrow a bike, and yes, you will have to train. No, you will not have to learn to swim like Michael Phelps (I've seen lots of sprint tri entrants breast stroke or dog paddle the swim leg), you will not have to be Sir Lanceabike, and you can walk the entire 3.1 mile run if you really need to. Just get out there and train for it, and do it. Generally, there are no time cutoffs, or if there are, they are very generous in nature. Go to and learn some stuff.

Another popular distance is the Olympic distance, which is .9 mile swim, 24-25 miles on the bike, and 6.2 miles on the run. For those of you where a sprint wasn't enough torture, the Olympic distance is perfect for you.

So today's a run day. I've been thinking I need to get more acclimated to the heat when I run. This is Texas, where it's hot in February and by March you are turning on the AC (yeah, you cackling Northerners, see how you like it up there in January when I'm out in shirtsleeves). I've avoided running in the heat for the last 6 years. It hurts. It's not fun. But I have to get over it if I'm going to really be strong on my run.

So last week I ran in 92 degrees for 40 minutes--I took a 2 min walk break each 10 minutes and did a 11:53 min mile run. Not too bad. Not for me, anyway. Did I say I was slow?

But is 98 degrees with a heat index of 101. I'm not sure that the old treadmill isn't looking dadgummed beautiful right now. Still, I'm debating about trying the heat. I read on line it takes two weeks to get acclimated to running in the heat. I figured it will take me twice as long, since it takes me twice as long to do anything. (I also read about 12 week programs to train for a 70.3. I laughed. That program is for someone younger, fitter, and faster than me, who doesn't have a full time job and kids, and who eats chlorine for breakfast and bodyglide for dinner).

But I digress. Well, let's go. Nothing ever got accomplished by just talking about it. I'll be running somewhere tonight--45 minutes, using my heart monitor to be sure I am aerobic the whole way. More on heart monitor training in another post.