Finish Line 70.3

Finish Line 70.3
Finish Line 70.3

70.3 Finisher!

70.3 Finisher!
70.3 Finisher

Friday, July 30, 2010

And Everybody's High

(With apologies to John Denver, may he RIP).

The old "runner's high" expression has been around for eons--probably invented by our cave ancestors when they had to sprint away from a charging beastie, and survived to tell the tale (who wouldn't feel glorious after escaping near death by teeth?). I've read countless articles, blogs, posts, and entered countless discussions with other athletes trying to determine if this alleged thing exists. If so, does everyone have it? Can anyone achieve it? Can you bottle and sell it and get an IPO for it?

I also note, with some humor, that no one ever talks about a biker's high or a swimmer's high or even a rower's high. It seems odd that running would have a stranglehold on endorphin induced euphoria.

Anyway. Countless runners swear that this runner's high does exist. Many swear it does not exist, or at least not for them. Some think it might happen, and maybe they have experienced it, or maybe it was just the effects of last night's beerfest. Opinions differ. Mileage varies.

I can tell you this: I think this thing does exist, and it does happen, but not all the time and not in any particular circumstance. I've experienced what I think it might be, at least for me.

My personal "runner's high" happens about once or twice a month. It usually is on longer runs over 3 miles, and almost always when I'm tired and wishing I was done and drinking the kind of drink that has an umbrella stuck in it. It's never when I am struggling up a hill or doing an interval or anything else difficult. It's usually on the flat, running easy, when I don't have to think about anything but my feet falling one in front of the other.

Suddenly everything kind of goes into slow mo in my head--my breathing gets easy, my rhythm gets even, my feet feel like they are floating, and nothing hurts --or if it does hurt, I notice it, but it doesn't seem to bother me--I feel connected with the road and the trees and the sky and my mind goes into a kind of zen zone where I'm really not thinking of anything, although when this happens my mind immediately says, "look! it's happening!" This feeling lasts anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of minutes-no longer than that. Then it's like all the noise and light comes back into the picture and I feel my pain and effort come crashing into me once again.

I've read where this feeling is probably caused by the body's natural response to hard exertion--exercise endorphins--and I've also read this is the body's response to being tired and abused by its owner--going into a protective kind of semi-shock--and I've also read that it's neither of those, but just a natural response to a rhymthic motion like running (which 'splains why it doesn't happen so much in biking because you are usually changing gears or watching for cars or steering). I have indeed sort of felt it in biking when I'm on a long flat straightaway, but it doesn't really come out in biking for me too much. I've not exactly felt it in swimming--I have had moments when I have felt light and easy in the water, but it's so much effort to work on my form and breathing that my body apparently really doesn't want to find any kind of trance mode and therefore maybe drown in the process.

I've talked to runners who say this feeling for them can last for miles--which would be awesome if that ever happened to me. I've talked to runners who have never felt it.

This is not the same feeling as you get post workout, which is a different kind of groovy. This is smack in the middle of the angst.

If we could only bottle this stuff and sell it at Costco....

Anyone else with this experience, would love to collect stories about it.

Tonight's a 90 minute easy bike. It's only going to be 99 out there with a 30 mph hot wind. I so looooove Texas in the summer!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Get Fit

Back in the day, when I was younger and had less sense, I bought a wedding dress. This is one of those wear-once things that a saleslady will assure you is worth spending a month's salary upon because it's going to be such a special day and your daughter and granddaughter will want to wear it (hint: no, they won't). I didn't spend very much $$ on mine, but I was still required to go through that time-honored traditions of all brides: The Fitting.

The Fitting generally involved a woman with a French accent and bad hygiene with a mouthful of pins, who placed you (in the dress) on a little stool and pinned and tucked and folded various pieces of cloth until the dress allegedly made you look like a princess (second hint: no, it didn't). You had to stand VERY straight and VERY still--and at least for me, it was a very unpleasant, long, uncomfortable experience.

But it did teach me a lesson: if you want something to fit well, you have to go through with The Fitting.

Bikes come in various colors and sizes (mostly centimeters, which really confuses us Americans who still refuse to believe in the metric system) and shapes. It's not your father's bike, as they say, not anymore. It's an expensive welded skinny frame with lots of parts that can break that needs to become molded to you during your 12-15-24-56-112 ride to glory.

When you are uncomfortable on the swim and the run, this is often a result of simply adjusting your pace or your position or your shoes and goggles. Sometimes this can be done right then and there. If you are uncomfortable on the bike, you are looking at several hours of pure misery.

Therefore, since we all come in different sizes and shapes ourselves, we need to go through with The Fitting on our bikes. Yes, you really do. Even if you think you fit a bike perfectly, there may be tweaks that will make you feel better or go faster. You may be surprised.

When you buy a new bike from a reputable bike shop, they should include The Fitting as part of the purchase package. Obviously you will get on the bike (attached to a trainer) at the shop, and their experts will measure you and position you and move parts around so that your knees, feet, arms, elbows and torso are all at the optimum level for comfort and for performance (hint three: sometimes those are direct opposites). There is a serious science into the exact placement of angles and dangles on a bike to make it work right (hint four: sometimes, however, you will not fit into the exact science measurement. See more on this below).

Getting you fit properly for your bike may involve buying alternate counterparts than what your bike showed up with--different seat, seatpost, handlebar, wheels, pedals--oh, come on, don't be so surprised. You need to realize right now that when you buy a bike, you are buying a FRAME and you will end up replacing or upgrading half of the other stuff on that frame. Get ready for it. You'll start with the seat and maybe the pedals, and then watch out....

If you intend to add areobars to a road bike (or any other bike, although they are not considered a proper fashion accessory for a mountain bike), you have to go through it all again, because the use of areobars places your body in a totally different position than a road bike.

I got fitted for my road bike when I first purchased it 5 years ago. Then, when I put on aerobars in March, I got fitted again. Then after four months of riding I realized this simple fact: I HURT. I was uncomfortable, and my rear end and my arms and my neck hurt like fire. I had a lot of different people offer me advice: strengthen up your neck, scoot back on the seat, relax your back--nothing worked. So I went for a Second Fitting, this time with a tri specialist at Triple Threat in Carrollton.

Didn't take Todd long to figure it out. "Your position is basically correct, but if it's hurting you, then it's not correct for YOU." He moved my bike seat back a bit, suggested a small change in my arm position (which position, by the way, was contrary to where all the articles say your arms should be), and has ordered me a new handlebar stem to raise my bars slightly. Already I can tell a huge difference in my comfort. I went for a 2 hour ride last night and spent most of the time on the bars, which before I was unable to do for that long a period. Yes, the new position that he has me in is less "aggressive" in form--more comfort, but a wee bit less power. I say, and he agrees, what good is a power form if I can't stand to be in it for more than 10 minutes at a time?

So, here's the sixth hint: if it hurts, then fix it. This game is not supposed to be about position serious pain. You'll get enough of that from your body saying STOP RUNNING OR BIKING BECAUSE WE ARE TIRED NOW. No need to add to that by not being as comfortable as possible in the water, bike or run. Buy the most comfortable outfits, wear the most comfortable goggles, and get yourself to The Fitting.

I was pleased with the 2 hour ride--it wasn't terribly fast, but there was a horrendous SW wind blowing, once so hard I had to grab for the brake hoods and squeeze my knees on the bike to keep from being literally blown over (and it also blew a lot of grit against my skin, which was unpleasant), but it was a bit cooler out there last night--only 93, which is awesome--and the ride was enjoyable.

Today's my off day! Gonna chill and work the dogs in agility tonight.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nighty Night

Last night was a 45 minute easy run, as if 45 minutes of running can ever be called "easy," hahahaha, but you know what I mean. No speed intervals, no fartleks, just running slow and steady within aerobic heart rate zone for 45 spins of the minute hand. Can be boring. Especially since it was pouring rain and I had to run the indoor gym track, 14 laps to a mile, times about four miles--left turn, left turn, left turn---by the time I got home I was canting to my left for an hour.

Anyway. I have to think when I'm doing an easy run, 'cause there are no walk breaks to look forward to (not for just 45 minutes anyway) and nothing else to do but check my heart rate (annoying to note that I am starting to need reading glasses to read my heart monitor--not going to happen on the run, trust me) and listen to my tunes.

So I got to thinking about the sixth discipline of triathlon during the run. You knew there were six, right? Swim, bike, run, transition, nutrition and rest. Because I was bored and getting tired, rest was on my mind.

I am one of those awful people who actually NEED 8 hours of sleep to feel my best. I have heard that as you age, you tend to need less sleep, but that hasn't happened to me yet. I do my very best on 8 hours of zzzs. Oh, I can do fine on 7-8, I can survive --but not happily--on 6, and I get really grumpy and irritable on 5 or less. I wish it were different. I wish I could sleep 5 hours and wake up feeling like a Lumesta commercial. I could get so much more done in my life if my body didn't demand so much shuteye!

It's almost embarrassing to admit it if you sleep a lot. It sounds like you are lazy, unmotivated, and a total bum. You truly want to say to folks, "me? I'm up at 4 a.m. and at the gym by 5 and at my desk at 6:30 a.m., where I stay until 6 p.m. when I take off for a 7 mile run, then fix a healthy dinner for my family, have a post dinner walk with my spouse and dog, and I'm back in bed by 10:30 p.m." Instead, I have to admit that I'm up somewhere between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. (if I don't have an early workout), and I'm falling asleep before 10 p.m. and if something--anything or anyone!--tries to break up my sleep cycle, woe be unto them.

But the truth is, this is the amount of rest my body seems to need to perform at optimal levels. Working out six days a week leaves me with little ability to short myself on sleep; when I do, both my workouts and my real life suffer immensely.

Sometimes, something has to give on the sleep end for me--I simply don't end up mathematically with enough hours in 24 to get it all done and get the 8 hours of pillow time. When that happens, I try my best to get a better night's sleep the next night--if possible--and I also give myself a break if my workout that day is slow or sluggish.

On the weekends, when it's hot out, I need to be up EARLY SQUIRRELY to run, and if we have a date night or outing the night before, I am often running or biking on 6 hours or less of sleep. I often try to sneak in a hour nap during the weekend, but that's not always possible with all the necessary errands and chores we have to cram into our weekends.

So, I just do the best I can. I try to fill up on solid sleep nights as much as I am able. My Patient Spouse knows how much sleep means to me, and can often be found undressing just outside our bedroom door so he won't wake me by rustling clothes (I also, unfortunately, can hear the grass grow in my sleep).

If you're shorting yourself on sleep, your workouts will suffer. Add another 30 minutes to your snooze time--turn off the TV or get off the computer for that 30 minutes--and see if it makes you feel differently. Sleep is critical for the body to repair and recover from its efforts.

Tonight I am going for a bike fitting (again). My last one wasn't so successful and I've found a tri specialist to work with me on measuring where I need to be on my bike and bars. No reason to spend hours on the bike if you aren't comfortable during any of that time. Then I'm off for a ride!

Happy dreaming....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bad dog!

Sooner or later, on a bike or a run, you're gonna meet the Bad Dog.

Leash laws, smeash laws. Dogs are out there. I know the saying that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners, and I partially agree with that statement. We can fume and argue over the idiocy of the owners who won't fence/leash/control their pets all day long. Doesn't change the world. So we gotta learn to live in it.

Fortunately, I'm a closet expert on Bad Dogs. I have raised and trained golden retrievers for years in obedience, field and agility--one is pictured above. I can assure you that when a Bad Dog comes on the scene, I will be the first one bitten because I am so confident that I know what to do about it. Therefore, if you are running or biking with me, you're safe.

Assuming you aren't with me, I've got some tips to use for you when you meet your own Bad Dog.

There are actually two types of Bad Dogs that are a problem for us bikers/runners: the I don't really mean it Bad Dog and the I really mean it Bad Dog. Both will chase you, bark, snarl, leap and act crazy. Only one type will follow through on the threat. You should assume all Bad Dogs are of the latter type, and act accordingly.

Let's say that you are running along or biking along peacefully, and you are startled out of your pleasant thoughts by a hairy, snarling, barking thing that appears out of nowhere.

Your immediate (and natural) reaction may be to jump, yell, or flail arms and legs--which is the worst possible reaction. Dogs are chase oriented by nature--they want to chase any moving object, and the more you move, the more you entice the chase response. If you are on your bike and you know you can outrace the dog, then do so, but if you are not sure, pedaling away like mad will only cause the dog to get more excited and chase harder.

So--STOP ALL MOVEMENT. This is the first rule. Unclip, stop biking, stop running and cease movement immediately.

Turn sideways to the dog so you can see its face, but don't face it directly and DO NOT look into the eyes directly. Dogs consider eye contact to be confrontational. Look at the top of the head or at the mouth instead. Try to see what the dog intends to do.

Most dogs, when the chase has ended, will be confused. They aren't sure now whether to keep on with their pursuit of this still object, or go do something more fun. A dog that doesn't really mean it will back off immediately, perhaps lowering their head and tail and slinking away a bit. Don't assume a wagging tail means they won't come and get a bite out of you. A wagging lowered tail is a better sign than a wagging high tail.

Say "SIT!" in a stern voice to the dog while taking a few steps away. If the dog sits for you, you probably have just won the battle--you have just dominated. Keep saying sit as you walk away slowly. Don't start to run or get back on the bike too quickly. Dogs are territorial, and most of them are going to only want to protect a limited area. If the dog doesn't follow you, walk about 10-20 yards away, and then mount your bike or start your run again, watching the dog's reaction. If it starts to come after you again, stop again. Repeat.

If the dog doesn't sit, but looks away from you and lowers its ears and tail both, it's probably not happy about going through with any mean stuff. Follow the instructions above, talking in a low but firm voice to the dog the whole time.

If the dog continues to look straight at you, and its tail is held high, or the ruff remains high and fluffed up on its neck, or it starts to walk toward you stiff legged, you may have a I Really Mean It type of dog. This requires you to take defensive measures. Try the walking slowly away method but never take your eyes off the pooch--a sudden crouch could mean it's getting ready to spring up at you. If you are unable to walk away safely from the dog without it seriously threatening you, look for any weapon you may have. Your bike, water bottle, hat, watch, and shoe can all be used as a defensive weapon IF the dog attacks you. I do not recommend throwing any object at a dog until you are certain you just have no choice. If you miss, you are really going to have a torqued off animal. Sticks and stones are good choices too, but be careful about bending down as dogs consider lowering your body mass to be a sign of weakness and intimidation.

If the dog truly attacks you and starts to bite or nip, then you should take any defensive measures that you can--throw something, kick at the dog, yell loudly. Don't try to run away from the dog and incur the chase instinct. Face the dog, make yourself big and ugly, and fight back. THIS IS ONLY IF YOU ARE ACTUALLY BEING ATTACKED. Otherwise, doing these things will PROVOKE an attack. Constantly try to remove yourself from the territorial area by backing up and away.

I have some pepper spray that I bought but never remember to carry on my runs. I suspect it would do the trick, if I could remember to carry it, and unlock it, and point it in the right direction. Sometimes I have picked up a stone or a stick when I intend to run a particular street where I know a bad tempered canine may be lurking.

If you are actually bitten, do everything you can to locate the dog's owner, or call 911 and stay near the area if possible so that animal control can locate and pick up the dog and confine it. It's important to have the dog that bit you available to be sure it wasn't carrying rabies.

I have spoken politely to two of my neighbors over the past year about two dogs in my 'hood that I simply know are a bite waiting to happen. One is a male boxer, a beautiful dog but extremely territorial, and his owner lets him out to romp in their unfenced front yard early in the mornings (which irritates me because they have a HUGE fenced back yard)--and when he sees me he runs into the street to give me an extremely evil eye and snarl. He's come very close to biting my leg. I have stopped and walked around him while talking to him several times, and finally I spotted the owner peering out her front door in her bathrobe, and told her that while I was a dog lover and owner, this sort of stuff was not acceptable. Lately, I've noticed she has been outside with him each time I run by, and so far she has verbally controlled him, but I'm still worried. The other nuisance is a little Min Pin that lives across my street and loves to bark and chase me and the Patient Spouse on our runs. This dog is small, but those teeth are sharp. The owner has seen this happen a few times and never really done anything about it (this dog runs loose every day and also leaves lovely deposits in my yard), and sooner or later I'm going to have to have The Talk with the owner about "Tiny" (true name of this dog).

Remember that 90 percent of the dogs out there don't really mean it. But act like they do. Stop moving, stop the chase instinct, and walk away from the dog's territory slowly without making eye contact. Be safe. Be smart.

PS I was once dive bombed by an irate blue jay, and unfortunately have no tips on how to avoid those attacks.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Bad Days

Bad days are all over the place, and not just for hair. I think that some of us--nay, many of us, especially those of us who live without having to wonder where our next meal is coming from--get to a point where we simply EXPECT sunshine and butterflies all the time, and therefore we are shocked when the train comes off the rails.

My philosophy about bad days is that, like good days, they only have 24 hours to them. Sooner or later they pass.

Whenever I had a whiney outbreak as a kid, my sainted grandma would always say to me: "point to the blood." If there wasn't any (and usually there wasn't), then in her opinion, whining wasn't justified. And I can attest that there are times when there really is blood to point to (ask any bike rider about that one), there probably isn't enough of it to justify a bad attitude even then.

Bad workout days can really be discouraging. We all have them. And as we increase our fitness levels, they come more often. It's just our body fighting back before it gives in--the "can't we just bag this bike ride and go get ice cream" will sooner or later get taken over with the "okay, I can put up with this stuff if you simply insist." You just have to win that fight.

The thing about bad workout days (or even bad races) is not that they happen--they do and they will and there is nothing you can do about it. It's getting past them, leaving them behind, and moving on, that is so important. Yes, I think you can learn from a bad or failed workout, but you simply can't obsess over it and pick it apart forever. It was bad. It happened. So what. Get over it. Point to the blood.

I had a bad bike ride on Saturday. I had limited amounts of sleep Friday night (from circumstances out of my control--it wasn't for lack of trying), and I had obligations Saturday morning that kept me from getting on the bike until about 1:30 p.m. At which point it was 99 degrees, 104 heat index, and a stiff hot southwest wind was blowing grit and nasty smells around (seriously. I always seem to be biking by a sewer or a rendering plant).

I loaded up 32 oz of sports drink and my Patient Spouse and I went out to pound the pavement in the 'hood. The problem with the 'hood is there are lots of stoplights you have to wait for, and there's no shade canopy at these lights. So even though I was able to catch my breath at times at some stoplights, the sun just was pounding down on me at those times, and making my head swim. When I'm moving, there's a bit of breeze. When I'm standing at the light, there's only shimmering pavement heat. Ick.

We also worked about 10 hills, with 4 of them being pretty tough. Hillwork is important to me, as there are hills in all my upcoming events, but at 104 heat index they can be pretty brutal. I was really pounding them out, trying to stay over the bars and keep my cadence high. Good things to do on hills. After 10 of them, though, in the midday heat, there isn't much left in the tank to do other things.

The Patient Spouse and I sweated pretty profusely, and at the halfway mark of the ride he had to go into a Hungry Howie's and beg them to refill his water bottle (yes, I did warn him that he didn't take enough. No, I have not said I told you so more than, oh, say six times). On the return trip, I started feeling a little lightheaded and woozy. Plus, my bike seat is simply not comfortable. I had a reputable bike shop fit me on my aerobars and give me a forward bike seat that they swore was perfect, but let's face it--it's turned out to be a literal PIA. If you can't sit on it, it's not worth much IMO. I'm going to have to replace it.

So I was hot, tired, lightheaded, sweaty, and uncomfortable. And also angry since my average speed on the return trip was dropping and I just had no energy left to keep up the pace, or even keep up with the Patient Spouse, who is and has been a much better, faster and fitter biker than I am (he can outbike and outswim me. I can still smoke him on a long run. A short run is a grim battle to the end).

We ended up cutting the ride about 15 mintues short, and I was sorely disappointed in myself and my ride. It was not even quite half of what I have to ride for the 70.3next May! I felt weak, and humiliated, and out of shape.

However, I have since left the ride behind me. I've analyzed several reasons why that ride was so poor (the heat, the humidity, my tiredness, my bike seat, my position), and I've decided there are some things I can do to fix that (one idea was move to Canada, but I've elected, after careful thought, to just stick with waiting until October in Texas until I try to push the bike riding too hard), and I'll fix the things that I can, and then what I can't fix I will work on over the next several months. I'm going in for a second bike fitting, I'm going to replace that nasty seat, I plan to hydrate a bit more, I plan to do a better nutrition intake pre ride, and I plan get better sleep the night before. Until October, not much to do about the heat and humidity though. Just suffer through it.

I ended up with a half decent long run on Sunday morning even after having my rear kicked on the Saturday bike, so I know I can recover from the bad workout and move forward with my training.

An old Chinese proverb reads: "fall down 99 times. Get up 100." When faced with a lousy day of any variety, remember that mantra, get up and keep dancing.

Tonight's a short swim. Looking forward to a workout where I don't have to sweat!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Playing Dress Up: Race Day Attire

One of the most asked questions on newbie tri sites is: what do I wear? (followed closely by: where is the beer?)

We all have a pretty good idea of what to wear when training. Swimming, the suit. Biking, the shorts and a bike jersey or a NO COTTON wicking shirt. Running, shorts and a NO COTTON wicking shirt, or running tights if it's cold out there (you can wear your gray cotton sweatpants if you want, but don't come whining to me when they start to weigh about 4,532.25 pounds at mile 3).

But what about in an event? If it's a tri, you have to get wet, then get on the bike and then go out for your little jog fest, all without the benefit of a changing room, blow drier, and make up kit. (Actually, some Ironman [TM] races do have changing/staging rooms. If you are riding a bike for 8 hours, it may be that you want to do something with yourself before you go for your 4 hour run).

You are not permitted to strip down naked for the amusement or benefit (you pick) of your fellow racers and spectators.

You can certainly yank on various clothing pieces over your swimsuit, or yank off various shirts and put on others, but need I remind you this is a timed event? And the clock doesn't stop while you putter around deciding if the red or blue bandana goes better with your shirt? And oh, do you remember how much fun it is to try and take on/pull off clothing on a wet body (from either the swim or sweat, or both)?

So the answer is, you get one thing to wear for it all. Swim, bike, run--one outfit. Shoes and headgear will change, but not the torso.

For a run event, obviously you won't have this issue. You wear your NO COTTON wicking shirt, your run shorts or tights, and your socksies and shoesies. Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, timing - Garmin watch all recommended. For a run, your race number goes on the FRONT of your bib, not the back, by the way. I bought a simple race belt that holds race bib numbers on little plastic pegs -- the belt snaps around your waist in three seconds. Safety pins take a long time, they fall off, and they can of course skewer you at a really bad time.

But for a tri, you are moving into dangerous fashion territory.

Sure, there is no penalty for wearing your old ratty swimsuit (or your new teeny bikini) especially if you are throwing a wetsuit on top of it, or a pair of cotton athletic shorts pulled over them for the bike and swim. It's every man or woman for himself out there. Don't be mad when I zoom past you out of transition while you are still struggling to pull those shorts on over your wet body. And really don't get mad when my grandma zooms past you when you have sweated six pounds of water into those shorts on the run.

The best option for a tri event is a tri suit, or tri shorts and tri top. These little outfits are not cheap, no, but you can wear them over and over again (no one really minds if you show up in the same outfit for two triathlons, trust me) and They. Are. Worth. Every. Penny.

I choose a tri specific jersey top and tri shorts. Tri shorts are like bike shorts, but without the giant diaper like gel pad in the seat--instead they have a small chamois pad that attempts to tell you it will help soften your backend contact on your bike seat. (I say HA. HA HA). My shorts have rubberlike gripper seams around the leg holes that keep the shorts from riding up into my nether regions during the bike ride (some people prefer shorts without the gripper bands. There's just a lot of choices out there. It's like buying your prom dress. Especially if you are a guy). The shorts come in different lengths--mine are a middle of the ground length, between granny long and high school coed short, colors, styles. They are made of a quick dry material. After the swim, my shorts are usually dry within ten minutes.

My tri top looks a lot like a cycling jersey, except it's lighter weight in material. I have worn a sleeveless cycling jersey at a tri before and it worked fine. The tri top is also made of the fast drying stuff, and has a front zipper for your personal AC.

I wear a non-cotton sports bra under neath this, but a lot of women's tri tops have shelf bras built in.

And this is what I wear into the water, onto the bike, and out to run, and to the post race beer tent.

If it's a wetsuit swim, the wetsuit goes right over the outfit (with a little help--no, make that a LOT of help-- from Bodyglide on my shoulders, legs, ankles, neck, and calves). Comes right off after the swim (with a little help from either stripping volunteers, or my own efforts) and there I am, ready for the bike with just a helmet, shoes, and sunglasses to put on.

I don't use socks on the bike/run for a sprint distance Tri. I lather up my running shoes with some Bodyglide and baby powder and my bike shoes with a bit of powder and I go sockless. Many tri specific bike and run shoes are built to go without socks, but I have normal bike shoes and running shoes and don't need socks for a short run (PS practice this to see how your feet feel before a race--some people have sensitive feet that blister, so this may not be something you can do). Socks take time to pull on over wet feet. I would prefer to use that extra 2 minutes out on the run course somewhere. However, I used socks in my Oly tri and plan to use them in my 70.3.

Some tri suits are one piece--a great many triathletes love the one piece suits as they don't ride up on them. I find them too constricting. I like having a separate top that I can stretch out with and not feel my shorts start to ride up at the same time. Everyone's different.

My race belt works great in a tri. I don't wear it in the swim (you couldn't see it anyway under the wetsuit) and they do mark your leg and arm with your number, which you also promptly cover up with your suit, and usually they mark it on your swim cap--in open water swims, you will get a colored cap to wear that matches your wave. No one can tell who is who in the water anyway. After the swim, I simply snap the belt on for the bike if they require you to wear it on the bike (many races do not, because your bike is also numbered, but some do, so check out the rules--and when you bike the number goes on your backside, not your frontside), or else snap it on before the run. No pins, no soggy numbers, no holes in my shirt.

I also use lacelocks on my running shoes. These little gizmos are amazing. They are stretchy cord that goes in place of your normal shoe laces and then lock into position once you find the right comfort. Therefore, you just slip on your shoes (remember the Bodyglide?) like a loafer and yank the tongue into place and you're golden for your run. No sitting down and knotting your shoes. A hint: keep some slack in the lacelocks past the lock just in case your feet swell or change sizes (some do as we age) so you can have some room to change the position of the laces if you really need to do that. I made the mistake in my first pair of trimming them off right at the lock point--then one day my shoes felt too tight and I had no lace left to loosen up with. I learn EVERYTHING the hard way apparently.

I also find that outside of racing, the lacelocks are a great thing. I never have to tie my shoes, and I never have to worry about a shoe lace coming untied. I realize this makes me on a par with kids who have velcro laces, but hey. Kids can teach us a lot about simplicity.

That's my race gear! Everyone will have a different opinion on what works for them and what doesn't, but what's fun is to go try these things on. Most high level bike stores have tri gear (but trust me--not a lot of it). I like shopping on line for mine-and there's a zillion spots for that.,,,,, a few of the spots that offer tri gear.

So, now you don't have to stand in your closet and wonder, what shall I wear?

Today's a 2600 yard swim day after work, and tomorrow a 2 hour moderate bike in the steamy heat.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's my (finish) line?

OK, I am really dating myself by bringing up the old game show What's My Line? I loved it as a kid. Kitty Carlisle and those cat eyed glasses...what's not to like?

Anyway, last night during a one hour ten easy bike (was supposed to be 90 minutes but darkness came along and stopped that) I got to thinking about "finish lines," or goals. We all have goals of some sort in life, short term and long term and pie in the sky goals. I think a life without some goals is not very interesting.

Finish lines are all over the place--from retirement to buying a vacation home to getting the kids out of college without them setting themselves (or anyone else) on fire. Obviously, you need goals in your fitness training in order to make yourself get out there and sweat. And personally, I think you need four types of goals in fitness training: immediate, short term, long term, and pie in the sky.

One of the things I learned in a seminar regarding diversity in the workplace was about setting goals that are in these four categories. It's important to have some goals you can achieve quickly without a terrible amount of blood, sweat and tears, because otherwise, you will fall short of your ultimate finish line and -- and, well, you'll give up.

If all you have are long term or pie in the sky goals, you may be doomed to failure and disappointment. Your pie in the sky goal may be this: "lose weight." Well, that's nice. It's a good goal. I myself have that goal. Constantly. But when faced with a nice slab of chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, that goal seems kind of distant in my head. It's not going to send off any chimes other than a dinner bell.

Your long term goal may be to "lose 15 pounds." Better. That's a number, something you can see and touch on a scale. But IMO, still rather vague. Once again, the cake is gonna win in a knockout.

So perhaps your short term goal would be "lose two pounds a month until I have lost 15 pounds." Now this goal is closer to today rather than someday. This goal means you need to start now, not when it's convenient. A lot of people use goals like these as motivations, and they often work. Problem is, at least for me, when the goal is reached, I'm done. I'm back on the cake plan. And I can still see me cheating on that cake in the interim because I will plan to give up something else to make up for it later. I'm a great negotiator regarding cake.

Now, let's say your immediate goal is this: "to eat no more than ___ thing that is considered a sweet or dessert per ___; to eat at least three servings of steamed veggies per day; to give up butter/mayo; to only drink alcohol on weekends; to leave the table when I am satisfied but not yet full...." This is a right now goal. This means starting with the next meal or snack. This means you can have that cake, but you can't have any more cake--or pie, or candy, or cookies, or sweet tea-- for the next __ days. This goal is touchable, feelable, doable, and tangible. And it doesn't really have an end date, although your mindset may be that when you reach X pounds of weight loss, you might go back to butter on your bread twice a week or one more glass of wine per week. It's a goal that teaches you to eat smarter and better, and has a much better chance of succeeding.

Now, as to fitness, I like to list my four term goals out in writing.

Pie in the sky goals: to stay lean and well muscled as I age; to stay out of a wheelchair and off of a walker; to be able to enjoy physical outdoor activities well into my late 80's, to beat my husband at ping pong.

Long term goals: to finish a 70.3 next year in the cutoff time, to run a full marathon in the next 2 years in less than 5 hours, to get on an age group podium in an Oly tri and a sprint tri, to do a bike century.

Short term goals: to increase my averagebike speed to 15-16 for easy rides and 16-18 for moderate to hard rides, to increase my long run pace back to around 11 min mile, to increase my short run (5K) pace back to around a 9:45 mile, to be able to swim 600yards in less than 15 minutes without puking.

Immediate goals: increasing the amount of time I spend on the aerobars by five additional minutes each bike ride; to be able to ride up the Los Rios Hills at no slower than 12 mph (I'm closing in on that!); to increase my long bikes to 3 hours by October; to be able to run 45 minutes easy with heart rate at aerobic pace and cover more than four miles (I'm closing in on that too); to practice my arm strokes in swimming to improve my form, especially on the right side where I seem to drop my shoulder too quickly; to quit eating sweets at night and for sure, eating no more bread at dinner!

In my above goal scenario, my immediate goals are doable. They are doable pretty quickly, with some work and sweat on my part. And doing the immediate goals moves me closer to my short term goals, and long term goals, and even my pie in the sky goals (except for beating my Patient Spouse at ping pong). Each week, I revisit my immediate goals and adjust accordingly. Each month, I revisit my short term goals as well.

And any time I hit a short term and long term goal (or a pie in the sky goal), it's a cause for a celebration. This may mean buying a cheap geegaw for myself or just giving myself permission to take an hour away from housework and read a good book. Goals are important, but so are celebrating them with yourself. A pat on the back is an excellent motivator.

Tonight I'm off for the day. Tomorrow is a swim, Saturday is a 2 hour bike, and Sunday a long run. In the 100 degree heat. I love Texas!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Websites n blogs

When I want to waste time (nb to my fellow partners: never during work! Never!) there are several fun websites and blogs to go to and read up on interesting articles about triathlon, running, exercise, motivation, etc. So it's not really a waste of time, per se, as I am always learning something. Today I printed off an article about strength cross training for running that I will put to good use at the gym on rainy days.

There's as many websites and blogs about working out and training as there are paper cups at a marathon water station and I don't know of all of the groovy ones. But here are some good ones to start with:

Sarah is such a great writer and a fantastic source of inspiration to all athletes of all abilities. You'll really like her post on her see through swimming attire at one of her first races. Great sense of humor and always good stuff to read. Check it out.

I love the daily articles on the home page about different things (this is where I printed off the running strength training article). I also love the community chat room; I go to both Triathlon and Running communities; there are always fascinating discussions and helpful hints. Good place also to look up future races, results and reviews of events you are thinking of entering. Triathlon has a subcategory for newbies that is full of those both brand new to the sport, and those who have advice for those brand new to the sport. No question is deemed too silly!

Excellent site for all levels of triathletes. Has some great training programs and chat rooms; good articles as well. Geared primiarly to triathletes.

I love the articles. The chat forum to me is not as instructive as in active or beginner triathlete--it's more personal and funny--but the articles are really interesting.

Here's a great place to upload your daily workouts and results! In addition, if you have the time and patience (which I definitely do NOT), you can upload your daily food intake and calories to see how much deficit--or not--you run each day (I tried hard to do that and after spending 30 minutes looking up all the calories I ate JUST FOR LUNCH--had to look up the bread, the mustard, the meat, the fruit, the tomato, the pickle, etc.---no, there was not enough time to waste in the universe to do all that!). It's got a great calculator for run, bike and swim mileage and average times for your workouts. Lots of other good stuff I haven't had time to figure out yet.

A lot of other great sites abound, but I only have so much time to zip through the 'net, so these are my favorites. Would love to hear about more.

Happy surfing....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I love my iPod. It took me a long, long time to figure it out, and it has blown up on me a couple of times when I tried to do something cute with it, but all in all, it's the greatest little gadget I've ever used for working out.

I am addicted to running with it. The bad news is that in USAT sanctioned events, you are not permitted to use one. I've managed to do two sprint tris and one Olympic tri without one, so I know that I can, but I don't like it. The music drowns out the noise of my labored breathing.

I also use mine in the pool. With, you can get a very good waterproof iPod case (only for certain versions so be sure you have a match) and a set of waterproof headphones that aren't too annoying. It took a lot of trial and error on where to stash this thing during my swim (it isn't small and lightweight, being made of bulky plastic with an odd upside down clasp). The armband they sent with it was worthless--one arm weighted down just did not lead to a good swim stroke. I saw some photos of some athletes with the iPod attached to their swim cap--tried that and it felt like an iron rod was digging into my scalp. Finally, I settled on stashing it inside my small fuel belt and wearing that around my waist when I swim. The thing was not designed to NOT fall off during a fast swim, so putting it inside a fuel belt with a zipper closure (the headphone wire sticks out obviously) was the best solution. Of course, the drag wearing such a device slows me a bit, but it's worth it. Sometimes the earbuds pop out, but not too often, and the bonus result of wearing headphones during the swim is that I get minimal water in the ears.

I no longer use my iPod on the bike. I used to wear one earbud while riding and leave the other ear free. But honestly, I am so paranoid about being taken out on the bike by a car, a bus, a tractor, a falling airplane (not to mention walkers, skaters, runners with iPods, and dogs) that I just can't reduce my hearing one whit during a ride. I'm not saying the one earbud thing is bad; I'm just saying it's not for me anymore. Even when I ride a trail rather than a street, I have to be able to hear people passing me and around me. I miss it, but I'd rather be safe.

I have an electic list of songs that range from country western, classic rock, Motown, pop, fifties, swing, and jazz. My "jogging songs" list is the same. A stranger who saw my jogging songs list might conclude I am in need of therapy, or that I simply punched random buttons on the "purchase now" list at iTunes. Not so. I'm just not married to any one particular genre of music, although I do consider rap and disco to both be something you wouldn't wish on anyone, much less your ears.

My pool swim songs are not just my jogging songs, but my whole playlist, so there are some classical pieces, musical numbers, and slow dance songs mixed in. In the pool, everything seems to work with the exception of George Jones. For some reason, George and water don't mix for me. "He Stopped Loving Her Today" sounds tinny in the backwash.

I try to start my runs out with a high motivation song for me, and then let the shuffle program surprise me. Here's some of my "starting the run" songs:

"Danger Zone" (Kenny Loggins)
"Beat It" (Michael Jackson) (no, not ALL of my songs are by dead people)
"Born to Run" (Bruce Springsteen)
"Flashdance (what a feeling)" (Irene Cara)
"Classical Gas" (Mason Williams. No, really. This guitar masterpiece has a solid beat and it always brings to mind a run through a fall morning with leaves on the ground).
"All She Wants to Do is Dance" (Eagles)
"Footloose" (Kenny Loggins)
"Jump" (Pointer Sisters)

For swimming, I want to think long, relaxed strokes to start, so here are some of my swim starting songs:

"Clocks" (Coldplay)
"I Drove All Night" (Celene Dion)
"Layla" (Derek and the Dominoes the ORIGINAL, not the slow one by Clapton)
"Cool Change" (Little River Band...perfect swimming song!)
"Calypso" (John Denver--another perfect water song.)
"Light My Fire" (the Doors)
"Luck be a Lady" (Frank Sinatra-- no joke--got a catchy backbeat)
It's Got to be Rock N Roll Music" (Beach Boys)

That gives you an idea of how scary it is to be in my head!

Last night fairly medium length swim 2300 yards, some drills that made me go fast for a while and just tuckered me out. Tonight is a 45 min easy run, probably done indoors as it's 101 again out there. I do run out in the heat, but not at 7 p.m.!

Happy tunes....

Monday, July 19, 2010

New and Improved and Better Than Ever!

Nothing gets my hopes up so high as to read about a product or a routine that promises to make me run easier, make me bike faster, or make me swim stronger. I mean, we are inundated with product placement and ads that tell us if we just buy that or do this...then we will be signing up for Kona next week.

It's not just products, either. It's exercises or training tips or interval suggestions. Sometimes today's hint will totally contradict the one you read yesterday. That really plays with my head.

Within price and reason, I say, try everything you think isn't totally bogus (I am NOT going for that colon cleanser ad). It's fun to experiment. During your off season, that's the time to tweak things and change products to see what, if anything, makes you feel better or stronger. Sometimes the placebo effect may kick in--you try something new that doesn't really change anything, but your mind or body THINKS that it does. Well, I don't care if my mind gets totally tricked in order to go faster. Did ya read my post about mind tricks?

And of course, new things shouldn't be tried within a few weeks of a race. You don't want to change horses before post time. Stick with what's working so far.

This is my off season so I'm eager to try some new stuff out and see if anything makes my bell ring.

So far, I've found four things that have made an obvious difference. Three are products, and one is a recovery exercise.

Thing One: my areobar hydration pouch (Bontrager). I'm terrible about hydrating. I don't drink enough even on normal days, much less while working out like a fiend in the Texas heat. Consequently, I'm probably racing and training slightly dehydrated, which does not help my speed or energy, much less my health. Drinking from a cage mounted water bottle on my bike is something I have to force myself to do--I slow down, yank out the bottle, open the little lever with my teeth, close it, back in the cage -- and I just can't keep pedaling a steady rate while I do all this (some people can. These are the ones that can watch TV and talk on the phone at the same time. Not me). Putting on the hydration pouch between the bars has made it soooo easy to sip and never stop pedaling, plus I don't have to worry about dropping the dadgummed water bottle on the street.

Thing Two: my foam roller for my hamstring (these can be bought anywhere; I bought mine at Sports Authority). My hamstring is still not 100 percent happy, and may never be. Part of the problem is that I'm not flexible enough all over to prevent tightness and pain in my right hamstring. I do a lot of yoga, planks and stretching, but the foam roller really pushes me to work the hamstrings, quads and glutes. I use it twice a day. It's cheap. It helps. It's not painful.

Thing Three: Ice baths. Like my Danish ancestors knew for centuries, cold is good for ya. Especially for muscles and tendons that are stretched, inflamed and pounded by us older, less fit athletes. I've been reading about ice baths for several months. Basically, you immerse your lower body in an ice bath for 10 minutes post workout. I'm not so sure how this will work when I've finished a freezing bike ride in February, but in 102 degree Texas summer heat, it feels like manna from heaven to get into one (plus, it's a good way to clean out the automatic ice maker container). Run a cold bath and dump a LOT of ice in it, then submerge to the waist for 10 minutes and get out. It's really cut down on my muscle soreness post run and post bike to do this.

Thing Four: The Halo. Not the one I try to wear whem I'm 'splaining to the spouse why I am late coming in from my swim on Monday nights. This is a sweat wicking band that either ties or snugs around your forehead and eats up the sweat that would normally pour down into your contacts and nostrils. It also works well to keep errant hair out of your face. In a Texas summer, this thing is invaluable. Makes me look also like the original Karate Kid. This is again, an inexpensive gizmo.

Lots of "little things" may make a difference in your workouts or training. I'm experimenting now with new nutrition and hydration products to see if any of them make me feel like scaling tall buildings with a single bound (I'll let you know). My next big race isn't until May, so I've got time to get it wrong.

Saturday was a 1.45 hour bike in the awful, steamy 102 degree (108 heat index) afternoon ride where I just barely survived the weather. I hate July and August in Texas; you just have to survive it and pray for October. Sunday was a good run, a 77 minute long run and I went a bit faster even in the heat of 6:45 a.m. (yes it was already hot) than I've been running in the heat for my long runs (11:52 mile average), took 3 walk breaks at 22 minutes, 43 minutes and 64 minutes to slug some warm Gatorade from my fuel belt. I had more energy than I expected to have which was good.

Find some little things that make your efforts seem a bit helps!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mind Games

With the new movie Inception coming out (about altering people's dreams and living inside dreams and dreaming inside dreams...I am not necessarily going gaga over seeing this, but the Patient Spouse was a huge Matrix fan, so I suspect this will be one of our Date Nights soon), I got to thinking about how we all play mind game with ourselves to get ourselves to do something that isn't always...well, enjoyable.

I was gonna say, like doing laundry, but I can't think of a single mind game I use on myself to get the laundry done. The only thing that works on that is running out of clean running socks. Which happens a lot in our house.

Working out for long periods of time can sometimes be...well, a bit tedious. Not only long, but hard, and sometimes a bit boring in nature. I try to jazz up my bike and runs by doing them in 4-5 different places, but you simply can't jazz up your pool swim too much. Brad Pitt in a Speedo ain't showed up at the Allen LA Fitness yet.

I've mentioned before that one of the ways I use to get STARTED on a workout when I don't want to do one is to tell myself that I will go do it for ten minutes, and if after ten minutes I absolutely, completely detest it, I can quit (I've never yet quit). Once I get into the meat of a workout, though, there are things I do that help me get through the hard parts. And no, not all parts are hard parts.

On the swim, I try to break my workout into segments. For example, if I have the following workout: 100 warm up, 8 X 50's drill, 8 X 50's fast 25 slow 25, 3 x 500's and then a 100 cool down, I tell myself I have ten segments to the workout (I don't count the warm up and cool down). First segment is the first half of the 8 X 50's drill (200 yards), then the second half, then the first half of the 8 X 50's fast/slow, then the second half (each segment is 200 yards, and when I'm done, I'm done with 4 of my 10 segments). For the 500's, each segment is 250 yards and there are six of those. I keep track of each segment, noticing how far I have to go to complete it and how far I've come since I started it. It's a lot easier mentally than ticking off 2500 yards of swimming (this was last night's swim). I can also hum along with the H2 Audio iPod, or if I'm not wearing it, I sing to myself underwater (good song: "Cool Change" by Little River Band--"I was born in the sign of water, and it's there that I feel my best...").

On a bike, I try to go for miles as segements. Most of my rides and runs are set as a time thing, but I'm pretty good at figuring out how many miles I need to ride to make 2 hours happen, for example (28-30). I force myself to drink every two miles (on a really hot day, that turns into every mile), so I'm always looking for that two mile marker, and then I also divide the ride by four so I will know when I'm a quarter done, half done, three quarters done, and finished. Some distances don't lead themselves to an easy division by four, and that's when I spend mental time doing math in my head, most of which is incorrect. I also sing to myself, and look at the trees and sky and flowers.

On a run, the iPod helps a lot (obviously, you don't get to wear one in a triathlon, but there is a lot going on during a race that should keep you occupied). In addition, I break my run into miles and segments (usually divide by four again --which is fun to do on a five miler, even more fun on 13 miler). It's harder to focus on trees, birds, animals, etc. when you are running, but it really does help pass the time. Once, I ran early in the morning during the Plano balloon festival and the balloons were sailing off right over my head which was just awesome. I also ran by a lot where they were filling up a big Snoopy balloon and I took an unscheduled walk break just to gawk. That was a memorable run.

No matter how you trick your mind into accomplishing your workout (and you honestly will have to do it: your right brain is ALWAYS going to say to you that this nonsense needs to stop right this minute), always run/bike/swim the mile or segment you are in. Don't look too far down the road or worry too much about it--don't panic over mile 10if you are only in mile 3 of a long run. Run the mile you're in. Bike the mile you're in. Swim the segment you're in. Let the future take care of itself.

Tonight's an off night! Long bike tomorrow in the heat of the day, so I'm hydrating already.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ouch! That felt good

That is a quote from Mae West. Feel free to plagerize it like I did.

Any person who does a reasonable job of working out will reach a threshold of...discomfort. This is not PAIN like omigosh there is a shooting pain up my leg--that means STOP RIGHT NOW YOU IDIOT (my body tends to talk to me in all caps. Especially the words EAT THAT). This is the discomfort level you feel when you push harder, faster, stronger (did I cover the entire Olympic creed here?). I do like the philosophy that says: "pain is just your body getting stronger," but uh-hu--you tell my glutes that on a 6 mile run, okay? Do you think they are listening?

As a species, we humans are designed to avoid pain and discomfort, not embrace it. Back in the day, our ancestors experienced discomfort when they ran fast after a deer, or threw a large something very hard at a bird, but they didn't do that for fun and fitness. That was either dinner, or no dinner. Today, our biggest calorie expenditure in hunting dinner is often punching out the number for the pizza delivery.

Since we have evolved into having easier food availability (most places. I am very aware of hunger still in America and elsewhere), we have lost the caloric expenditure and discomfort of having to chase it down. The math no longer works for us.

Therefore, we are now required to experience discomfort by CHOICE. We elect to pound out the miles, churn the water, hammer the bike pedals, grunt through the crunches. All for the right reasons of course, but sometimes you gotta wonder about evolution. Can you imagine a 15th century barbarian watching one of us flail away on the treadmill and think....they pay good copper for doing that?

Everyone has seen what I have dubbed the Easy Goer. The Easy Goer arrives at the gym, or the track, or the pool, hair and makeup perfectly in place (and that goes for the girls, too). They climb on the recumbant bike (always a big hit for Easy Goers) or the treadmill, and then pedal along at 8 mph or walk at 2.4 mph while paging through a fashion magazine and talking on the cell. After about 15 minutes, they wipe their forward with their matching towel, and go home.

Part of me says, well, at least they are doing SOMETHING. And something is better than nothing, right? And maybe they are also suffering from injury, or illness.

The other part of me--that part that likes to read Stephen King novels-says, oh come on now. Why bother?

Every workout--hard or easy, fast or slow--has a threshold where your body says "it would be nice to stop doing this now." And you have to be able to tell it to shut up, or dial up your iPod to drown it out (good song for that: Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy"). Not every workout is redline hard, certainly, but even an easy workout involves breaking a sweat and a little effort. An ultramarathoner doing a 30minute easy recovery run does not talk on the cell during the exercise. Trust me.

If all you ever do in your workouts is stop when your body gets a little tired, you are not doing yourself any favors. Workouts do range from easy to hard, and easy IS certainly easy, but it's not zero effort.

Last night I suffered throught Survivor: The Bike Ride. It was supposed to be a 90 minute easy ride. Easy does not mean walking the bike up hills, or stopping and pushing when the wind blows 30 mph into your face. It means spin easy, but still get the ride accomplished. Since it was 104 heat index out there last night, with a 30 mph wind, and since I was already tired from a long hard day at work, and since I was also taking antibiotics that made me want to upchuck on my cool new Bontrager water hydration system, there was discomfort on the ride. There was pain. There were times I wanted to quit. But I got the ride done, and actually went a little faster than I thought I was going. I can't say the ride was fun. But you leave bad workouts behind and move on.

So happy, getting stronger.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

No Time

When I tell friends that I work out six days a week--between 45 minutes and an hour and a half on weekdays, and between two and three hours each weekend day--some of them are simply shocked. Shocked, I tell you! They shake their heads and say that I must be some kind of ...(fill in the blank....superstar, idiot, alien).

Yet...if I said to everyone that I watched TV or surfed the 'net between 45 and 90 minutes per day....I'll bet no one would even blink. In fact, that is way below the national average of FOUR HOURS a day of TV watchin' for us Amurikans.

I probably spend about an hour each day on the 'net (non-work related), and maybe an hour every week watching TV (that increases during football season, I will admit). I don't really like TV all that much, and I'm not too much of a 'net surfer, unless it's cruising community chat sites or looking for stuff to buy to feed my triathlon habit. I actually have a Facebook page, which I diligently check about once a month after I get enough reminders that someone REALLY WANTS to be my friend, and now and again I will check for some good liberal stories to make my Republican blood tingle.

Other than that, TV and the 'net kinda don't hold my interest for long. I have a busy career that takes me from 40-55 hours a week, a family (that does include a VERY Patient Spouse), other hobbies (I like to train my dogs in agility and field, I like to go dancing, I like the movies, I like to travel) and I love, love, LOVE to read. Books. Real ones with paper that you can hold in the swimming pool without worry of them getting wet and sparking out on you (okay, I really don't mind Kindles. I don't have one yet. I probably will some day).

So...although I have a very busy schedule in my life (my mom warned the Patient Spouse when we got engaged to "not to try and keep up with her." He doesn't), I find plenty of time to work out and still have time to do the laundry, cook some meals, make the grocery runs, walk the dogs, have brunch with friends, and even change the oil.

I am always amazed at the amount of time other people spend on the computer (they keep sending me, or asking me for, things like goats and cows on Facebook and I always feel terrible that I don't traffic in internet animals) or watching stuff on TV that really isn't even that interesting to them (I am not telling on the Patient Spouse, because guys really do need some zone time, and most zone time for guys is spent watching reruns of Seinfield). I don't expect everyone to be like me, but if you want to find the time to work out, something's gotta go, at least a little bit. Unless you are a second year law associate in a Wall Street firm with five kids under the age of 7 who all go to different schools, you really CAN find the time to work out. "I don't have the time" is not good enough for an excuse. We all get the same 24 hours.

I'll bet that most athletes who are training for long distance races (Ironmans (TM), 70.3s, marathons, etc.) AND who have full time jobs have their TVs and home computers gathering cobwebs too. Not that there is anything wrong with TV (I adore House, and I love HGTV-- when I do watch, it's usually sports or HGTV) or the computer (no computer? blog. Bad idea). We just have other things to do with a lot of our time.

If the average American gave up three hours of TV a week--that's not a huge amount--think of what he or she could do with that time. Take a walk, bake a cake, visit a friend, run 10 miles....!

Last night I left work about 5:45 p.m. I got to the gym at 6:45 (yes, I also have a terrible commute to take up even more of my time). I warmed up and ran 45 minutes from 7 to 7:45, cooled down and stretched, and then did a grocery store run. I sat down to dinner (grilled a steak and some zuchinni, and cut up some watermelon) at 9, and was ready for the sack by 10:15 after running a load of wash. Fortunately, I have a Patient Spouse and kids who are older; if that were different, I would have done the run at 5:30 in the morning instead (tomorrow morning's swim will be at that time because I have dog agility class tomorrow night). It was a good, steady, slow paced run --kept my heart rate low and didn't ever stop--and I cheated and went indoors since the heat index at 6:45 p.m. was 101 degrees (a heat index over 100 is my personal limit for running outside).

Tonight's a bike ride for 90 minutes post work in the blast furnace. Followed by a Costco trip. You spend all this money on your bike stuff, you gotta save on the groceries somewhere! I heart Costco. Perhaps I can give Costco away on Facebook?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Enter a Race!

I love to tell people what to do. This is why I became a lawyer. It's one of the few professions you can enter (besides medicine, which means you have to take the "math" path in college, rather than the "no math" path) where you can mouth off all day long, and get paid for it (sometimes).

Motivation in working out is a strange animal. It comes and goes, and sometimes when it goes, it goes so far away you can't see it with binoculars. Losing weight and staying healthy are great motivators. However, sometimes when the 5 a.m. alarm for your morning run does battle with the warmth of the down pillow, the down pillow takes no prisoners.

Nothing--and I mean NOTHING--motivates you as much as entering a race or event. Be it a 5K or a full Ironman (TM) triathlon, as that date looms closer on your calendar, you will find an amazing way to spring out of bed with that alarm and get your running shoes on. Therefore, I mandate that everyone who wants to keep motivated must enter a race or event. Today. I mean, not tomorrow. So what if you can only run a quarter mile of a 5K. Go enter one, and plan to train to run a half of a mile for it before race day.

Here's how you enter a race or event:

1. Find an event. It's easy to find races (from 5Ks to ultramarathons) in the World of Al Gore's Internet. has a list of all kinds of events. In addition, if you will just go to Google and type in your state and the word "sprint triathlon" or "5K"--for example, those of you in Iowa (a shout out to my inlaws in Rockwell City IA) can type in "10Ks in Cedar Rapids IA" and lo and behold you will get a long list of events to come up.

I like to enter an event early enough to give me time to prepare, but not so far away that I feel I can slack for awhile. This can be difficult if you are choosing to run a marathon or a long distance triathlon, because you will probably need some long preparation, but you can enter smaller, shorter events in the interim. For example, I'm going to do my 70.3 triathlon in April-May 2011, but that is too far away to even get sweaty palms about yet. So I'm signed up to do a sprint triathlon on Labor Day, and also plan to do a half marathon in December. Since the sprint is only six weeks away, I'm starting to motivate already for that one. I'm eager to improve my times from last year in all four areas (including transitions).

Enter early enough as well to miss any numerical cutoffs. Many triathlons and marathons have a number limit. Some popular ones fill up within hours of opening.

Some events require that you qualify at a another event before you can enter--like the Chicago Marathon or Ironman (TM) Kona. But you weren't entering those anyway, right?

2. Research the event. Look at reviews on the previous races. Check out the race site and course maps (if they are up; sometimes course maps don't get published early enough for me). Is it hilly on the bike or run? Is the swim in a lake, river, ocean, or pool? How many aid stations and what do they offer? Do the reviews say the race is disorganized, or too hard, or too crowded? What's the weather like that time of year--hot, cold, rainy? Will the water be wetsuit legal? Do they have great post race snacks? (Hey--always important). Decide what type of race is best for you at this time of your life, and enter it. PS don't always just enter the "easier" races, except for your first ones. Push your goals a bit at a time harder and longer each time. Perhaps you will start out with a sprint tri with a pool swim, or a run-walk 5K for a good cause, and then move up to a longer sprint distance with an open water swim, or a 5K with more hills, and so on.

Right now, I am having difficulty deciding on my 70.3 race in 2011. I'd love to do the 70.3 Hermann Memorial in Galveston. I was born in Galveston and salt water still flows in my veins. The course is flat (nb: the only hill in Galveston is a bump near the seawall that housed an old Civil War bunker, and that was affectionately known in the 60's as "Boss A Go Go"--what a 60's name!--and that as a youngster, was considered Mount Everest in our minds and for our bikes. Recently, I visited Galveston and was amazed at how much the hill--now a site of a four star hotel--had shrunk in 45 years). The temperature is usually moderate. The race organization is awesome (it's a very big race), the T shirts are cool, the area is lovely. However, there are some downsides: the water IS salt (which helps in bouyancy, but when you are considering partially consuming 1.2 miles worth of it, is not so good to the gastric system during the 13.1 mile run), the wind is usually simply brutal, the humidity can be nasty, and it's a very, very crowded and popular race. I entered it last year in the Olympic division and they ended up canceling the swim due to thunderstorms and high winds (it's always a bad sign when all your marker bouys blow away). I ended up bagging the race and doing a Denton area Olympic tri four weeks later--more hills, less wind, no salt water, and no cancelation. But very hilly and very hot. Still, I'm debating--salt water versus fresh, lots of wind versus lots of hills, humid but temperate versus hot. Someday soon I have to make up my mind.

3. Enter the event. You can enter nearly every event on line from your chair. If you are entering a triathlon, you will need to be a USAT member or buy a one day USAT membership before you enter. For most running races, you'll just need a credit card and your T shirt size. Enter it. Do it. Life's short and it gets shorter every day.

For most pool swim triathlons, you will be seeded by your estimated swim time. Be honest. Don't lie. It's annoying to be waiting in line to get in the pool and see people in front of you doing the mega-slow sidestroke who should have been at the end of the line. Plus, you will get run over if you overseed your time. Maybe by me. Definitely by the Patient Spouse, who tends to blow it all out on the swim, and then spend the bike and run portions cussing at himself for doing just that.

4. Tell everyone you entered the event. This is a crucial step. You must publicize your entry to the world. So if you even entertain the mere thought of not going through with it, you will have some 'splaining to do. Great motivator.

5. Get ready for the event. Obviously, you will need to train for your event. Your training should be based on whether you entered this for fun (which I recommend you do for any first time event) or for a bit of a challenge that is still fun. Even if it's just for fun, you need to be in some kind of reasonable condition to do the event. Even walking a 5K requires some motor power from your feet and lungs. Get out there and get ready. Then, before the event, do a taper. Depending on the size and nature of your event, this can be a 10 day to 1 day ease off in reduction and volume of training to get your body prepared for its max efforts on race day (this is not a cessation of training--far from it--but a reduction. If you just quit training you will be flat on race day).

Plan your hydration and nutrition for the event (will they have goodies and water for you? I found out--Terry's Hard Way again-- in one half marathon that they offered nothing to eat, only sports drink, and my system needs a carb boost after 10 miles of running).

Check your gear and make sure it's ready. Don't try or wear anything new on race day or even the week before. Clean your bike, check your goggles, check your shoes and sunglasses. Charge your iPod (music players not permitted by the way in triathlons, but permitted in many types of foot races).

6. Do the event. This should be the easiest part! Find out from the website about packet pickup (many races do NOT permit same day packet pickup. EVERY triathlon requires you to pick your packet up in person--no sending the spouse for it), parking, what time to arrive. For your first events, get there earlier than you think you should. You may end up having 45 minutes to wander around and feel nervous, but it's way better than dashing in with five minutes to set up transition, use the portalet, and find the start line, only to realize you forgot your goggles back in the car.

During the event, just relax and enjoy the day. Unless you are an elite, this is what you are doing for fun and fitness. Push yourself--if any time requires it, this is the time, leave nothing on the course, use it all up--but don't kill yourself. Finish with a smile on your face and arms thrust high for the camera. Whether you come in first or last, it doesn't matter to anyone--you finished. You are a triathlete or a runner.

7. Brag about doing the event. Oh, gosh, buy a finish line photo, wear your medal, wear that T shirt until it falls apart. Tell everyone about it, post it on Facebook, start a blog, host a dinner. Go out to lunch afterwards at your favorite place to celebrate (eat sensible. No sense in blowing your good workout immediately).

8. Repeat 1-7 above as often as necessary.

Having said all that, I had a pool workout last night where I simply could NOT get motivated to push harder than a slow slog. Consequently, my main set of 4 x 400's was slower than I wanted. If I want to improve my swim time on the Labor Day sprint tri, I have to get myself in a bit higher gear. I did my 2300 yard workout, but it wasn't my fastest or crispest. Then again, I know to leave a bad workout behind me and move forward. A 45 minute run tonight--indoors on the track to ease my hamstring back into gear after hiking the Tetons. Hopefully I will be more charged tonight than last night.

Go enter a race. Today.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Out of Towners

Great movie. Twitter version: Jack Lemmon sleeping in Central Park fighting a dog over discarded Crackerjacks. You have to be over 50 to even know about this movie.

Anyway. Working out while on vacation, or traveling for any reason, has its upsides and downsides. For example, this was me on Friday (my 53rd birthday), in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, doing a 2.65 mile run:

Me (being passed by a very fit runner lady, who I later found out was 77 years old): "Where--wheeze--do you---wheeze--guys keep--gasp--the oxygen--wheeze--in this--gasp--state?"

Very Fit Old Lady: "mzzzzzpppp" (as she whizzed by me).

Working out at higher altitudes has its joys: it was cool and I was running in the shadow of the Tetons. It also has the pain of having no air to spare, since I wasn't up there long enough to acclimate. But I tried hard and managed a 2.65 mile run in 30 minutes, at which time I headed for the birthday cake and oxygen tank.

In the last 4 years, I've always worked out on vacation or business/personal travel trips. Back when I was just a runner, this was sorta easy. You packed your running shoes, your Garmin (you gotta know your distance in a strange location), and some running clothes, and then you just ran. I have run on the deck of a cruise ship (interesting feeling), in Alaska, on the beach path in Hawaii, down a trail in BC Canada, on rainy streets in San Antonio and even down the strip in Las Vegas. Have Nike Air Zooms, will travel. Worst case scenario is that you find a treadmill in your hotel gym and pound it out for awhile.

However, it's harder to work on the bikey-swimmy stuff away from home. You can do the gym bike if you are at a hotel that has a gym (I'd rather give myself a Tabasco enema--because that is what a gym bike feels like to me--but it's better than not working out at all), or you can borrow a bike (usually too big), rent a bike (we did that in Alaska), or even bring your bike or ship it in advance (a lot of PIA and some cost). To swim, you gotta have a pool or an accomodating lake (hint: not in Wyoming, or Alaska) or calm ocean (hint: great place for socean wimming is the Carribean in St. Marteen). But you can at least run, and maybe swim, and maybe do a little biking. If you are serious about working out, you go out and do your workout in the morning and fall into the beach chair with the mai tai later on in the day.

In addition, a lot of vacations offer other things to do that won't hurt your workout routine. Kayaking (we did this in Alaska--great upper body stuff), hiking, horseback riding, skating, skiing, snowshoeing--get out there and do stuff. Every day if you can handle it, maybe leave one day to collapse by the pool. BE ACTIVE.

We spent 3 full days in Jackson Hole WY visiting my sister last week. We arrived late Wed night. On Thursday, we did an 8 hour fly fishing trip which was awesome (good upper body workout!). On Friday, I did my wheeze run in the morning and that afternoon we took a short 4.5 mile hike. On Saturday, we did a six hour 10 mile hike that was pretty strenuous. My right calf muscle is telling me about it right now. I took yesterday off, and today I'm back in the thick hot air of Texas, and going swimming tonight. It was beautiful up there, and being outside was just wonderful. I am so lucky to be able to move around, hike, walk, run, fish--and part of my working out is to keep it that way. My 63 year old sister hiked circles around me, by the way.

Oh! And for my birthday I got some new bike gadgets:

1. A bento box for the front tube of the bike. This small velcro box sits on the front tube and holds gels, candies, cookies, bars--whatever you will need to get to without getting down off the bike, or even reaching back into your pocket (when I do that, I drop things).

2. A new Cat Eye wireless bike computer with a cadence monitor. This little baby tracks your rpms, or pedal strokes. An important aspect of biking is to keep your cadence fast, rather than pumping hard and slow on the pedals. A monitor helps show you when your cadence drops so you can either pick up the pace or gear to an easier gear. Yes, I know, sometimes there ISN'T an easier gear. I try to gear down to an non existant gear all the time, okay?

3. A Bontager water hydration system for between my aerobars up front. This means I won't have to lean down to grab my water bottle and then drop it or spill it or lose control while trying to put it back. I can simply grab the straw with my teeh and take a drink while pedaling along. My only worry is something my mother would have said: "can you put your eye out on that straw?" Probably not; it's pretty flexible and I AM wearing sunglasses. I'll bet a guy wouldn't worry about that.

I also got a gift certificate to a sports store where I intend to load up on some Ironman socks. Those are the best socks I can find--thin, breathable, and easy to put on wet feet post swim. I wish they made them in more colors than they do, but I guess this is one where function beats form any day.

Triathletes are sooooo easy to shop for!

Happy vacationing--go out and be active wherever you go!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

After the fall

Everyone is gonna fall down sooner or later (hopefully, not on TV where you have to shout that you can't get up). You started out as a toddler going crash and boom and now that you have graduated to adult toys, you are simply going to have to accept the fact that one day, you will meet asphalt/concrete/dirt/rocks in an unpleasant manner. Just looky at the Tour d' France guys. A primo ad for bandaids.

Most falls happen on a bike. Some will happen on a run--yes, I've fallen nicely while running. I guess you could fall when swimming but I'm trying to picture how. Maybe on your way to the pool or while getting out (as we get older, those nice ladders look way more interesting than the hoist up on the side from the hips action. What's really funny--or not--is when you try that move and fail. Like I have. Several times. In a row).


My big running crash was about 3 years ago. I was in training for my first half marathon and had a 7 mile run scheduled that day. It was not starting out to be a good day for running; it was a warm day in late February (this is Texas. We can get 90 degree days in February, okay? Just remember that we also get 110 degree days in July and you can feel better about all of that). I had obligations that morning so the run was in the afternoon; not my favorite time of day to run and especially not when it's warm. I was already tired as well, but the show must go on. I strapped on my Garmin and my running shoes and headed out the door.

I had already decided to take a little bit different route for my run than before. I lived (back then) out in the boonies and there was a little dirt/rock road that branched off of my main running road that looked quite intriguing. I had walked a bit of that road the other day and the dirt looked firm and dry and inviting to someone who is always searching for a way to avoid asphalt pounding.

So off I went to Adventureland, trotting down this new road under these huge trees and enjoying myself immensely, or as much as you can enjoy yourself while running tired in the heat of the day. For about a mile this semi euphoria lasted. Then the road started deteriorating on me, and rapidly. First there were the huge ruts from the latest Bubba off roading parties that I had to dodge. Then the rocks became more numerous and larger, followed by large water filled holes everywhere.

A smart runner (nb: not me) would have turned around at this point and gone back to the old, asphalt route, but no, I was determined that this would get better if I just stuck out the bad parts.

I was ruminating on whether the bad parts were ever going to end when somehow I stepped in a hole, on a rock, through a rut--doesn't matter, but suddenly I was no longer vertical but was headed for the ground.

OF COURSE I put out my hand to block my fall and I hit the dirt/rock/gravel hard, taking a full Nelson twist and saying words that do not make themselves for repetition on a blogsite.

When I stopped the dryer tumble, I was sitting up with a broken Garmin dangling from my wrist (fortunately it had taken the majority of the impact rather than my arm. However, the owner's manual does not advise doing that) and both my knees were scraped raw and bleeding hard. I scrambled up, found nothing broken, and assessed the damage.

I was 1.5 miles from home, and I still had 4.5 miles to do if I was going to finish my scheduled run. Determined (read: crazy), I folded my broken-strap Garmin (which by the way, I fixed later with one of those black plastic ties, and thus it serves me today in that fashion) into my fuel belt, wiped off my knees with my (dirty) hands, and started running again. Yeah, now I noticed a definite twinge to my right knee. But I'm not quitting.

About a half mile later, I encountered the Wolf Pack. Okay, they were actually Minature Pinchsers, but there were SEVEN of them charging me all at once, maddened I am sure by the sight and smell of my blood, if not the Gu gel in my belt. This was the boonies, no leash laws (not that such things ever make a difference to some people) and no owner in sight. One dadgummed little donut of a dog latched its teeth INTO MY SHOE as I tried to hobble past. Instinctively I lashed out a Chuck Norris high kick, sending this annoyance about 30 feet in the air just like an extra point in football. At which point the owner shows up (an overweight lady in a nightgown--now remember this was 2 p.m.) outside her trailer, hollering at me to NOT HURT HER DOGS, DADGUMMIT. Which are still charging me and showing their teeth.

I'm a dog person. I have six of my own (on a leash or behind a fence). I'm bleeding, my knee is singing Ave Maria, and there are six small rats snapping at my heels. I do the wise thing and simply decide this is the time and place for a fartlek, and thus I hit high gear and run away from all this hysteria, forgetting for a moment that I will need to GO BACK THAT WAY to get home.

I outpace the pack, stop to take a drink and re-assess the situation. I decide to keep running. And it's getting hot now, about 90 degrees, and my knees are streaming blood down into my shoes. And now I realize I have to run back through the Wolf Pack.

About 4 miles into this run, I've had enough. I rip out my phone and call my husband to come get me. Now. I'm bleeding all over the road here.

My husband then informs me that he just tore his ACL playing basketball.

It was a long night.

(PS yes, I did recover and run the half marathon, and no, I never ran down that road again).


Bike falls are generally more tramautic in nature because (a) it's a longer way down and (b) you are going faster. Now there are bike falls that happen because you forgot to unclip and you topple over at a stoplight (always a spectator thrill), but the majority of Bad Bike Falls come when you are going fast. This is why you wear a helmet.

I was crusing around White Rock Lake one very windy afternoon (wind was gusting up to 40 mph) and I was headed down to the aerobars from an upright position. I was still not totally comfortable on the bars, and getting from Point A (upright) to Point B (folded over like an envelope with your elbows steering) involves some, well, balance. I socked left elbow into the cup and was on my way down with right elbow when a particularly nasty blow of wind gusted and simply twisted my handlebars 180 degrees (that would mean they were facing me, not a good thing when you are cruising down a small hill about 18 mph). I had time to yell "this is gonna hurt!" (as if that were news), my feet yanked upwards trying vainly to defy the clips, and I went head over teakettle onto the concrete, striking with my shoulder first and my knee second and doing a complete somersault away from the bike.

It took a moment for me to blink and realize I was mostly still intact, although my shoulder felt like it had been hit by a NFL linebacker. I sat up and told myself "you're all right" (my favorite mantra, even if it's not true). I didn't move much more than that, however, and I couldn't assemble my thoughts long enough to stand up, look at my bike, or look at my knee (same knee as the run! 4 years later!). Some kind runner (thank you) stopped and asked if I was okay (of course I said yes. I lied). He fortunately didn't believe me and helped me to my feet, and then picked up my bike (oh yeah, the bike!). It had a crooked front wheel that he straightened with his bare hands (this was not a young dude, and if I wasn't already married to the most wonderful man in the universe, I would have married him right then) and suggested I go clean up my knee, and my shoulder, both of which were oozing things not appropriate for a bike ride.

Yet, I was halfway 'round the lake already. I could turn around (4 miles back) or keep going (4.5 miles forward) to get to my car. I choose to get on the bike and keep going. I was wobbly and sore, but I managed to get to the car. This was six weeks before my first Olympic triathlon. I was Not Happy.

I ended up with a Grade 2 shoulder separation (nasty thing and it limited my swimming for about 30 days) and a lot of ugly road rash. What I also ended up with was a healthy dose of FEAR of FALLING.

For about four weeks, I was unable to go down on my aerobars at all. I was afraid of falling again. Finally, I was able to force myself down, but only for a little bit at a time. Any rut, shadow, person, car, dog, bird, squirrel, wind, leaf, or grass clipping in my vision would cause me to sit up in panic and grab for the normal handlebars. I was also afraid to go fast. I would feather the brakes on big downhills and slow down dramatically on turns and whenever I saw something/someone that might be a crash potential. Not six weeks later I nearly had another spill when a clueless walker stepped right in front of my bike, which didn't help my mindset too much.

I'm mostly recovered from the willies now, although not completely. I'm now back on my aerobars most of my ride, I now arrow down the hills and am taking my turns more aggressively. Still, the memory of The Fall is very clear in my mind. I still find fear on some steep downhills and sharp turns. I read that a little fear increases your edge, but I'd like it to be a little less than I have now.

Still, I grit my teeth when I'm feeling anxious on the bike and just go for it. Life's short. Push the pedals. Do, or do not. Yoda and all.

Friday night was a 2000 easy swim, Saturday was off (weight training), Sunday was an easy brick and yesterday was a 5 mile long run at an easy pace--it was hot and humid at 6:45 a.m. and I broke a record for sweating. Tonight is a short bike and we leave tomorrow for Wyoming and cooler weather for a couple of days. I'll be off training other than running, although we will be hiking quite a bit, including one difficult and long hike.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Super Bike Stuff

OK, I've previously laid out all my swim and run stuff that I think is cool, useful, and of course not cheap (with some limited exceptions), and now it's time to look at my bike stuff.

I don't want to discuss bikes themselves, as they are a whole novel of discussion, but the stuff that goes on them, around them, with them, and on me when I'm on them. Bikes are the most expensive part of a triathlon program, and the stuff you have to have to ride them comes pretty darned close to second place in the Foolish Ways to Spend Money Category.

But, let's really be honest here, bikes are kinda fun. If you can get past the not-so-fun parts of grinding (er, spinning) your way up hills, it's still a kid-like rush to whiz down one, wind whipping in your face and your white knuckles grabbing the handlebars (areobars, brakes, whatever) as scenery rushes by you.

Here are some of the things I have for cruising around on my bike (a used Trek 2300 road bike with excellent components and wheels, sniped on eBay for me by Patient Spouse for $800):

1. Clothes and shoes. Anyone who has never ridden a bike more than 10 miles may laugh at the stuffed potato pants or shorts worn by smart bikers. Those of us in the know wear them proudly, and on occasion, backwards (like I did accidentally last week). That gel pad at the bottom really does help the back end, and the older you are, the more helpful it seems to get. Now, in a triathlon race, most athletes wear tri shorts which don't have that Saturday Night Live bulging pants gel, but a smaller chamois pad which allegedly still helps the nether ends, but doesn't weigh you down on the swim and run. Jury's out IMO on whether that narrow little chamois pad helps all that much. I can assure you that the bulging gel pack DOES help.

On training rides (not races) I wear a pair of bulging pad bike shorts (I also have a long pair of bulging gel pad bike tights for colder days). The Patient Spouse seems to have a tougher behind and usually wears form fitting spandex run shorts without a pad and manages to survive with a smile on his face. For triathlon races, I wear the tri shorts. Which means about every 12 miles in the race I have to stand up in the pedals for about half a minute and let blood flow come back into the important areas.

Cycling tops (jerseys) are often colorful, and for a very good reason. We want that person who is texting and eating lunch while speeding in his (or her, to be fair) SUV down our streets to SEE US. Most jerseys are short or long sleeved rather than sleeveless (although there are sleeveless ones, and I like to wear them in the hot Texas summers) to help protect the rider from bugs, sunburn, road debris, and the occasional tumble (had I been wearing a jersey with sleeves when I took my epic fall in March, I would not have this lovely long lasting road rash scar on my shoulder). Most jerseys have a zip up front to lower or raise your flag depending on the heat, and all have handy dandy pockets in the back for storing phones, Kleenex, gels, dollar bills, car keys, or your get out of jail free card (you didn't think there was gonna be room in those tight shorts, did you?). Cycle jerseys are made from synthetic wicking material to dry fast and keep you cool.

Do you have to have a fancy cycle jersey to ride? Well, of course not. I'd stay away from the COTTON again, but your running shirts can do double duty if you don't mind no handy dandy pocket in the back (and I have a couple of running shirts that do have those pockets, but they tend to be pretty small in nature).

If you have clip pedals (the kind where your shoes fasten into them), you will need specialized clip in cycling shoes. These make awesome clopping noises when you walk on them. Clip in pedals are not necessary--a lot of bikes still have straps and cages for your normal running shoes--but our friend Mr. Science indicates that you will go faster and more efficiently with clip ins, which causes you to pedal that whole circle 'round (up AND down) rather than just mashing down on the pedal. Straps and baskets help, but they are not as efficient. And nothing beats the spectator amusement of watching someone clipped into pedals forget that simple fact (I love to fall over at stoplights at zero speed, like Arte Johnson in Laugh In, because I forget I have to unclip before I can put my foot down. Even though unclipping is fast and simple--just a twist of the foot--your brain just doesn't want to accomplish it when you are in a hurry).

Socks--I like thin socks for both biking and running (and in triathlons, you often go sockless to save time in shorter races, but in longer ones, I do wear socks). In the winter, I have warmer biking socks because your feet can just get wicked cold on that bike.

Helmet--only really, really, REALLY stupid people bike without a helmet. We all fall down--even the best and most careful bikers. Why would anyone want to risk eating their meals through a tube the rest of their lives because a helmet looks or feels dorky? All races and bike rallies require a helmet. Find one in neat colors. No, you don't have to wear those long ended specialized aerodynamic ones that make you look like ET. They do shave a little time off, but it's so minimal that people like you and me don't need to bother. Wear a helmet. Always. And if you have a fall on it, replace it immediately.

Gloves. I like wearing bike gloves (these are fingerless models with a cushion of fabric or gel on the hands) because they help reduce vibration on my hands AND they keep a firm grip on the bars when I'm sweaty (I sweat with my hands more than anywhere else, I swear). Patient Spouse does not like gloves. It's up to you. For winter, I wear full finger gloves as your hands get almost as cold as your feet up there.

Sunglasses. Always. Bugs, dirt, and road crap in your eyes is not pleasant.

2. Lights. Did I mention that we want you to be SEEN on the bike? Well, add the flashing lights here. I always have a rear red light and I always turn it on to flash when I ride (most bike lights have lots of flashing choices, so it's fun to play with them). If you plan to ride in the dusk, a front white light is good too. Then add some reflectors to your wheels, and you still need to be careful out there. Drivers aren't looking for you, and Texas is still not a bike friendly state.

3. Carry packs and water cages. Although those handy pockets on your jerseys hold a lot, they can't hold everything on a long bike. I have a bike pack that sits neatly behind my bike seat, velcroed in place, that holds some repair gear, my phone (again, turned off: I have bike dialed people by accident before), a gel, and some cash (trust me: cash is still king. It spends everywhere). You can't get to the bike pack while you are riding, but stopping is not difficult (if you remember to unclip first). The bike shops also carry these neat little "bento boxes" that fit on top of your top bar with velcro (God bless them man who saw cockleburrs on his socks = velcro)and you can reach into that during your ride without stopping (carefully of course). I don't have one yet but am thinking of one. Currently, during triathlons, I tape a gel pack on the top handlebar because it's easier to reach than my back handy pocket (having dropped one in a training ride before doing that). A bento box may be just the thing.

You'll need to hydrate during your ride, so water bottle cages are needed. At least one, and maybe two (I have two). Underneath your bike is the best place; there are the type of cages that go on the back behind your seat but IMO they rattle and the bottles can fall out. The water bottles you buy for those cages should be insulated and with an easy top that pulls open with your teeth. You can, of course, stash a plain plastic Ozarka bottle in a cage (it won't fit well) but opening it during riding is tough, and it also will get very warmish on you. Invest in a good insulated bottle. Paint some interesting mantras or things on it to make it special (so when you lose it or drop it in a race where you don't feel like stopping to get it, you will feel really, really terrible). I have asked Patient Spouse for a water bottle system that fits between my aerobars as a birthday gift next week (some wives ask for jewelry. Me? A plastic water container with a really long straw). That will allow me to sip my beverage of choice without coming up off the bars and fumbling for my bottle every ten minutes.

4. Computer. High tech rules bikes; you gotta know how far you went, how fast you went, how much time it took you, and more. The standard bike computer measures distance, pace, average pace, and time (there are wired and wireless computers--the wired has little wires snaking down your bike--both work okay but one is cheaper than the other). However, you can also get computers that give you your cadence (how fast you pedal) and your power output. I really need to get one that has a cadence counter, and I will (one day). Maybe Christmas. Who needs jewelry.

5. Aerobars. No, you don't have to have aerobars on your bike (if you have a tri bike, you will have them anyway, but if you have a tri bike, you have more money than I do and you have more geegaws than I do). Mountain bikes and hybrids are not supposed to even consider having aerobars (although I'm of the opinion if it's your bike, do what makes you happy with it). Areobars are a triathlete's way of trying to avoid buying a triathlon specific bike and instead turning a perfectly good road bike into a slightly faster model that is steered with your forearms and a bit of old fashioned grit and fear.

Aerobars work if (a) you get you AND your bike fitted for them--this usually involves moving or changing your seat and seat post position, because the reason behind the areobars is to change your whole body position forward--if you just plop on the bars and lean over, you won't get the benefit) (b) if you intend to do a lot of triathlon racing, because the bars are not encouraged during large bike rallies as they are harder to steer and brake with in a crowd, and (c) you don't mind folding over like orgami with your brakes and gears no where near your hands, you don't mind losing a bit of steering control, you don't mind positioning your body forward over a thin strip of tire and metal, and you realize that sometimes you have to sit back up anyway when you just can't generate enough power up a hill in that position. With all that, you will shave some time off your bike if you do this right, but not so much that you will become Lance Armstong (who, like most pros, only uses bars during time trials, for all the reasons set forth above).

6. Fix it and ready it stuff. Bikes break. Chains fall off and rust. Tires implode. You will fall down and smash your derailer. If you are 20 miles from home, you had best be prepared for a little repair job by the roadside, even if you have a cell phone and your own Patient Spouse (who just may be riding beside you and no where near a car). In a triathlon race, you will have to fix your own stuff in order to keep racing (if you can't, they will come and get you, but your day is over).

Every biker needs to know how to change a flat, and should carry an extra tube, patching gear, and a pump or CO2 cartridge to do so. Any good bike shop can teach you how to fix a flat, or there are great videos on Practice it once at home in the calmness of your garage or driveway because when it happens out on a road with cars screaming by, it won't seem nearly as much fun. I carry a teeny weeny plastic zipbag (some earrings came in it--see? I do wear jewelry) with baby powder in my bike bag--baby powder really helps slip that newly tubed wheel back in the frame, because that is the hardest part (or you can use spit. No, really). A little hand pump that attaches (or again, velcroes) to your bike frame can be used to pump up your fresh tube, or a patched one. However, you can also buy CO2 cartridges that will inflate your tire in presto time (although they remind me of that balloon game KaBoom! that I hated as a child). Be sure and buy a nozzle adapter that fits your tire or you will be holding that cartridge wondering how to make its end go into anything that looks like a tire. Learned that one the hard way, like most of my lessons.

I also carry a small bike specific Allen wrench set for tightening most bolts on the bike (the seat and handlebars especially) if they come loose during a ride.

You'll also need these things at home or in the car: a big tire pump to pump your tires before every ride (have the bike shop tell you the right pressure for your tires), bike oil for your chain (PS when you oil it, PLEASE wipe off the excess or you will end up with an oily, dirty bike), and cleaner/degreaser for your bike. You should clean your bike and chain completely every 100 miles or every time it gets wet (rust is not your friend). Some old rags are also required to perform these services.

You may also want a bike rack for the car or truck (we have a double rack), and a chain lock for your bike if you intend to ride and then stop for a latte (put the chain through BOTH wheels and the bike frame, or you may come out to find the frame there and your wheels gone--or vice versa).

There, that wasn't a lot of stuff, was it? Ok, maybe it was. But biking is a fun sport and anyone of any reasonable ability or age can participate--it doesn't have to be a race. Go out for a Sunday ride (choose wide streets with more than one lane and stay on the right side, single file) as a family or group of friends. Pack some snacks or stop on the way at a place to eat and look at the day. Beats TV any day of the week.

Thursday was a day off. I did some planks, push ups, crunches. Tonight is a fairly short swim (2100 yards).