Finish Line 70.3

Finish Line 70.3
Finish Line 70.3

70.3 Finisher!

70.3 Finisher!
70.3 Finisher

Monday, November 29, 2010


There comes a time (and of course, it happens more than once) when that nasty outlier named Doubt creeps into every athlete's mind.

No matter how good you are, how much in shape you are, or how fast you are, Doubt lurks in the back of everyone's head on certain days or certain workouts. OMG, you say, there is no freaking way I can (a) do this, (b) be ready for this, (c) finish this, (d) get there from here.

Half of the preparation for any race or event is mental. If you allow Doubt to come along with you as a guest rider or swimmer or runner, you are going to have a devil of a time finishing your race (or workout). Doubt is the stepchild of Lies, and he loves to sit on your shoulder (as if you needed that extra weight!) and tell you that you are simply incapable.

Banishing Doubt from your workout and race isn't easy. I know that at least twice a week I find myself saying "I can't .... (you fill in the blank--swim any faster, bike any faster, bike in a strong headwind, run uphill, etc.)." The minute I say it, I believe it. And my workout suffers because of it.

Patient Spouse is excellent about telling me to get rid of the negative thoughts and sayings. If something gets hard or I don't do as well as I want, then I can say: "this is hard. And I'm going to really, really make some progress doing it." Or "I'm biking pretty slow. I know I can speed up by just concentrating on my cadence." Or "the swim is pretty long. Good, because I gonna OWN this swim!" You get it. Sounds stupid when you say it out loud, trust me, but it really works. Don't kid yourself into thinking your brain can't kid itself, because it surely can.

On Thanksgiving I had a hard run. It was in Houston, and it was 82 degrees at 7 a.m. and about 340 percent humidity and the trail we went to was ALL little rollers of very steep nature (so much so that you couldn't ever enjoy a downhill because you were looking smack at the next steep uphill). I had 8 miles to crank out and I thought, boy, am I going to tank this run. Then I shook myself like one of my dogs and said to myself, I am going to KILL this run, by golly. And I ran 8 miles in less than a 12 minute mile doing run 8 walk 2 and never missed a beat.

The next day we biked 31 miles in a very stiff and strong north wind. I was disappointed in my speed--at one point I was biking at 12 mph into that wind and was yelling at myself -- literally, out loud--that I needed to bike 15.5 mph average on this 70.3 to make the time cut off and that I was a stupid weak biker who would never get any better. Well, I ended up averaging 14 mph for the ride, which isn't great, but then again, it was a strange trail where we slowed down or even stopped a lot for turns and entrances and people, and then there was this giant headwind for a lot of the ride. So I needed to go a bit easier on myself as I know in my heart that I am steadily improving on my bike every time I ride. I let Doubt come sit on the back of my back and it made a great and fun ride into something unpleasant.

Doubt is always there. It's our job not to let him into our program. We can politely show him the door and remind him that all of our hard work and training really does pay off, and handsomely.

Give Doubt the boot. I did.

Monday, November 22, 2010

How is the Weather?

I think the Turtles were an awesome rock group of my generation (soft rock, actually), plus they had a cool name. And their song "Happy Together" is simply a classic. Until you get to that strange tag line near the end where they croon, "how is the weather?" which I realize rhymes with "happy together" but otherwise makes absolutely no sense in this song. That is like sticking the phrase "can someone please call me a cab?" in the middle of Hey Jude. You would think the Turtles would be smart enough to figure out that maybe the word "forever," while not an exact rhyme, would go better with the happy together phrase. Then again, this WAS the 60s.

What the Turtles may not have realized, is that the tag phrase "How is the weather?" is a big one for athletes. Race day or training day we aren't going to stick our broken toenails outside until we know what we have to deal with regarding the elements. And we've also learned two things about the weather outside: you can't change it by complaining about it, and it's the same for everyone.

If all training or race days were 55 degrees, light south wind at 5 mph and a blue sunny sky, there would be no need for all this expensive gear we buy and fling on and off at random to try to cheat the weather gods. There would also be no need for weather forecasters, which, come to think of it, isn't in itself a bad thing, as it's one of two jobs in the universe where you can be 100 percent wrong 100 percent of the time and still keep the job (the other--you know it already--a financial forecaster). One thing I've learned by watching weather forecasts for five decades is that whatever they are predicting, it's going to occur 24-48 hours later than they predict it.

Of course, we can all go work out inside and discard the uncomfortable preamble of sticking our limbs out the front door to see what the wind and temp is like on any given day, but anyone who prefers to run on a treadmill or ride a spin bike gets what they deserve in other ways.

Here are some thoughts I've picked up about training in what I call Weird Weather:

Heat. Where I come from, if it's not hot, it's working on getting that way, at least 90 percent of the time. Here it is November 21 (yesterday) and my four mile run was in shorts and a sleeveless wicking tank and I left about six pounds of sweat on the road. In July, that temp in the early mornings can soar over 90 degrees before 9 a.m. We Texans know our heat. We run or bike in light colored clothing (it reflects heat, while darks clothing absorbs it) that is loose (for wind to vent inside). Socks are thin and moisture wicking. Sunscreen goes on immediately, and gets reapplied at mile 6 and 10 because no matter what they tell you, waterproof sunscreen doesn't really exist (which I suppose is fortunate, because you'd never be able to wash it off). Bike gloves become important (fingerless) to swipe sweat off your face and a headband helps catch the forehead drip. I don't run with a hat in the heat, because no matter how thin or cool the manufacturers swear it is, it makes me even hotter.

And of course, we all know that as your workout progresses and the sun gets higher, the hotter you will get. I've learned the hard way (like everything I learn, I swear I'm going to trademark that statement) that you don't wear a long sleeved tech shirt out to run 10 miles on a 50 degree day. You wear a short sleeved one and say brrrr for about half a mile.

Cold. I love running in the cold, but then again, cold in Texas is 35 degrees. I would imagine running in minus 10 isn't so much fun. And biking in the cold? Not so much fun either. But either way, I prefer to throw on the clothing and avoid the indoors if at all possible. I have running tights that I love, and I understand they come in various thicknesses. I have the least thick pair I could buy, because it doesn't get all that cold here in the south, and I've never had cold legs on a run but one time (a Turkey Trot where the wind was howling 25 mph from the north). I wear thicker socks on cold days, and open my laceloks up accordingly so my feet don't feel pinched. I have a great one piece long sleeved jersey with a hood that I like to wear and with the hood up and a hat on top, I'm usually pretty good in the neck and head department. I have worn gloves on really cold days, but my hands get hot before anything else does, and I always find myself stripping them off and stuffing them into my fuel belt or waistband after about 2 miles of running. I also have biking tights, but I find I need a lot more under protection on a windy cold bike ride than a run. This usually involves layering two shirts and my hooded jersey, and my full fingered bike gloves are a must on really cold days. I've looked at shoe covers for my shoes--and I think I'm putting them on an Xmas list, because cold toes are just no fun while biking.

There are also leg warmers and arm warmers which cover just part of the legs and arms and not the torso. I've not bought any, but although they look pretty funny, they seem to do a good job of keeping the areas warm that need warming. If I ever move out of the south, I'm buying some.

I haven't figured out what to do about a cold face though. I can't handle any kind of mask--I feel claustrophobic--although I have pulled a bandana over my nose --an old snow skier's trick--on a really cold New Year's Day bike ride, and it did okay, although it fogged up my sunglasses (just like in skiing). For my head, I wear my hood of my jersey under my helmet, although skullcaps are popular for the non-Harry Potter look.

I've not been swimming in terribly cold water, and my wetsuit has done a fine job on the cooler swims I've made. I know they make skullcaps for extra warmth, but again, there is simply nothing out there that's gonna save your face from the cold water. I have heard a thin layer of Vaseline helps, but I've not been forced to try that. Yet.

Rain. I love running in rain. Now, when I say that, I mean gentle rain when it's not windy or cold and the rain is just misting down and you think, oh, this is fun, or at least you do until you trip over your first giant water puddle and soak your shoes. No, seriously, I see no reason to take my run indoors in a light rain. I'm more careful where I put my feet, but I am not going to melt.

I do have a sort of waterproof running/biking jacket I got from Brooks Running. Now, true waterproof clothing for athletes is hard to find. The main reason is pure waterproof means no breathing, and there is nothing more delightful than running or biking in a garment that doesn't breathe, because it's like wearing a sauna suit (this is why you avoid cotton for working out). Most of the times running/biking rain gear is water resistent, not waterproof, which means it will repel a little rain or mist up to a certain point, but if the heavens open, you are gonna get wet. I have not had the opportunity to try this jacket out in a downpour yet. It seems to work pretty well in the misty drizzle stuff and it doesn't seem to act like a non-breathing Hefty Bag. But I haven't really tested it out yet.

And dry your shoes out after a wet run. Even if it means blowing them dry with your hair dryer, there is nothing worse than trying to squeeze on damp shoes the next day. I find putting my shoes on top of the clothes dryer while doing a load works very well.

Biking in the rain is a whole 'nother matter. Biking in the wet frightens me. My tires are about the size of a line of toothpaste anyway, and the idea that such is all there is between me and a concrete divider makes me nervous on dry days, much less wet ones. I suppose I could take the hybrid out on really wet days with its knobbier tires, but for me, a rainy day means an indoor bike ride. Others are either smarter or more foolish than I, but everyone has to have a line in the sand. That's mine. If it rains on a race day, I'll gut it out, but I'm going to be bringing up the rear so badly you might as well put a basket and bell on my bike that day.

Exceptional triathletes have several different sets of bike wheels for different weather conditions. These people don't have mortgages and children in college, I suspect. And there is nothing I hate more than changing out wheels on a bike.

I am going to assume that everyone knows not to run or bike in a thunderstorm. And if you get caught it one, to go seek shelter immediately under a bridge, culvert, parking garage, Jack in the Box, whatever. You want to run LIKE the lightning, not as part OF the lightning. When I run, I'm always aware on my routes of safety areas in case of bad weather and none are more than 2 miles apart.

Wind. As mentioned before, the wind she do blow here in the south. Hard. And nearly every day. I know wind is a good thing for windfarms, pollination, and sailors. Otherwise, I don't have much good to say about it.

Obviously, when it's cold, the wind makes it even colder. What I have trouble with is dressing warmly enough for the part of the run or bike INTO the wind, and when I turn around with the wind at my back, not sweating to death.

Something I learned about running and biking when it's really blowing out there. Secure your loose clothing. That sounds like a warning for a roller coaster ride, but I'm serious. Flapping jackets or shirttails can really cause a drag on your time. Tuck in and secure with velcro bands if need be (God's gift to athletes).

Snow/Ice. It really does snow here in Texas, maybe twice a year where I am. But not enough to make me an expert on it. I see photos of all these northern people out running and biking on snow covered roads and I think, you go, friends. I can assure you that if it snows a lot where I live, there will be no biking outside, because we don't own any plows. Running--I can see doing it in my trail shoes, on a known path, so long as my insurance is paid up.

The only thing I do with ice is put it in my drink.

So...with some exceptions, there is no reason to avoid working out in Weird Weather. Be friends with the weather. As the Turtles would say, be happy together.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feeding Frenzy

Lately I've been feeling like I'm either taking the Pepsi challenge or being the head taste tester at strange food fair. Less than five months out from my 70.3 (eeps, don't keep reminding me of the fact that my longest bike so far has only been 35 miles) I'm experimenting with all kinds of foods, gels, bars, etc. so that I know what sits best with me before, during and post workout to prevent bonking, upchuking, and passing out at the post race dinner. I'm sure I have driven various manufacturers mad as I order products from every possible source (what would we do without our internet?).

I'm not nearly done yet, as I have a goal to finalize my nutrition before Valentine's Day, thinking wisely that anything leftover might be crammed into a heart shaped box and served to the Patient Spouse (look, dear! Powerbars, Hammer Gels and --the piece d' resistance--a lint covered gummy bear!). Just kidding on that, of course. I think.

I have come to some interim conculsions, however, with regard to the Big Three: Pre Race (training) intake, during Race (training) intake, and Post Race (training) intake. One is that too much wine and homemade chili the night before a long run falls under the category of Slightly Bad Idea. Otherwise, here's what I've come up with so far:

Pre Race (training):

Oatmeal. I've read about the benefits of long cooking (steel cut) oatmeal from so many sources you would think that the nation's oat growners have some kind of cut they give to triathletes. I've been cooking myself oatmeal the last 3 weeks on weekends before I head out for my long run or brick. The benefits of oatmeal is that it is low glycemic and therefore lasts a long time in your system and also doesn't tie up your blood stream into your gut by requiring long and difficult digestion. It's also a great blend of carbs and protein (and as a side benefit, a good fiber source, although that is also one of the detriments to it).

I do notice when I cook and eat oatmeal that I am not generally craving "something else" about an hour into the run or bike; but that I can go up to about 90 minutes before my system demands a refueling. I also haven't thrown it up (always a good sign) or been forced to find a fast bush.

However, the detriments are first, it takes a freaking long time to cook steel cut oatmeal (30-45 minutes) and you really don't want to cook it the night before and try to rejuvenate it the next day (you could, however, use it as a handy glue around the house if you do that). Second, you need to wait about an hour or two after ingestion before your gut says it's okay to get out there (I've tried running 30 minutes post oatmeal ingestion. It's a recipe for a lot of feeling uck and run-burping, which would entertain your four year old but not so much yourself). So if you want to get up at 4:30 a.m., cook some oatmeal, eat it at 5:30 a.m., and go back to bed until 7 a.m. and then start your run at 7:30 a.m. you are gonna benefit like mad. Most of us don't have this luxury. However, oatmeal is on the list for possible race day breakfast, as you are always up and at em three to four hours before you start anyway. Just not for training.

Smoothies. I think smoothies and other stuff you put in a blender are awesome. I just don't like them first thing in the morning. First the blender makes a heckuva racket, which my just awakened ears find annoying, and then you are generally out of something that is supposed to go into the mix. Finally, even with the pre mixed powders, which still to me taste like Carnation Instant Breakfast from college, the smoothies just don't seem to stay with me on a hard workout. I find myself longing for something solid an hour later. Same thing with sports drinks. Although I use them on any work out longer than an hour during the workout, alone, they aren't enough to kick start me out of the gate.

Bars and gels. For early morning workouts, these guys are too full of dextrose and sugars for me. I need a bit more, what, "real food" in my system. They get me going but seem to peter out quickly and also can leave me with a headache. However, for late day workouts, these guys seem to do the trick better than anything else. I've fooled around with several bars, and for me, the lower protein Luna bars work best (around 8 g protein max) for a pre workout snack. On the way to a swim, bike or run from work, I'll down one of these babies 30 minutes before I start and I can go up to 90 minutes without needing to eat anything else, so long as I am sipping a sports drink during the workout. The Powerbars are also good, but they tend to have too high a protein content for me pre workout and I like them better post workout. I have just ordered Hammer bars for a test drive and I'll let you know. PS Yes I know Luna bars are geared toward women. Patient Spouse likes them, and trust me, he is all man.

My favorite. My favorite pre workout booster, whether morning or night, is a half bagel with chunky peanut butter. For some reason, that combo sits easily on my stomach and give me plenty of oomph. The bagel is whole wheat or cinammon, nothing with raisins or blueberries or vodka in it. It's not quite the exact carb/protein mix that the experts say is ideal, but it works for me.

2. During the Race (workout)

Once again, this is a work in progress still, but I have found several things I like and don't like during a long (over an hour) workout.

For workouts over an hour, I always sip a sports drink. I have tried four different kinds so far, and am still experimenting. So far, not to be outdone by the fact they sell it at Walmart, Gatorade still wins my vote. Not the reduced sugar kind, but the full monte. There are still several others I am going to try out and I may end up changing my mind, because sometimes Gatorade is well, too thick and sticky for me and I cut it 1/3 with VitaRain (Costco's cheap sugar free version of VitaWater). If my workout is between 60-90 minutes, usually a pre race snack and sports drink is all I need. Over 90 minutes and I'm looking for something else.

I've tried gels and bars during a long workout. Bars are just not something I can handle, even broken up in small pieces that stick the inside of my fuel belt when I've been sweating and have to be pried out. They just take too much energy to chew and swallow. I love them, but not in the middle of a run or bike. Gels are much easier to ingest, although just as messy and I always end up having to wash out my fuel belt because like a good citizen, I stick the empty gel packet back into my belt. I plan to stick with gels, but not by themselves, on my 70.3. So far I've found Hammer gels (cherry) and Accelgels (chocolate) to be my favorite; they don't seem to upset my system and they get the job done. I'm going to test a few more, however, just in case there is something that will make me go YEE HAH. You do have to drink a ton of water when you ingest a gel; and sometimes that is inconvenient on a run if you have just passed a water station so you have to plan it well.

My latest invention is a hard boiled egg (on the bike, not the run). I am borderline low blood sugar and thus my need for regular intake of protein is a bit higher than the average bear. Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, so the articles all warn you about taking in too much on a race as your body will shunt more blood from your feet, arms and heart to your gut to digest it. However, I can't do with pure sugars and carbs for a 7-8 hour race so I have to ingest some protein or I will get the funny shakes. Eggs have always sat well on my stomach and a hard boiled egg (cut in two, and salted and wrapped in saran wrap) comes in a pretty convenient size--much easier than carrying a peanut butter sandwich or a turkey leg, for example. I've tried it and it works fine, the added salt helps too, you just have to drink a lot of water while you eat it. And of course, it helps to keep it well wrapped because the smell of a hot cooked egg can't be something you would want to experience if you are feeling naseous.

Also, I've found that taking in some candy during the bike/run helps keep the energy level flowing. Gummy bears are a bit chewy, but I've hit on leftover Halloween candy corn. It's small and it's pure sugar (I need to look up what kind, dextrose is allegedly the fastest digesting and the best during a hard workout). And if you think generic and Brach's candy corn are the same, boy are you in for a surprise.

3. Post race (workout). Like you, I'm going to fall all over whatever the race folks set out at the finish line and find it to be just fine (so far I've been offered gels, pizza, Chick Fil A sandwiches, fruit, hot pancakes, donuts, cookies, candy, pretzels and --strangest of all--some caesar salad--this was at a 10K). However, post workout, I find a banana and maybe a bar work great for me for recovery--and the higher protein bars come into play post workout, as protein is needed then. Remember, you are supposed to ingest your recovery within 30 minutes of your workout ending for maximum effect. I've also done the peanut butter/bagel post recovery, but face it, nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a hamburger and a shake after a 13 mile run. It's not quite the mix of carbs/protein the experts say is perfect, but let's look at it this way: you earned it.

Everyone and everybody is different in how they react to food and fuel. Experimentation is fun, although sooner or later I've got to narrow down my choices to the race day group, and pack it into my fuel belt and bento box. A shame a turkey leg won't fit.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Older is Better

With the exception of some wines, cheeses, and furniture, nearly everything in today's society leads one to believe that youth is the ultimate desire(actually, maybe I should not have included furniture in that list. My stepdad owned several furniture stores. He would shake his head when my mom and I would buy antiques, asking why in the world anyone would pay good money for USED furniture).

Those of us over 50 know that it just ain't so. We know. Our kids and grandkids would not believe us if we tried to explain just why older is better, so we generally just keep that secret to ourselves. (And anyone who says they want to be 16 again--100 percent 16, mentally and physically--needs more help than I can give them).

Truly, sometimes older athletes are just better. Not necessarily faster, but simply better (yes, I did watch the Vikings game, but this is not a discussion on the merits of Brett Farve). Here are some of the reasons why:

1. We work out smarter. Age does a funny thing with your intelligence. It makes it grow in leaps and bounds. We no longer see a need to push to run that extra mile when 10 was our goal, we understand our bodies' limits and abilities, we know the truth in going hard on hard days and going easy on easy days, and we stick with that. We plan workouts like we plan our retirement; we spreadsheet things and keep an eye on our progress. We make sure we back off appropriately, and push when pushing is required.

2. We race smarter. After a certain age, the race really is between you and you. Although age group podiums remain fun and interesting, we will sacrifice those in order to keep our health and bodies intact for another year. When we hurt, we slow down. We quit writing "pain is fun" on our biceps, because we know it isn't. We do understand the concept of suffering, but we know that doesn't mean to an extreme. We don't have to pass that guy who just biked past us. We look at our watches, our heart monitors, and race smart. And we finish.

3. We eat smarter. We know we can't rush out there on an empty stomach after having imbibed a bottle of red the night before and run 7 miles (neither can the younger set, but they won't know it until about mile 4). We've (hopefully) gotten past the diet of fries, pizza and beer and are eating fresh fruits, veggies and lean meats. We no longer think a keg party is the perfect pre race carb load. Very few of us end up upchuking our intake halfway through a long course.

4. We heal smarter. We know our bodies have a limited warranty on them, and we want that warranty to last a long, long time. We have a great orthopedic doctor, a good massage therapist, a cardiologist, and a chiro on our speed dials. We don't just "run through the pain." We don't "rub it out/walk it out." We figure out what's wrong, and we fix it or let it heal, and then we keep going.

5. We think smarter. We don't let the irritation of a bad workout or a bad race overshadow our lives. We don't let the glory of a great workout or race blind us to the need for continued improvement. We laugh at ourselves, especially when we screw up, fall down, bonk, or have to do a Walk of Shame halfway through a run. We get giddy over small victories. We know that life is bigger than us, bigger than our PR, and way bigger than our daily workout routine. We are polite and accomodating to those who share our road, our path, our pool and our treadmill. We've learned that it's really true that it's not all about us.

6. We recover smarter. We know the value of a good night's sleep, a good recovery meal or drink, an ice bath, a massage, a rest day. We quit trying to be Superman(woman) a long time ago. We enjoy running/biking/swimming for its own sake more than the numbers on the watch at the end.

So, yes, although we are often slower, grayer, thicker and more wrinkled, we are better. We may not beat always the youngsters on the clock, but we beat them a lot in our heads. The good news for those young pups is that one day, they will be where we are, and enjoying their own superior status as an older athlete.

We rock.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Triathlon Tidbits

I come up with all this useless information, usually in the middle of a very long bike ride or run. It sticks around for about twelve seconds and then goes into the dark matter and joins stuff like the Last Time I Saw My Shooting Gloves. But since this Saturday was a 12 mile run (yes! done at 12:13 min pace, and no bonking) and this Sunday was a 28 mile bike (not as much fun as it was windy, but still not a bad ride at 14.9 mph average), I retained some of these tidbits, as follows:

1. Goggle Eyes. Not to be confused with google eyes (a la Marty Feldman, Young Frankenstein being one of the world's best movies by the way), this is a condition caused by swimming over 40 minutes while wearing goggles. Some of us try to go to work afterwards, or go out to dinner, and we look, well, like we've gone 12 rounds with an evil eye doctor. Hint: buy some Preparation H and smear it around your eye tissues post-swim. Women over the age of 30 have known this hint for years. You think it reduces swelling only in certain areas?

2. The Hills are Alive. There is nothing--I repeat NOTHING--that introduces you to the microscopic analysis of terrain like having to run or bike over it. A road that you swear is flat when you zoom over it in a car will show you its true underbelly when you are hoofing or biking over it. You will be shocked at how many uphills there are in the universe.

3. Lost toenails. As a last feeble effort against looking like a homeless person while working out, I demand that my toenails stay painted. Until, of course, you start to lose them. Most long distance runners lose a big toenail or two during the year. You will be so grossed out the first time it happens. Then it becomes no big deal (except to your kids). They hurt like blazes when you bruise them too badly by pounding away on them, then they fall off and a new one grows to start the process over again. PS if you are losing more than one or two a year, have someone check those shoes for you. Anyway, you start to learn that closed toed shoes make a good fashion statement. Especially for the guys.

4. Swim hair. We used to call it chlorine hair when I was a kid, back when the way to keep a public pool clean was to pour stuff in the water that would rot your insides if you swallowed enough of it. Today the chemicals are a bit less harsh, but harsh enough. If you wanna keep your hair from looking like a brillo pad, you gotta shower the stuff out EACH TIME you swim--a PIA for sure when you are rushed after your swim to get home or get to work. I've tried all the extra special "swimmer" shampoos and think they are all a bunch of marketing bunk--shampoo is shampoo. Also, here's a good hint: baby powder the inside of your swim cap about every third time you use it. It makes the cap glide on and off easily without yanking out your follicles.

5. Barefoot running. I keep reading about the benefits of running barefoot, or wearing the almost barefoot shoes. Saturday on my 9 mile run I crunched over acorns, twigs, a broken bottle, and some rocks. I am sure glad I was wearing shoes. I don't necessarily disagree with the barefoot idea, but I am not Zola Budd and I think most of us back of the packers would be wise to protect the toenails that we still have left. Just my thoughts.

6. Here's the deal: you can swim 2000 yards, run 9 miles and bike 30 miles over a weekend, and if you eat two brownies, an order of fries, and two pieces of fried chicken over the same weekend, you will NOT lose any weight. Truth. I can attest to it personally.

7. Fuel is important. The longer you run or bike or swim, the more important it becomes. I've managed to learn to like oatmeal (the original, steel cut, long cooking oats--it takes a long time to cook and it makes a mess especially if you accidentally let the milk boil over on the stove, but added with a tablespoon of honey and some fresh raspberries, a bowl will carry you a long way). I'm experimenting now, five months pre 70.3, with different gels, bars, other things (I tried a hard boiled egg on my 30 mile bike ride--it actually went down better than I had expected, although you need to drink a lot while you are eating it). Any time you are out there pounding for more than 90-120 minutes, you are gonna need some kind of fuel before hand and during. This does not include fries, brownies and fried chicken, although I wish it did.

8. Hydration is more important. I hate to say "more" because both are important, but you will bonk faster if you dehydrate than if you don't eat. Hydration does not just mean drinking during the workout, but all day long, keeping your system well watered. Remember alcohol will dehydrate you (so will salty foods) so if you intend to drink the night before a workout, or eat 13 big salty pretzels, slug down more water than usual in the interim. Always carry or have access to more water than you think you will need. This includes during swimming, which sounds redundant, but it's true. Keep a water bottle at the end of your lane and sip often. A lot of bonking is due to poor hydration or nutrition, which can be easily fixed.

9. October and November are simply the best months to run and bike. Get out there. Enjoy the leaves falling in your path, the redness of the sunrise or sunset, the harvest moon lighting your footsteps, the cool north breeze at your neck. I realize if you live in North Dakota these are not your crowning months, but you guys had a liveable August and September. I ran my 9 miles this Saturday just grooving on the cooler temps (okay, it did warm up to 86 later in the day, but the morning was lovely). Dig it, because December and January are coming for us all.

10. You need to have at least one "this is why I run" or "this is why I bike" moment a week. On Saturday at mile 4.2 I passed a big house with a realistic and scary Halloween zombie stapled to the fence. He made me smile, and also actually made me look over my shoulder as I ran away from him (I was looking pretty tired by then, great zombie food). Whether it's noticing the clouds at sunrise, or the light dancing on a lake, or late summer flowers in full bloom, find something that you would not have otherwise noticed had you been in your car, insetad of on the hoof or tire.

This weekend is a brick--haven't done one in a while so it should be just loads of fun; 80 minute bike followed by a 10 minute run/zombie shuffle.