Sunday, November 27, 2005

Holiday weekends are exhausting! Posted by Picasa

Sunday Run

Today's plan called for an eighteen mile run. It wasn't what I really felt like doing, but you don't get train for a marathon with a bunch of twelve-milers, right? So I started out with a bayou loop, feeling pretty good. Then I did an out and back to the River Oaks Country Club and got attacked by a butterfly as I passed the house with all the organic flowers and grasses out front. I must look pretty dangerous if I'm scaring the butterflies! Then I headed up Memorial Drive to Memorial Park, starting to feel a little crampy through my hamstrings. But I managed okay, did my loop, returned to the bayou park and did a reverse loop back home. The last few miles were not pleasant, but I held out okay. The weather was warm, partly sunny and breezy, and other than a few mud puddles from Saturday's downpours, the trails were clear. Best of all though, my hip didn't hurt!

That's right-- the hip that has caused me problems since August did not hurt!

I think we've made some biomechanical progress here!

Plenty of other things hurt, but only the things one would expect on an eighteen mile run. Honestly, I had been scared to take on this distance and half-expected that I would have to cut things short around fifteen. But this was a very solid run and I think I can go ahead and pay my marathon registration with confidence. I had been putting it off just in case I didn't make much progress with the physical therapy. But things are obviously moving along well. Thank goodness I've always responded well to medical treatment!

Let's see, how was the rest of my holiday weekend?

I managed to do two Thanksgiving dinners without overeating or disowning any family members.

Friday evening Dan and I went to see the Johnny Cash movie Walk the Line with some cycling buddies of ours. We went for a late dinner after and I played it safe with a salad.

Saturday it rained like heck and I did an hour on the bike followed by some core and upper body work.

Today was my eighteen-miler, followed by Indian buffet.

It's been a very nice holiday weekend: food, friends, family, exercise, naps, and I got a lot of writing done, too. I had meant to update my blog roll since I have so many new cyber tri-buddies, but I have a feeling I'm not going to get to it tonight, since I still have to iron, do a few things in the kitchen and write a page on my novel.

Well, considering how slow I'm moving tonight, Monday might have to be a rest day, so there's always tomorrow!

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 1 hour bike - Carmichael Training Systems video "Climbing"
Sunday: 18 mile run, 3 mile walk

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving! Posted by Picasa

Thanksgiving Run

I was woken up by the cat about fifteen minutes before my alarm was due to go off. Because it's a holiday and I'm supposed to be happy today, I decided to let him live.

I got in about 45 minutes of elliptical work in the gym before someone came in and decided to blast a TV at full volume. I guess it's because I haven't watched more than the occasional cable show for years that I can't stand network programming. It moves too fast, it's too loud and it makes me anxious. My world usually moves at a more thoughtful pace.

So I finished up my elliptical workout, trying to tune out the hyper-kinetic television, and then changed into running clothes. I headed out on the bayou loop, enjoying the sunny skies and warm weather. Songs from the previous night's show were running through my head, so I had a gospel accompaniment to my run. Not bad. Very peppy and motivating.

When I got to Sabine street, on a whim I decided to go downtown and check out the Thanksgiving Day parade. What fun! I marched in the parade four years in a row in high school band and had seen bits and pieces of the parade on TV sometimes but had never actually gone to see it in person. Is that lame, or what?

As it turned out, it was pretty hard to see much of anything beyond the bigger floats and balloons because of all the crowds. But I was able to move around and find spots where I could peer between people and see clowns, people on velocipedes, dancers, cheerleaders, etc. I especially enjoyed the bands, which brought back a lot of memories.

What wouldn't I and my high school friends have paid for a warm Thanksgiving parade? It seemed it was always cold, the wind whipping between the tall downtown buildings as if we were in a wind tunnel. Although I wasn't in the same boat with the woodwind players, trying to move stiff fingers across tiny keys, it still wasn't easy for me to perform with cold hands. I have a picture of me carrying the triple toms in the 1984 parade - my senior year. The picture sits on a bookshelf not three feet from my computer, and it's one of the few pictures of me I bother to display. (If I want to look at myself, that's what mirrors are for.) Anyone looking closely at the picture would see that I was holding my sticks in a strange way-- hands choked up higher than they should've been. That was because I was so cold I couldn't feel my fingers and I was scared of dropping a stick on the parade route. Drumsticks bounce on the drum heads and the key to fast sticking is learning to control the bounce. Numb hands are no help and those toms are so big and bulky that if you lose control of the bounce and drop a stick, it's gone. There's no way you can pick it up.

Anyway. So I watched the bands and made lots of mental notes. Baton twirlers seem to be back in style. Flag twirlers seem a little less popular than they used to be. I saw no rifle twirlers at all. The one drill team I saw wasn't very good. People in the crowd cheered when they stopped and did a brief high kick routine, but I wasn't impressed. My high school had one of the best drill teams in the state, one that a Rockette wouldn't have been embarrassed to have on her resume. We percussionists mocked them, but it was all cooler-than-thou bravado. We really did respect what they did and most of the time we even played the right cadences for them. With seven years of dance lessons under my belt, I probably respected the drill team most of all, although I was probably also a harsher critic because I knew enough to be able to notice the little things. They nearly always got those little things right though, much to their credit. If our band had been as disciplined as our drill team, we would've been state champions.

Wow. See what kind of memories can get dredged up when you take a little half mile detour from your running route?

I had gotten downtown late, near the end of the parade, so Santa's sleigh appeared just about the time I was starting to think it was best to get back out on the trails. So I headed back to the bayou park and finished my run, thinking of marching bands, turkey dinners to come, and still hearing gospel songs in my head.

Oh, happy day! Oh happy, happy day!

Happy day, indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Today's Workouts
1 hour elliptical
6.5 mile run

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gospel Christmas Thanksgiving

Tonight we went to the Ensemble Theater with one of Dan's friends from work. Joyce is a well-connected local actress and runs the box office at one of the university theaters, so when she said she could get us tickets to the preview of the Ensemble's annual Christmas show, we were pretty excited. Years ago when Dan was a theater major, the Ensemble was one of the places he worked lights, and for awhile it was one of his steadiest gigs. I really miss all the comp tickets we used to get!

So we went to check out the Ensemble's Christmas offering, "A Pure Gospel Christmas: Coming Home."

It sounded very promising to me because I like gospel music. And in this respect I sometimes wonder if the African American churches don't have a better grasp on Christianity than most other churches. After all, if you really believe all that good stuff about having your sins forgiven and getting to have everlasting life in a dandy place like Heaven, why wouldn't you want to clap, dance and sing about it?

Makes sense to me.

But I digress.

Even though it was a full house, it was obvious that this was just a preview and they were still ironing out the wrinkles in the program. Microphones weren't always set right, making some singers hard to hear. A few light cues were missed. The only child performer was nervous and it affected his first solo, although he relaxed as the evening wore on and I think with a couple more shows under his belt he'll do fine.

I thought the script was pretty heavy-handed at times in its church and family messages. Of course those are the messages I had expected to hear, but there were a few times when they brought in the backhoe for a job that could've been better done with a trowel, if you know what I mean.

On the positive side, there was a lot of talent up on stage and the sets and costuming were very nicely done. The music was great and had the audience swaying in their seats and clapping most of the evening. Some audience members were really getting into it toward the end, standing up, shouting "Praise God!" and "Let your light shine, brother!" in the way they do at the Black churches. And finally we were all standing, clapping, stomping our feet. It was so much fun.

After the show, Dan and I took Joyce to a late dinner at one of the downtown Vietnamese restaurants. It had been a long time since I'd had Vietnamese food and I had missed it. Joyce told us about a recent audition she did for the part of a nurse in the upcoming Andy Warhol movie, Factory Girl. If she gets the part, I'll mention it and if you see the movie you can keep an eye out for our kind theater ticket benefactress.

Recent Workouts
Monday: rest day - deep tissue work
Tuesday: 1 hour elliptical
Wednesday: does clapping and dancing count?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Product Review: Spinervals 13.0 Tough Love

This is the big one-- Coach Troy's three hour monster of a workout. I've wanted to try it ever since I heard it was in production and I finally got my chance today.

This workout was not without its false starts. I had a dickens of a time getting my DVD adaptor to work, and then I had some problems with my mp3 playlist on the computer. But finally all systems were go!

This video is quite a departure from the early Spinervals, which mainly consisted of short hard interval sets. Tough Love is all tempo work with no sets shorter than six minutes and two long sets of 30 and 20 minutes of non-stop pedaling, although the constant gear-changing helps a little with the OMG factor. On these longer sets, I chose to count songs rather than count minutes, and it turned out to be a pretty good strategy for me. Looking at the clock just makes things worse, sometimes.

Because I'm supposed to be in my cycling off-season and my legs weren't feeling too good today, I made no attempt to hit the cadences Troy asked for. Not that I usually can, but I typically push harder than I did. Even so, it was a tough workout. Like all Spinervals, of course, it's as tough as you want it to be, but even when you're not trying to push the pace, it's a killer by the time you get into the last 45 minutes. So near and yet so far! Troy says this video was designed to be part of an Ironman training plan and I can definitely see how if you try to hit the high cadences he demands and then go for a run afterwards, you'll be ready for an Ironman course. Okay, maybe not Lanzarote or Lake Placid (killer hills), but Florida or Wisconsin, no problem.

So if your Farmer's Almanac is predicting a lot of rainy days this spring or summer, go order you a copy of Tough Love! And for the love of God, don't plan on doing this video with the music. Play your own.

Today's Workouts
3 hour bike - Spinervals 13.0 Tough Love
3 mile walk

Weekend Run

Another rather unpleasant run.

This one stared well-- thirty minutes on the elliptical machine, zipping along at a comfortably aerobic 195 cadence. I felt so good I thought this boded well for my scheduled run.

But once I was on the trails, the normal pounding of running got to me in a way it doesn't usually. I ran on the grass as much as I could, which helped a little. The first bayou loop ended up okay, then I did a little out and back to the River Oaks Country Club. I think it was this all-concrete stretch of my run that put my legs in a grumpy mood because my second bayou loop was no fun at all, even on the grass.

Well, that's just how it goes sometimes. It's also a good reminder not to skimp on my massages. This week was my regular massage week but I've been unable to keep a standing appointment with Mary because of all the weirdness at work this fall. This was the first week it was a problem and I couldn't get in. I thought it wasn't that big a deal because my legs felt pretty good, but obviously my legs had a different idea about the matter after about mile 7.

I'll make sure to see Mary this week, no matter what.

In other news, due to some bureaucratic reshuffling at the office it looks like my workload might lighten up a bit, which would make it feasible to do lunchtime workouts and have a standing appointment with Mary every other week, like I used to. This week won't be much of a test because after Monday most of the big guns will be out for the Thanksgiving holiday and I'll end up with a light schedule by default. When the documents approval process has been shut down for every level above middle management (me) things get pretty quiet at the office. You can almost hear the crickets chirping.

A good time for a massage.

I better schedule that appointment with Mary! And maybe one with my hairdresser. I haven't been able to get in to see him either and I sure do need someone to do something with this mess.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 6 mile run
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 1:15 bike (Spinervals 14.0)
Thursday: 1 hour elliptical
Friday: rest
Saturday: 30 minute elliptical, 13 mile run

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Look! It's a book about me! Posted by Picasa
I'm a published writer now! Posted by Picasa
Author! Author! Posted by Picasa
What a great story! Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 14, 2005


After such a fabulous mid-week run, I was of course selected by the karma deities to have a difficult weekend.

I knew I was in trouble when I got out of bed Saturday morning. My quads hurt, my hips and lower back were tight… even my shoulders hurt. It was not going to be a fun morning. But I grabbed my towel, water bottle and a magazine and headed downstairs to do my hour on the elliptical trainer. I couldn't get my cadence over 186 without feeling like I was in a sprint and usually I can zip along in the high 190s. Oh well. We do what we can, right? I did 30 minutes, took a little walk break, tried another 30 minutes and was bored silly after 15. So I took another walk break, did my last 15 and was done with that portion of my modified marathon program.

I went back upstairs, played with the bunny for a few minutes (she's fascinated by my running shoes), grabbed my fuel belt and was off to the trails! Surely, I thought, running would prove to be a little easier than elliptical, if only from a psychological standpoint.

Surely not.

Every concrete-legged step felt like it was it was going to be my last. Nothing hurt, but I felt like I had woken up on the wrong planet-- one with a much bigger gravitational pull than my friendly Earth. But there was nothing to be done but clump along, slow and clumsy around the loop, hills and all. My original plan had been to do only one loop, then go up to Memorial Park and back, but I changed my mind and simply did the loop again in the opposite direction. Then I tacked on an extra mile so I could hit my mileage goal and went home.

Yuck. For such a beautiful fall day, that sure was a miserable run.

But I thought surely a nice icing session followed by a hot shower, massage and stretching session followed up with all my favorite menthol creams and gels plus a few supplements and a good night's sleep would fix me up for Sunday, right?

Surely not.

The next day I was hobbling around like someone had put tacks in my slippers. But hey, a little spin session always helps loosen things up, right?

So I set up the bike on the trainer, not without some difficulty because Dan had used it with his bike earlier in the week and now the settings were off. But I got that fixed and then thought I'd set up my DVD player and use my new Spinerval video. Well, somehow I neglected to make the mental connection that a TV manufactured in the early '90s just isn't equipped to work with a DVD player. Duh. Have I really had that little TV for so long? Where does the time go?

And since by now I was of no mind to move operations to the living room, I stayed low-tech and popped in a tape instead. I did a lot of slow steady spinning-- all my legs were willing to give me-- and tried to tell myself that it was good for me. And it probably was because even though I decided to call it a day after 90 minutes, I feel much better today. And I've ordered an adaptor for the DVD player, too. So it wasn't a loss by any stretch.

My favorite guy was working the massage booth at Central Market when I went to get some lunch after my spin session and he cleared up a lot of the problems in my neck and back, which helped me sleep a little better last night. He was even able to do some work on my hips in spite of the limitations of a standard chair massage.

I had a nice walk with Dan in the evening and finished off the weekend with a little writing and a half hour session of stretching and using the foam roller.

So here it is Monday and I feel pretty good. Not one hundred percent, but good enough to go out and see if I can ruin all this progress with a run later. We triathletes are a crazy bunch!

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 1 hour elliptical, 11 mile run
Sunday: 90 minute spin, 3 mile walk

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


We drive to the park trading yawns all the way. Darkness comes early now and in the orange glow of the streetlights the shadows of the trees sprawl in strange patterns across the trail. I do a few perfunctory stretches and begin my warmup walk. A sudden howl breaks the evening's stillness. Another joins it, then several more.

It's the coyotes. Alone they don't bother me but in packs, agitated over some perceived canine insult, they make me nervous.

I'm not the only one who feels this way. A man has been lounging on a bench talking to his girlfriend but how she drags him toward the car as he protests, "But it's only dogs!"

Three lanky young men lope past me. I can tell they're talking about the coyotes because one of them jokes, "I'll just stay in the middle."

I look around. No sign of the coyotes, but I can still hear them growling and baying at who knows what from behind the trees and brush.

But none of that is why I'm out here tonight. It's time to get down to business. I approach the quarter mile marker at a brisk walk and break into a slow jog. My legs feel fresh and springy. They want to run.

Patience. Wait.

My legs don't want to wait. They speed up. I don't have my watch but it feels too fast. Slow down.

My legs don't respond.

Okay. But don't go any faster. Not now. Wait.

The next quarter mile marker is ahead. Okay. Now!

And we take off. My pace feels light, quick, effortless, like this is what my body was born to do. Like I could do this all night, run forever across gravel punctuated by oddly cast shadows and dead autumn leaves. Only my lungs limit me. This hasn't happened in so long-- my legs running strong, surpassing my lungs' ability to give them the oxygen they need. This is what it feels like to have everything in alignment, the body working toward one purpose only-- forward motion.

After half a mile I slow down. Walk a few steps. Then a slow jog. Deep breaths. Almost immediately the legs want to go again and at the next marker they get their chance. I continue on around the looped trail like this, half a mile on, a quarter off. I fly past people who look far fitter and faster than I could possibly be. Why are they so slow tonight? I dart between walkers, people with children, people with dogs. I wonder if they're worried about the coyotes.

The last half-mile set. I have to make it count. I take off again, tired this time, but still nothing hurts except the things that are supposed to be hurting by now-- lungs burning, a little knot under my ribcage tightening into a cramp. Push on anyway. Nothing comes easy. You have to work for it.

Breathing too fast now. Breathe deeper, breathe slower but don't slack off on the pace. A tall blonde wants my part of the trail. She has that long easy gait that covers a lot of ground with very little effort. I can't compete with her on stride or grace, only on power. I ask my legs for a little more and they laugh and give it to me as if the tank is limitless. The rest of my body may be working hard, but my legs are having the time of their life, skimming over the ground like it's easy. Like it's always been easy. As if it always will be.

Light and quick, the ground rushes away behind me.

And the coyotes howl at the moonless night.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Still Life with Rabbit Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tour de Doughnut

This was an interesting little ride. There was a 28 mile doughnut-eating race and a 55 mile organized ride, so the start had a good mix of amateurs and experienced riders. This led to a lot of boring PSAs about bike safety at the ride start and then a thirty minute delay while they waited for some of the fog to burn off. The fog wasn't really all that bad but I guess they figured with so many newbie riders focused on eating Krispy Kremes at every stop, they didn't want to take any chances.

I had an intermittent ache in my hip and thigh for the first fifteen miles and considered switching to the 28 mile route. But when I came upon the route split, I went toward the 55 without even thinking. I guess that solved that dilemma, didn't it?

It turned out to be a really good ride for me. There was a bad patch into some headwind on a rough road, but you kind of have to expect that sort of thing and it was only about ten miles. I've experienced worse. The rest stops on the 55 mile loop had no doughnuts which was kind of a rip-off, but I wasn't planning on eating any anyway, so I guess I have no grounds for complaint on that score. The skies were overcast for awhile and we had some misting rain, but otherwise the weather was nice, although a little warm and humid for this time of year.

I finished strong with a 17.3 average over the course-- not bad for me.

I had a minor misadventure in the parking lot afterwards when I managed to lose my keys and finally found them wedged under the hatch of my RX-7, sort of trapped in between the hatch and the frame. What an amazingly dumb thing to do! Well, at least when I do something stupid, it's creatively so. And I was able to release the hatch from a switch by the driver's seat, so it all worked out.

Unfortunately no post-ride nap for me! I was in a late meeting last Friday with a guy who is too important to be ignored but who only half-communicates so that whatever you bring him, it's not really what he wanted. He needed revised budget numbers and additional information on a few things by Monday morning and since I was late for a P/T appointment that Friday and my entire day Monday is going to be the equivalent of one long useless meeting, I had to do the work this weekend or suffer the consequences. So I took my lunch up to the office and was very productive. I was so productive in fact, that I'm half-tempted to see if I could re-work my schedule to have a half-day off during the week and work a half-day on the weekend.

I read a couple weeks ago that interruptions at work have an effect on concentration equal to a lowering of the IQ or smoking pot. Ha! I believe it! All the more reason to try to avoid the ringing telephone and all the people who drop by my office with their silly questions. Quit lowering my IQ!!!

No wonder I feel so stupid at the end of the workday.

So maybe a half-day on the weekend is the way to go. It would be the only time of the week I would have a chance to sit at my desk and feel smart!

Recent Workouts

Sunday: bike, 55 miles

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Pain and Pilates

Okay, so I thought pilates was kind of like an intense form of yoga or something. I went to Monday morning class, did everything the instructor did and paid for it with intensely sore abs through Thursday. Ouch. Well, I've been slacking a bit on my core work, so it wasn't a huge surprise. So I went again Friday morning and we did some of the same moves, plus some others we hadn't done Monday. This time I backed off a bit and didn't try to do all the more advanced moves. I thought I was being conservative.

Instead, pain and stiffness started settling in around early evening, in spite of my having gotten a massage, an adjustment and some Fun With Electrodes therapy. By bedtime I was so stiff I could barely stretch and was hoping desperately that I would feel better in the morning.

I didn't. But I finished my workout anyway. I had wanted to go a little longer, but managed to suffer through the same workout I did last weekend. It would have to be enough. With the Tour de Doughnut on my Sunday schedule, I couldn't afford to run myself into hopelessly intractable knots. Just about everyone with a bike in my little circle is going to be riding on Sunday and I don't want to get dropped, no matter how good my excuse.

I babied my legs after my run and they seem to have responded well to all the ice, stretching and massage. We'll see how the morning bike ride goes. I have a feeling it's not going to be one of my easier rides, but I've been looking forward to this one for awhile and it's the next to last local ride before winter, so I'm going and if it's a sufferfest, so be it.

My treatments are coming along nicely, although I haven't been able to schedule all of it yet-- there's two parts to my plan and only so many hours in a day. I've been completely slammed at work, so badly that I'm going to have to do some time at the office after my Sunday ride, so when am I supposed to find time for extra treatments? But I'm also not sure that I can even pay for all of this. $30 co-pays add up fast. I was only a couple months from having my credit card paid off, too. Isn't that always the way of it? Just when you think you're about to finally get in the clear, something happens.

But there is hope! I've noticed that the place I've been going offers gift cards. I'm torn. Ask my parents for a gift card for Christmas and hope they don't screw it up? Knowing them, they'll just buy me a new comforter or something. Or should I lie in wait outside the establishment, jump people and take their gift cards? Hm. Decisions, decisions….

But seriously, I'm going to do whatever I need to do and if this fixes things once and for all, it will have been worth it. You can't put a price on a healthy body. It's crazy what even a couple of weeks can accomplish in repairing biomechanics. I can feel the difference when I run, but the change is most noticeable on the bike. My right knee used to drift in toward my top tube, no matter what I did. Now I get equal power from both legs without even trying.

Yes, once my body gets used to all these changes, I think I'll get a little free speed. But the real benefit will be long term. I refuse to grow up to be one of those old ladies who can barely totter around the house. Whatever I have to do now will be worth it.

Recent Workouts

Monday: Pilates, 45 minute elliptical
Tuesday: Speedwork, 10 x 400
Wednesday: Bike, Spinervals 2.0 Time Trial Special
Thursday: 4 mile run
Friday: Pilates (ouch!)
Saturday: 1 hour elliptical, 9 mile run