Sunday, October 30, 2005

Boo! Happy Halloween! Posted by Picasa

My Achy Breaky Back

If I had thought I could cut back on my appointments with Mary to help pay for my physical therapy, I was wildly mistaken. Stupid me. Getting things put back in their proper alignment and training them to stay there is causing muscles I didn't even know I had to whine, tighten up and just plain hurt! It's like now I go out for a run and my glutes and adductors say, "Hey, what's with the pelvis? It used to be over there and now… ?"

Muscles don't like change. My cat is rather the same way, but I can't lock my muscles in another room when they start to annoy me. Too bad. It might teach them a lesson.

Nevertheless, progress is being made and I've been told that there's no reason not to keep training for a January marathon. Since I've had to back off my training these past two weeks, I'm feeling a little cynical, but anything can happen and I know I just need to relax and trust my body to adapt to treatment.

I'll be talking to the orthopedic surgeon on Monday about my x-rays and we'll see what comes out of that conversation. I'm always a little hesitant to talk to surgeons because their answer to problems is… surgery. I think we're way too eager to cut people open in this country and I'll need a lot of convincing before I go that route anytime before my sixties, if then. One thing I've always been able to count on is my body's rapid response to non-invasive treatment. If the damage to my hip can be stabilized or even partially reversed, me and my DNA are totally up to the task.

In the meantime I'm anxious to get the MRI referral approved and see what those pictures look like. That should clear up a lot of matters. I've been given overly pessimistic diagnoses before based on x-rays, so my mental focus for the present is on getting my biomechanics corrected so we can limit further damage. I'm barely restraining panic at forty treatments at $30 co-pay apiece, just when I was only a couple months away from getting the credit card paid off and resuming student loan payments. But what can one do? As I pointed out to a friend, if this had been caught ten years ago, it would've cost me a lot less than it's costing now. If I let it go another ten years, it will cost me even more than today.

Such is life. A constant little treadmill of earn and spend.

In more chipper news, I've revamped my training schedule. Key features include morning pilates and weight training classes, a Monday yoga option, daily swim or pool running options and no more naps. I've loved being able to take a daily nap, but I'm getting home later now because of the PT sessions and Dan is going to bed earlier, which locks me into an inconvenient enforced quiet time. So I’m going to experiment for a couple of weeks with this new schedule and see how it goes. I think it will increase my flexibility in training options, which is precisely what I need right now, when I can't be sure on any given day just what kind of workout I'll be up for. If after a 2-3 week trial run I find I just can't adapt, I can always go back to the old schedule, right?

Well, it's late and I'm feeling snackish. If you haven't tried the new Clif Nectar bars, check them out! Good stuff!

Recent Workouts
Tuesday: 10 x 400
Wednesday: 35 minutes elliptical
Thursday: weights
Friday: rest
Saturday: 1 hour elliptical, 30 minutes treadmill, 6 mile run

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New shoes? Posted by Picasa
Better than shoes-- apples from Grandpa! Posted by Picasa
Thanks, Grandpa! Posted by Picasa

X-Rays and OMG

I went for my first physical therapy consultation on Tuesday. I was anxious to get started, so it wasn't easy to hold back and submit to x-rays and various range of motion tests. This was a simple problem, right? Give me some stretches and exercises and let's be on our way!

But no, they didn't do anything to start my treatment. Instead they took x-rays, requested a $30 co-pay and told me to return the next day. I was annoyed, since they obviously weren't going to find a soft tissue injury on an x-ray. But okay, we'll play the game your way and see what happens.

I returned today and was ushered into a tiny consult room that had my x-rays on a darkened viewing screen. I was asked to sit, watch a video and wait for the doctor. The video was all about the hows and whys of chiropractic care. Now, I'm not entirely against chiropractic therapy, but I don't think it does nearly as much as its most devoted proponents and practitioners claim. I also think that it's nearly useless if it's not done in conjunction with massage and physical therapy, to prevent recurrence of problems. I've met responsible chiropractors as well as those who just want to keep you coming back and dropping money, so I'm always on my guard when someone starts talking about the wonders of spinal adjustments.

So I watched the video distractedly, wondering if I'd made a terrible mistake in choosing this particular place, this particular doctor. I had chosen her because she was ART-certified, but maybe I should've gone back to the guy I saw two years ago, who would've had me doing things with elastic bands by now.

The video ended. Still no sign of the doc. I was bored out of my skull in that tiny room, so I decided to flick the switch for the x-ray screen and take a look at my pics.


There it was, so obvious that even this pre-med dropout could tell at a glance what was wrong-- bone loss and joint degeneration in the right hip socket.

I nearly jumped out of my skin! Where was the doctor? I needed to talk to someone about this RIGHT NOW! I peeked out the door. Someone who obviously didn't work there was chatting about the Astros with an aide in the hallway. Grr. Shut up, people! The Astros are toast and I've got a REAL problem here!

I spent what seemed like forever in that room, alternately squirming in my seat, pacing around and staring at my x-rays in shock. The one of my neck looked pretty bad too-- no curve to the upper spinal column. No wonder I always have headaches and tight shoulders. But I've learned to live with that. This hip, though… When will someone come and TALK to me???

Well, finally the doc came and I pounced on her, insisting we cut to the chase and talk about what the heck is up with this right hip. She confirmed what needed no confirmation, that the x-ray showed signs of joint deterioration and she said she was going to get me a referral for an MRI. Based on the result of that, a talk with an orthopedic surgeon may or may not be necessary.

Okay, okay, I know a guy who does Ironman on a DuPont hip, so even in the unlikely event that this is a worst-case scenario, we're still okay here, and better to have caught it now than later, collapsed on the road with a pelvic fracture during a marathon or something. Since I didn't even start having localized pain in the hip socket area until a couple months ago, I'm feeling optimistic. It's quite likely that the x-ray looks more serious than it is due to the weird angle caused by the misaligned pelvis. That's what I'm hoping, at any rate.

But… damn, how did such a thing happen? Running didn't do this. My weekly mileage is low and I substitute joint-saving elliptical sessions for a lot of my scheduled runs. Strong bones and joints run in both sides of my family. Hell, even my cavities recalcify, so there's nothing intrinsically weak about my body.

You don't get problems like this x-ray is showing after only five years of training. This is a problem that was decades in the making. I think it was those seven years of ballet classes as a kid which twisted my knees, which altered my Q-angle on one side, which made one leg functionally shorter than the other for most of my life. I don't remember a time when I didn't have a pop in my right hip. It had to have been those ballet classes and all my childhood efforts to achieve perfect turnout in spite of the fact my body was never designed for it.

On a positive note, the doctor pointed to things she could fix within a very short period of time, such as my rotated pelvis. She can fix that with some spinal manipulation followed up with physical therapy. It will get rid of the lubar-sacral pain I've had for awhile and take pressure off the hip, relieving that pain as well. And as a bonus she promised she could restore a normal curvature to my neck, which would cure my chronic headaches and tightness through the shoulders. Well, that would be nice. I bet it would help my swimming, too.

We had a long chat about treatment plans and goals and she did a couple of adjustments and some electrotherapy on my pelvic area. That sonic boom you heard around 5:30 pm, Central time, was my neck getting adjusted. I can look up a little bit now. Would you believe I haven't been able to throw my head back and look up at the sky in… oh, I don't know how long? It's been so long that I had come to think it was normal.

So the moral of this little tale is to withhold your skepticism if someone wants to do a bunch of tests before starting you on even the most basic physical therapy regimen. The problem you think you have may just be a symptom of something quite different.

Recent Workouts
Monday: rest
Tuesday: speedwork: 10 x 400
Wednesday: 35 minutes elliptical

Monday, October 24, 2005

Low-Volume Weekend

With my hip and IT band no longer aching, I decided to keep the volume low this weekend and just take things easy until I could see the PT. So Saturday morning I did an hour on the elliptical trainer followed by an hour on the bayou trails. Other than some asthma, I felt pretty good, but I didn't want to push my luck so I didn't let myself get tempted to run longer.

Sunday I went for a bike ride with Dan and his friend Neal. I almost didn't go because I was so short of breath in the morning. Stupid fall allergies! I went up to the maximum on all my meds and tossed back two cups of super-extra-strong coffee. By the time Neal arrived I practically needed to be scraped off the ceiling and I was needing go to the bathroom every ten minutes, but hey, my lungs were clearing and that's what mattered.

We drove to Tom Bass Park in Pearland and followed part of the route used by the annual winter West University Warm-Up ride. As far as routes go, it's pretty good except for the last ten miles, which is through a busy business area and along a freeway.

It was a beautiful day to be out riding-- sunny and cool as if the weather gods had suddenly remembered us after all and decided to give us a little taste of what people in other climes take for granted before the gray rainy days of winter set in. Dan hadn't ridden since the little 31-miler we did on the Fourth of July, so I was surprised when at mile 17 we turned into a headwind and he picked up the pace. Call me crazy, but my ride philosophy is to not go sprinting into headwinds until the last 10-20 miles of a ride, when I know I've got plenty in the tank to see it through to the end. But Neal seemed to think Dan was issuing some sort of a challenge and I finally got irritated with both of them for turning up the volume so early like that. I was even more annoyed when we turned out of the wind and they both slowed down to 16. What was that all about? So I passed them, cruised a few miles at a comfortable 19-20 mph and waited for them at the store that marks the halfway point.

I stuck with the guys for a little bit after that because I wasn't completely certain of the route, but once we were on the long straightaway that would take us almost to the park entrance, I went out on my own again. We were back into the wind at this point and still fifteen miles to go, so I settled in for a long dull session of battling gusts, watching for road kill and waiting for the overpass that would mark the entrance into the dangerous business district.

Once beyond the overpass I slowed down because there were more cars to watch out for and the shoulder quality wasn't as good-- lots of bumps, gravel and debris. I also wanted to give the guys a chance to catch up. And finally Neal sprinted up to my shoulder and told me to pull over at the next gas station. I looked behind me and yes, Dan was back there, but I knew something must not be right if we were stopping now, with only about seven miles to go.

As it turned out he was exhausted and had a nasty hamstring cramp.

And that, gentle reader, is why it is a bad idea to sprint into a headwind at mile 17.

I followed Dan for a couple miles after we left the gas station, just to make sure he was going to be okay. But once we were out of the business district and onto the feeder road with the park just a few miles up, I pulled ahead of him. Neal and I had a good hard ride the rest of the way to the park in the increasingly blustery morning and Dan hung in not far back. He's lucky to have so much natural talent on the bike. I can train and train and train and he can still match or come close to what I can do with no training whatsoever. It would be discouraging if I were the sort to look at it in that light.

We had a nice rest of the day. I bought us some deli food from Central Market, we took a nap, we went for an evening walk at Memorial Park and watched a movie. I would've liked to have done more marathon-specific training this past weekend, but I've succeeded in loosening my hip up a little bit (it makes fancy popping sounds now) and I just keep reminding myself that training myself into a ruptured tendon isn't going to help matters.

So why do I feel like such a slacker?

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 1 hour elliptical, 1 hour run
Sunday: 50 mile bike, 3 mile walk

Friday, October 21, 2005

Doctor Thinks I'm Smart

I'm not too happy with the way this hip-ITB thing is progressing. I think it's related to my sore lower back (sacroiliac area). But which problem is causing the other is not for my un-MD'd brain to figure out.

I went to see Mary on Tuesday and she fixed me up pretty good, but there's only so far a massage can take you sometimes. Even a good one. A short run and an elliptical session later and I'm sitting here at the office with an aching hip again, wondering how far I should run this weekend, or if I should even run at all.

So I looked up some PTs online, checking that they were on my insurance and that they were close to home. I picked a first and second choice, then called my doctor's office. I explained everything to the nurse, making sure to use all the correct doctor-speak that I learned in Physiology class. I also reminded her that my doctor had referred me for physical therapy in the past. I said that I would be happy to come in if the doctor didn't want to refer me directly, but could she please check?

Well, miracle of miracles, an hour later and here's my referral coming over the fax machine! And I can go to my first choice PT, just a few blocks from home. Hooray! My doctor has always treated me like I'm pretty savvy and this confirms her confidence in me.

The last time I had physical therapy (for my Q-angle), the PT had noticed some pelvic instability but we hadn't been able to get approval for treatment at that time. So now I can get the whole thing fixed. Even though I will probably have to back off my marathon training plan a bit, I have a feeling I'll get a little free speed and endurance out of this.

Houston Marathon, here I come!

Recent Workouts
Wednesday: Speedwork, 6 x 800
Thursday: 45 minute elliptical, plyometrics

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Luke's Locker/Koala Health & Wellness 20K

Doing a bike ride and a run back to back sure highlights the simplicity of running. It took me half an hour and a sherpa-load of stuff to get out the door for yesterday's bike ride. This morning took 15 minutes and one little plastic bag. Yes, there's a reason I often balk at going on bike rides. I can be out the door and done with a run in the time it takes just to deal with all the stupid bike gear!

Okay, so I was up at 5:45 am, after going to bed around 2:00 because I was waiting up for Dan, who had gone Tejano-clubbing with his professor and classmates as part of a music appreciation assignment. (It's a Tejano music class.) Even without much sleep, my legs felt a little better than they had the night before. Not really springy, but not like concrete weights, either. So that was good.

I had to circle a couple of times before finding a place to park downtown, only to find that the box to put your money in wanted $6 instead of the formerly-ubiquitous $5. I had a $5 but no ones! Luckily I was able to get some quarters and I was in business. I tried to give my savior her choice of Hammer Gel flavors as trade, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Thanks, girlfriend! May your good deed this morning come back to you a hundred-fold!

I now had about 45 minutes until the race start at 7:00, so I walked the few blocks to pick up my chip, tied it to my shoe, then wandered into a hotel to use the restroom. The hotel staff were being very nice not to kick us all out. I made sure to wipe down the wet counters in the restroom, and I hope everyone else was similarly conscientious so we will be welcome again next year. Heck, I'll wipe down their floors in addition to their counters if it means I don't have to use one of those disgusting port-a-potties!

It was still about 20 minutes to gun time, so I wandered back to the car, applied a little body glide where it would do the most good and applied a heavy coating of menthol cream to my knees and IT bands. Now that I was all set, I made my way toward the start, getting there just in time for the announcements, which were mercifully short. Then came the national anthem, which I did not help sing because my nation deserves better.

And then we were off!

I can't really say much about the race because it was pretty uneventful for me. The hardest part was just holding myself back because I really wanted this to be a training run, not something I pushed hard on. With as many crampy spots in my hips and knees lately and my history of anterior tibialis tendonitis during marathon training, not to mention my history of injuries on this race, I just wanted to do a nice, steady pace, not too easy, not too hard. But that's so difficult to do when people all around you are excited and testing their limits! The announcers keep calling lower and lower minute per mile times at each mile marker and it's hard to pull back and not just go for it. I got a little help in my determination to take things easy when my hip started nagging at me around mile ten. It wasn't painful so much as it was just giving me the odd little whisper and nudge, as if to say, "Hey, remember me? I'm still here!"

Yeah, thanks.

But by that point the race was almost over. I picked up my pace very slightly on the last mile and a half and called it a day. I wanted to laugh when a volunteer at chip removal wanted to know if I could lift my foot high enough to set it on an upturned bucket so she could clip the plastic tie. I guess a lot of people really did run hard today if she was asking that question! Then again, I heard a lot of huffing and puffing in the first few miles. That always worries me. I have to bite my tongue not to turn and point out that if you're struggling at the 5K point, SLOW DOWN!

After I got my chip removed, I got my bottle of water, found the shirt tent, got a size small (hooray!) and signed up for a massage. The line at the massage tent moved quickly but that was because the complimentary massages were so short-- only about five minutes. I don't even know if it really helped much.

I wandered around the post-race area for a little longer, hoping to see some friends of mine who I'd seen out on the course, but I couldn't find them. No big deal. It was 9:30 and time to go home. I went by the finish line on my way toward the car and helped cheer a few of the back of the packers in. Funny, but their time wasn't much better than my first 20K time, four years ago. What a difference a few years of training and experience can make!

I'm satisfied with my time of 1:54. It's not great, but it's about where I wanted it to be under the circumstances. I rode hard yesterday and I'm still recovering from last weekend's 17-miler and hip/ITB debacle, so a 9:12 pace over 12.4 miles is quite acceptable.

What a busy weekend! I'm a total slug for months and don't sign up for a single thing and then I go do an organized ride and a race in the same weekend. I guess we don't do anything in moderation in this sport, do we?

I'll be back to my usual slacker self next weekend, though!

And I'll end this post by congratulating Shelley on her Ironman Kona finish and Nancy on her Baltimore Marathon! You ladies rock!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Riding for Literacy

Read all about it!

Bike the Bend for Literacy is a nice little ride out of Richmond, Texas, Fort Bend County. I did it last year when they held it at the end of August and in spite of the late summer heat, I liked it. It wasn't one of my planned bike rides for this season because they moved it to the same day as the Goliad ride. But since Dan had too much going on for a weekend in Goliad to be practical, the Ride for Literacy was a nice alternative.

The ride started from the Technical Building at Wharton Junior College. It's a good place for a small ride like this-- lots of parking, a big clean building with no long lines for late registration, packet pickup or restrooms, and a table of bagels, fruit, gels and water set up outside in the shade. The shirts were pretty cool and there were some nice goodies in the swag bag, including samples of a joint and muscle cream called Bio-Freeze and some Energice, which I've been wanting to try. Energice is a gel that can be eaten room temp, but they recommend you freeze it and eat it like a Popsicle. Good idea for here in the South! Too bad summer's over, but I checked my calendar and it looks like we'll have summer again next year, so I'm holding onto these Energice samples!

We got a late start because there was an accident on the route and the cops asked the race director to hold us up a bit, but we finally got started around 8:15.

Because it was a small ride I had no trouble seeding myself toward the front along with the other riders doing the metric century, ahead of the slowpokes who were just out there for the scenery, but behind the serious speedsters. We had gone just over a mile when we got stopped by a train, and it was a long one! Luckily it was also moving at a pretty good clip, so we didn't have to wait too long.

The ride took us through nice horse country, cotton fields, and some attractive neighborhoods. The ride signage was excellent and the rest stops were frequent and fully stocked. There were also enough big gas stations on the route that if you really wanted a flush toilet and hand washing facilities, you could have them. Yes, I took advantage of this.

For the first half of the ride, the winds were moderate and mostly at our backs. So of course that meant that we'd have headwinds after awhile, and sure enough about an hour and a half into the ride, the winds started picking up and by the time we were on the popular Fulshear-Simonton route, we were in for some long, slow stretches with either headwind or gusting crosswinds. Yuck. I suppose I could've done some drafting, but I really don't like to do that because it will only spoil me for triathlon.

The last 15 miles were the worst, as my abs and the muscles around my knees started protesting all the activity. Yes, I've been lazy on my ab and knee work for a few weeks and now that I've started up again, everything's a little sore. No big deal at the office, but one tends to notice these things out on the road.

Luckily that last 15 miles is nothing on a psychological level, so it was just a matter of holding on to the finish. Around mile 50 someone told me the course was measured long and to expect it to be 65 and not 62 miles, but it actually came out to about 61.5. Back at the parking lot, I slathered one of my Bio-Freeze samples around my knees and on my lower back, which has been hurting a lot since I got lazy on my ab work. Let me tell you, that Bio-Freeze is good stuff! By the time I got home I felt great!

In fact, I felt so good I went and did late registration for the 20K race tomorrow!

Uh, yeah. Now I'm wondering if that was such a good idea. My legs feel pretty heavy tonight, and even though I hadn't intended to actually race the 20K, I'm wondering if it's really what I should be doing at all. It's been a jinx race for me in the past, always leading to some sort of injury.

So we'll see how things go tomorrow. I'm not racing. I'm really, really not. It's just that I was going to run 12 miles anyway, and since the race goes past my house and over part of the route I was going to run anyway, it seemed silly not to sign up. I will, however, take full advantage of the post-run massages tomorrow. No matter how long I have to wait.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 45 minutes elliptical
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 4 x 1 mile speedwork, total mileage 5.25
Thursday: 15 minues elliptical, 30 minutes run, easy pace
Friday: rest

Saturday, October 08, 2005

A BQ In My Future?

I always love the first cool runs of fall. After months of long, slow, sweaty trudges through the summer heat and humidity, the first few runs after a cool front feel so FAST!!!

So I hit the trails this morning with the idea of doing three loops around the bayou. I started out with a bit of asthma trouble because I was late taking my meds this morning. It wasn't a huge problem, more like just a nuisance. I kept waiting for the meds to kick in and help bring up the fluid in my lungs, but that didn't happen until almost four miles into the run. Oh well. It wasn't like it was a full-blown attack or anything. I was off by maybe 5% of my lung capacity, not even enough to notice before I started running. And since I've lived with this all my life, I just patiently waited and eventually I felt better. When I was a kid I used to sometimes panic, which always made it worse.


On my first loop I saw some bunnies and later on, Jack Russell Terrier Guy, who I hadn't seen in a long time. He's got the cutest little dogs, one with chocolate-colored patches, one with caramel-colored patches. They always run just ahead of him, nosing in the bushes, sniffing for rabbit trails, but the instant JRT Guy calls for them, they run happily back to him and prance around his feet. What good dogs!

At the end of my first loop I was in need of a pit stop. Badly. So I detoured up Memorial to the Shell station, where I found the restroom already in use and had to wait. But it was worth it and even though it was a longer delay than I would've liked, I was soon heading back to the trails. I finished my first loop, with detour, in just over an hour. Excellent!

The second loop went pretty well, too. As I started up the hill near Sabine Street, I noticed there was some new art at the top of the hill. First I saw a bronze doe, head up as if gazing out across the expanse of the bayou and park below. Then I saw the buck, head down as if grazing. Aw, how sweet. What a peaceful little scene! It was only as I crested the hill that I noticed the third sculpture in the piece-- a bronze cougar sneaking up on the grazing buck. WTF? This is not uplifting! It's downright depressing! Okay, okay, I know it's just art, but… well, was the predator really necessary?

Yes, yes, it's just art. I'll shut up about it now.

I finished my second loop and decided to run my third loop in the opposite direction, just for a little variety. By now my old nemesis from a month ago-- ITB pain-- had returned. But this time I was prepared and slipped my new cho-pat strap on. It helped for a bit, but I kept having to stop to readjust the strap and stretch a bit. A cramp in my hip was my real problem and releasing tension in the kneecap wasn't helping much any more by the time I got to Montrose. I walked for a bit, thinking about cutting the course short, but tightened the strap instead and decided to push on, finally having the bright idea to try moving the strap to where it would release the tension on the side of my leg, instead of underneath the kneecap. This helped quite a bit and I finished the run, albeit a bit painfully at the end, in just under three hours.

Less than three hours for 17 miles? Hey, let's think about that a minute.

I was on a narrow, hilly, uneven trail. I had to take a long pit stop at the gas station. I had to rinse and refill my bottles a few times. I had to stop and muck around with the cho-pat strap a few times. I had to stop and walk or stretch several times.

None of that would've happened on the Houston Marathon race course, with the possible exception of the ITB issue. Assuming I can get that resolved soon, I should be able to easily do 18 or 19 miles in three hours under marathon conditions-- flat smooth roads, volunteers handing me my water, Immodium eliminating the need for bathroom breaks. Maybe I could even do 20 in three hours. To make my Boston qualifying time of 3:45, I would have to do another 6.2 in 45 minutes, which would be totally unrealistic. But I haven't really made running a big priority, either. I've done no speedwork, no hill repeats, and I only run 20-25 miles per week. If I could bring my marathon pace down to where I hit the 21 mile mark in 3 hours...

Wow. I'm so close. I had no idea. No idea at all.

Boston. Getting that qualifying time is the brass ring for all of us amateur runners. Up until now it seemed so totally not doable that I figured if I ever got a BQ it would be when I was at an age when people would be shocked that I was still putting one foot in front of the other. They would let me register just for the human interest story: 110 Year Old Woman Hobbles Her Way To Boston Finish Line!

This morning changed all that.

So I'm going to go for it. What the heck, what have I got to lose? Even if I don't quite get my BQ, just having a solid under-4:00 marathon would be huge for me. Enormous. But Boston… why not?

I'll be posting my plan for the next few months soon!

Dream big, friends!

Recent Workouts
Monday: 4 mile run
Tuesday: Massage and rest day
Wednesday: 4 mile run
Thursday: 30 minute elliptical
Friday: Rest Day
Saturday: 17 mile run

Another Ride That Wasn't

It had been my plan to do an organized ride this morning in West Columbia, about 60 miles to the south of here. But when I got home from work and popped the hood to add some windshield wiper fluid, I noticed a fine misting of droplets on one of my radiator hoses. I couldn't find an obvious source because the hose passed underneath the air intake duct and the last thing I wanted to do is start moving things around taking things apart in my cranky car when I wasn't entirely sure I knew what I was doing. I've had issues with random coolant alarms going off for several months now, so I decided that the best thing would be to forgo the 120 mile round trip drive to West Columbia and take the car to the mechanic in the morning instead.

As a quick aside, I was by no means irresponsible about the coolant buzzer. The engine never got hot, I have all new clamps and hoses, I checked for leakage regularly and the alarm would go off sometimes a mile from the house, then I wouldn't hear it for weeks, even with round trips to the airport and back. It showed symptoms of a sensor issue, not a genuine leak. When I've had coolant leaks, there is an actual pattern to when the alarms go off. With a leak, the buzzer doesn't go off in a parking lot, only to not beep at me again for weeks, no matter how much driving I do.

Anyway, the mechanic found nothing obviously wrong today, even after hooking the car up to the computer. But clearly something is up. So we're monitoring the situation and we'll probably get the system drained, run some sealant through, let it sit 24 hours and refill it. My mechanic says that should be sufficient to fix a problem so minor that in spite of all the times I went looking for it this summer, I could find nothing before this weekend. Heck, if the problem is so minor even the mechanic can't find it, it's got to be pretty small, right?

So this weekend was another fun ride that wasn't. This is really starting to get old, folks. But after today's run, I'm thinking I might have bigger fish to fry in the short term. Yes, you guessed it-- I might actually be able to run a Boston qualifying time this January!

More on that in a separate post.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Iron Plan

Okay, so here I've been kind of spinning my wheels for a few weeks, feeling a little lost after deciding that for a lot of reasons, registering for an Ironman race was not a wise idea at this time. My goal for a few years now has been to do the iron distance before I'm 40, which means do it next year or miss my goal.

But last night I remembered I had been waiting on race reviews of the Redman Triathlon, a new-this-year iron distance race in Oklahoma City. When I first heard of it last fall, I considered registering for the inaugural race, but quickly decided against it. Signing up for an unknown, unreviewed race as one's first-ever attempt at the distance would be insanity.

But they held the race the weekend Rita didn't come to Houston and the reviews I've read are pretty positive. So...

The plan now is that I will train "as if." Because Redman isn't an M-dot, I can register as late as next summer for the September race. If something isn't going right in my training or if personal matters have come up, I won't sign up and I won't be losing a huge registration fee like I would be if I signed up for an Ironman a year in advance. And I can drive to Oklahoma City, which would be cheaper than airfare to an Ironman location, especially since I wouldn't have to worry about shipping my bike. If I don't want to drive the whole distance in one day, I can crash at my cousin's place in Arlington on the way. Cool! In fact, I bet I can get a few of my Texas cousins to come see me at the race. Extra coolness! And on the drive home I can stop off for friend and cousin visits in the Austin or San Antonio area. A little mini-vacation. It only gets better, doesn't it?

So that's the plan, friends. After the Houston Marathon (which I will hopefully be able to run this year) I will begin training for the Redman iron distance race.

I feel more motivated already! But maybe that's just because I got Mary to work on my legs today and a cool front is moving in. There's nothing like getting the spring back in your step and having the promise of a fall breeze.

Recent Workouts
Monday: 4 mile run

Sunday, October 02, 2005

There's nothing like a good friend! Posted by Picasa

Causes and Water Fountains

I don't keep up with the 5K run and walk scene, so I found out the hard way that today was the annual Race For The Cure event along the bayou. On my first loop around the bayou, I thought nothing of it. Some people were milling around and I had to take a slight detour to avoid the worst of it, but no big deal. I finished my first loop, ran up to the Memorial Park Picnic Loop to see the cyclists and refill my water bottles, then returned to the bayou for a second loop.

And that's where I ran into trouble.

I had thought that by this point (10 am) the worst of the ruckus would be over. After I came out the other side of the Memorial Drive underpass I could hear music and an announcer on the other side of the bayou. I thought maybe it was some sort of finishers party, but as I crossed the bayou at Sabine and entered the Allen Parkway trails, the voice resolved itself into that of a finish line announcer, congratulating the walkers. From his words I inferred that breast cancer survivors had some sort of identifying bib or shirt, because he was singling them out for special congratulations, asking their names, encouraging them to raise their hands in the air as they crossed the finish line and then directing them to pick up a carnation. And indeed, I saw some women wandering around the post-walk area with big pink carnations in their hands.

Inspiring, really. My roommate from my first year of college had breast cancer in her early thirties, so it made me a bit misty-eyed to see the crowds and hear the announcer congratulting survivors. He said that the event had raised over $2 million! We are a rich people that after giving so generously to hurricane relief we can still give so much to other types of causes.

So even though my legs were stiff (I definitely need to make an appointment with Mary) and I was ready for the run to be over, I was reminded that my own troubles were nothing compared to what some people have survived or are going through right now.

This feeling lasted about half a mile, which is the point at which I rounded a bend in the trail and came face to face with a solid wall of walkers. They spilled over Allen Parkway, which had been closed for their benefit, and onto my trails. My trails! OMG! Come on, ladies (and a few gents)! You paid for the roads to be closed for your benefit and now you're going to deprive me of my taxpayer's right to use the trail? Survivor or not, that's downright unfriendly!

Well, there were far too many of them for me to even attempt to continue running west along the bayou trail. It was go back or nothing.

So go back I did. I was glumly trying to recalculate what my mileage would be if I had to retrace the area from the underpass across Sabine and around to the circular garden. It wasn't an easy task since I didn't know the distance of that specific part of the route and wasn't wearing my GPS. But then I noticed a Mexican family I had passed a few minutes before walking off the path as if they had some secret knowledge of an alternate route. So I followed them and was surprised to find that there was a safe way to cut back to an earlier part of the Memorial side of the trails without revisiting Sabine, the outdoor chapel and the underpass. I ended up re-tracing only the part of my route that corresponded to the part I would've done had the walkers not been in the way, so the mileage remained the same-- no math involved, thank goodness. So to the clever familia on the trail this morning, I offer a heartfelt gracias, amigos!

I cut back over to the Allen Parkway side of the bayou at the earliest opportunity and finished my run as planned. On the final stretch of the route home I passed the new water fountain by the Memorial Drive bus stop. It's shiny. It's green. It's fancy, with three levels-- one for adults, one for kids and one for dogs. It's even got its own little fence around it to keep it safe from who knows what. Too bad the water tastes and smells like rust. Yuck. Oh well. The better to keep the water fountain looking shiny and new, since I doubt anyone will actually end up using it.

It's a funny world we live in.

Recent Workouts
Saturday: 14 mile run