Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On the Fence

The Steelhead 1/2 Ironman in Benton Harbor, Michigan is this Saturday. This is supposed to be my "A" race, along with the St. George, Utah Marathon in October.

My low back has been tight for a couple of weeks now. Nothing too serious, just something I've been aware of especially while swimming or cycling. About two weeks ago during an open water swim, it began to hurt much worse almost immediately as I started swimming. I had planned to swim 3 loops of the 600 yd. course @ the Miller Park lake. That was quickly changed to 1 loop, and even that was challenging. I found myself trying to compensate for the pain while I was swimming. I kept trying to find a comfortable position while swimming. This was changing my swim stroke pretty dramatically and I'm sure it didn't look pretty.

I tried another open water swim on Friday morning, hoping that I could add on a little distance. It did feel better initially, but quickly tightened up as I reached about 1/4 mile. This time I was able to go about 800 yds rather than the 600 yds I swam on Wednesday evening. Still not close to 1/2 Ironman distance of 1.2 miles, however.

Saturday morning I did get in a pretty decent 13 mile run at a fairly good pace. My back felt ok while I was running - tight, but not really an issue while running. Later in the evening it began to feel worse, however.

My two resident (visiting for the weekend) physical therapists, our daughter Lisa & her husband Gary, both diagnosed the problem as "SI joint". Gary did a PT treatment on my back and it did feel better afterwards.

Sunday I hoped to get in a 3 hour ride or approx. 45-50 miles. It started out ok, but after about 1.5 hours on the bike, the pedal stroke especially when recruiting my hamstrings and glutes pulled on my sore back more and more. I cut the ride short to around 40 miles. Could I ride another 16 miles? Yes. Can I ride another 16 miles after a 1.2 mile swim, and then follow it up with a 13.1 mile run? I don't know.

So, I'm sitting on the fence trying to decide. I just returned from a massage and that seems to have provided some relief. I've been icing and taking Motrin. I plan to do a swim @ Miller Park tomorrow evening and see how that goes. I'll make a decision by Thursday evening, obviously since we are scheduled to leave for Michigan on Friday.

In the meantime, I'll be weighing the pros and cons.

Friday, July 25, 2008

What Question Would Randy Pausch Have For You?

This morning as I checked my e-mail, I tried to access the homepage of Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University professor dying of pancreatic cancer. Professor Pausch, who had delivered "The Last Lecture" at Carnegie Mellon University, and later turned that lecture into a book with the same title, had not posted an update on his website since June 26th. This morning when I checked for an update on his health status I was unable to access his homepage. With a sinking feeling in my heart, I intuitively knew what this meant.

A short time ago I received an e-mail from my (former) brother-in-law, Ed saying simply; "Randy Pausch has died". I sat in stunned silence staring at my computer screen trying to process the impact of this news. Apparently Randy Pausch had died around the same time that I was attempting to check his homepage.

While I obviously did not know Randy Pausch personally, I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to know him through his lectures, his website, the TV specials about his life and most importantly his writing. The impact and legacy which he left the world is profound.

The following excerpt is taken from a May 3rd Wall Street Journal article written by Jeffrey Zaslow about Randy Pausch and his final farewell:

"Randy is thrilled that so many people are finding his lecture beneficial, and he hopes the book also will be a meaningful legacy for him. Still, all along, he kept reminding me that he was reaching into his heart, offering his life lessons, mostly to address an audience of three. "I'm attempting to put myself in a bottle that will one day wash up on the beach for my children," he said."

We all have the opportunity to put our legacy in a bottle that will wash up on the shores of the lives of those around us (our family, friends and even those who don't know us personally). What will you put in your bottle? Who is your audience?

What question would Randy Pausch have for you right now, in this moment, today?

If you would like to read more about Randy Pausch, you may find the following articles of interest:

I also encourage you to take the time to watch his "Last Lecture" if you haven't seen it yet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cleaning the "Gunk" Off

Monday afternoon I was scheduled to do an easy recovery ride. Although it was very hot (around 91) in the mid-afternoon, it seemed like a nice day to ride. I have a route (headed east out of town into the country - site of the previously mentioned Mama bird attack) that I use for shorter rides. The distance varies between 15 and 20 miles, depending on where I turn around.

As I started riding, I noticed how much tar and oil was on the surface of the road. The glistening black tar was enjoying the bright sunshine and warm temperatures. My tires quickly became coated with the tar and oil. My speed which had started out at about 18 mph, dropped to around 15 mph, which I thought might be due to wind or fatigue from Saturday's race. So, I continued to ride to my turn around point at about 8 miles east of town.

I turned around (now into a headwind) and noticed my speed was continuing to drop. About 3 miles from my destination, I discovered new chip rock laid down on the sticky, tar-slickened road. Those little rocks stuck to my tires like nuts to an ice cream cone. My skinny little road bike tires soon resembled mountain bike tires because they had so much tar and rocks stuck to them.

This presented more than a minor problem. It was almost impossible to ride faster than 8 mph. I did not want to shift to another gear out of fear that one of the many rocks flying around would happen to land in my chain. I considered calling home for a ride, but that would only mean one of our cars would have to encounter the same tar and rocks. I considered taking an alternate route, but the traffic was beginning to pick up with the end of the work day. Cutting over to a different road would take me on more heavily traveled roads. I was also concerned about the status of my bike - a flat or other mechanical problem wouldn't be unlikely.

Eventually I made it back. It was one of the most frustrating, tiring rides I have ever done. The clean up of my bike took about an hour once I was back home. My husband helped with the clean-up - amazed at what a mess I had created. First he used a plastic ruler to scrape some of the tar off the tires. Next we used wd-40 and some scrubbing with a rag to clean more of the tar off. Finally the entire bike had a nice wash.

I've considered the take-away from this experience. I remember reading in one of my coaching books (Even Eagles Need a Push by David McNally) about the process of "dry docking" a boat and similarly "dry docking" ourselves. Boats are taken out of the water periodically in order for the hull to be cleaned. Over time, various forms of debris accumulate on the hull, slowing the boat down because of the increased resistance in the water.

Each of us has debris which accumulates layer upon layer over the true essence of who we are. The debris comes in the form of our past experiences, self-limiting beliefs, negative self talk, assumptions and opinions of other people, set backs, and a host of emotions.

Emotions such as anger, resentment, a sense of entitlement, jealousy, frustration create a sticky surface on our frame. As we travel down the road of life and encounter rocks (obstacles in our path), they stick to us rather than falling off. The resistance is increased and we find ourselves slowing down even more. It can become almost impossible to keep moving forward along the road.

What is the solution? Certainly it would be wonderful if we never encountered any sticky tar in the road. The truth is that we all encounter it and wind up with tar on our tires. Until the repair and cleaning work is done, unnecessary resistance holds us back from using our full potential. We all need to spend some time in "dry dock" periodically. It's useful to scrape off the gunk that doesn't serve us.

Also on the topic of oil, I found this other excerpt from Even Eagles Need a Push:

"A positive attitude is like the oil in an engine. It is the lubricant that enables the mind's creative, solution-oriented power to respond to your command. A negative attitude drains the mind of this essential lubricant, freezing and shutting it down. A positive attitude sees a problem as an opportunity, a difficulty as a challenge. A negative attitude does the opposite and is the prescription for defeat."

I guess the oil and tar had a lot to teach me during Monday's ride. Now if I can just remember the lesson when the going gets tough.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Evergreen Tri Race Report - Facing Your Fears

I have two main concerns going into a triathlon:

  • Breathing difficulty (asthma) during the swim especially - hot, humid conditions create problems for me
  • Rain-slickened roads (especially after witnessing the horrific crash at Naperville)

Here's a portion of the Pantagraph article printed on Sunday following the race:

Rhodes led from wire to wire, winning the International distance division in 1 hour, 55.4 minutes and 40 seconds. The weather posed some additional challenges to Rhodes and the other athletes throughout the muddy, soggy race.

The effects of the weather were visible during the bike portion.“I was pretty cautious coming into the turns,” Rhodes said. “Everyone had to take it a little careful in the corners. It’s better to lose 10 seconds than sliding out and losing a minute or more.”

For others, the weather-related issues were present from start to finish.“It’s a really tough day,” said Elizabeth Ott, 30, of Naperville. “It was really hard just with the weather. Honestly, I want to say it made it one of the hardest triathlons I’ve ever done.“

I was talking with some of the other top girls, and we all said that we noticed we had a hard time breathing today. The air was really heavy. It made it a hard time to catch your breath.”

As we headed out to Lake Evergreen at 5:30 AM, it was pretty evident that bad weather was on the way. My husband scanned the horizon and optimistically suggested it was looking better as we got closer. I did manage to get my transition area set up and make a bathroom trip before the downpour began. I eventually sat in the car with my wetsuit 1/2 on, contemplating what the day would bring.

The swim started on time because thankfully there was no lightning. My breathing, however, did not start on time. Even though I used my inhaler just before getting out of the car and heading to the beach area, it took about 10-15 minutes before I could breathe well enough to get into a proper swim stroke.

Bike? What bike? Where is it? Yup, I ran past my bike. The landmark I had selected to cue me as to where my bike was (2 rows past the "Bike Out" writing on the pavement) would have worked well if there had only been one of those writings. I lost at least 2 minutes trying to figure out where my bike was located. True, it shouldn't have been that hard because there weren't all that many bikes remaining in the transition area.

I clipped in easily and without incident - always nice on slick pavement, and headed out on the bike course. About 5 miles into the 25 mile ride, the storm hit. I, of course, was headed into the storm and the accompanying wind. There was some discussion as to whether we actually had hail or just very hard-hitting rain pelting us. I thought it was hail. It felt like hail. It was raining so hard it was difficult to see the road. My sunglasses were filled with water. My shoes were filled with water.

About 7-8 miles into the ride, I was headed up a slight incline just before a left-hand turn. )Since this was an out and back course, I had already been seeing the front riders on their way back in to the bike finish.) I saw him (one of the faster riders) preparing to take the right turn. He was going so fast that I told myself; "He'll never make that corner". And he didn't. His rear tire slid out from under him and he slid across the pavement.

Luckily the two riders behind him managed to avoid him. I unclipped quickly as it was happening, unsure how close to me he might slide. Once I was safely past the accident, one of the course workers asked if I was ok. I replied; "yes". The answer was really "no".

I rode for a bit longer until I was out of the view of the course volunteers and then I stopped alongside the road. The image of the Naperville crash came rushing back. I questioned what I was doing. Why was I out here in this storm, riding a road bike on thin little tires on slick roads? Two triathlons and witnessing two crashes firsthand.... is there a message in this?

I considered my options. Stop and then what? Wait here in the storm until someone comes along? Walk my bike back to the corner with the volunteers and tell them I'm done? So, I did what I had to do. Finally after about 5 minutes, I got back on my bike and started riding. I took it easy on the corners and the sections of road with a lot of standing water.

Once I reached the bike turn around, I had the wind at my back. The rain continued to come down hard, but at least I was headed back. I managed to ride between 18-22 mph in some sections on the way back (compared to my 11-14 mph on the way out). I even started to feel more confident riding of the extremely slick road.

T2 went better than my first transition. Of course, everything was soaked, so it was still slow, but I started out on the run fairly quickly. As I headed out, I went by my family... Madison (age 3) and Ella (age 2) were gleefully standing underneath their parent's umbrellas cheering me on. They were not phased by the weather at all. (Their parents, Lauren & Kirk, Lisa & Gary, on the other hand looked quite wet and miserable.) Uplifted by the the sounds of "Go Grandma, Go!", I began the run.

I told myself as I began running that part of the triathlon is my sport of choice. I can run. I love to run. And so I did. I even had fun during the run. My husband and the Team in Training group were volunteering at the Mile 1 (and Mile 5) water stop, so it was nice to have my own personal fan club as I went by both times.

As I ran into the finish area, I was greeted by the cheers of my family and also quite a few friends. It felt so good to have overcome (or at least managed) my fears and complete this triathlon. Today I was a "completer" and not a "competitor" and that was good enough.

3 triathlons this season. All 3 with bad weather. Steelhead 1/2 Ironman is in 2 weeks. Any bets on the weather?

Evergreen Olympic Tri Results:

Swim (.93 mile): 44:04

T1 (Saturday as my husband later said): 4:56

Bike (24.8 miles): 1:41

T2: 2:09

Run (6.2 miles): 59:44

Total: 3:32 (2007 time was 3:17)

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Power of Language

Last Saturday evening was a local 5-K run called Dog Days. As usual it was very hot and humid, so the name was fitting. A group of us decided to run this race at more or less the last minute, not deciding until about 4:30 to run the 6:00 PM race.

During the drive to the race I was telling myself two things:
1) I'm not a good heat and humidity runner.
2) I'm not an evening runner (I much prefer the early morning hours for running).

I did manage to place 1st in my age group with an 8:25 mile pace over the rolling hills of the 5-K course. I knew it wasn't my best run, but I was ok with the results.

Were either of the two statements I had been telling myself useful in any way? It's interesting how the mind believes what we tell it - in fact, I would suggest that when we really believe our own perspective or version of a given situation, our brains can't tell the difference from reality.

A better way of stating those two perspectives might have been:
1) I prefer to run in cool temperatures and with conditioning I'm becoming a better heat & humidity runner all the time.
2) I prefer to run in the early morning hours, and my evening running pace is still strong enough to keep up with many runners.

We can get ourselves in even more trouble with absolute words such as "never", "always", or
even dramatic wording such as "I'm starving", "This hot weather is killing me", or "I'm dying to get out of here". Even self-deprecating phrases such as "I'm an idiot" are harmful to our psyche.

We may not have control over events in our life, situations we face, or challenges (whether they are ones we seek out such as athletics, or ones that show up on the doorstep of our lives unexpectedly). We do have control over the language we choose to use. It's wise to be mindful of the language we choose to use because our brain just may believe it as if it is real.

Listen to the language you are using - both your "outside voice" (spoken to the rest of the world) and your "inside voice" (spoken inside of your own head). It's your story to tell. Are you telling the version you want to be real?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Deleted Chapters of Your Life

Today I was trying to add a photo to my blog posting on the Naperville Women's Triathlon. Inadvertently while trying to change the layout of the photo, I deleted the entire post. This really bothered me.Then I tried to determine exactly why it bothered me so much.

After all, I had in many ways been trying to delete the Naperville Tri from my memory ever since the race. I wanted to erase the image of the young woman crashing on her bike. I wanted to erase the the unanswered questions that continue to nag at me as to whether she recovered from her injuries. I wanted to erase the wondering about her family - if they were there, or if she had young children.
Now almost a full month after that triathlon, my original impressions and thoughts are gone. That may be fitting since I have my next triathlon this weekend. It is an Olympic distance tri - a .93 mile swim, 40k (24.8 miles) bike, and a 10k (6.2 mile) run. I'd like to improve on my time from last year, even though I am not as well trained. I'm hoping improvements in the swim and cycling technique will make that possible.

It is supposed to be very hot (90 degrees) and I would guess - windy. My second goal, besides improving on my last year's time of 3:17:23, is to finish feeling strong. I actually felt like I finished each discipline of the Naperville Tri feeling fairly good. I've included the photos (hopefully without deleting this post) for you to judge for yourself.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's Useful to Sight Every Once in Awhile

This morning I had the opportunity to do an hour-long open water swim. It was a beautiful morning, already about 76 degrees with a breeze. My friend Diana graciously offered to kayak alongside for me, even though she has a very hectic schedule. I've only done one other open water swim at Lake Bloomington this season.

Today's goal was to swim 30 minutes out (some chop to the water) and 30 minutes back. I was actually surprised how quickly I swam on the way out given my limited open water swimming this summer. I went fairly straight on the way out, picking my head up to sight on a regular basis.

On the way back I started to get tired. I wanted to be done. So, I just put my head down and kept swimming. Good plan, except for one thing.... Was I headed in the right direction? No. If you haven't done any open water swimming, I can tell you that the best approach is to swim straight - the shortest distance between two points is straight. Fortunately I did not go off course very far before I remembered to pick my head up and sight.

What I took away from that moment of learning, was the importance of sighting especially when we get tired. Putting our head down and going for it may not be the most effective way to reach the intended outcome. It is useful to pick our heads up and make sure we are still on course. Has anything shifted or changed?

I finished the return trip in just a little over 30 minutes - not bad considering I had a little stop for a leaking goggle issue. I hope to get another couple of hour-long open water swims before the Steelhead 1/2 Ironman on August 3rd. Today's swim helped me feel more confident and prepared for the 1.2 mile swim in Lake Michigan.

It's been a long training "week", with my last complete rest day July 3rd. Since then I've done one 5 mile race (with a return 5 mile run back to the start), one 7-mile run, 2 pool swims, 3 rides (one 2-hour trainer ride, and two 22-mile shorter outdoor rides), one track workout, and 2 easy 4-mile runs and today's open water swim.

Tomorrow is the Pedaling for Kicks Ride. It's supposed to be quite warm and breezy. Breezy around here can often mean windy. I'm planning to do the 50-mile ride, which should put me about at the 3-hour ride on my training schedule. I hope to start riding by 6:00 AM, so that I will be finished before it gets too hot.

Sunday calls for a 2-hour long run, and a swim (which I plan to do at Lake Bloomington again). I believe Monday would be a perfect rest day!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

True to My Word

As this morning dawned, it meant it was time for my 5:30 AM track workout. I didn't feel like doing it. For some reason I did not sleep well last night. I was very restless all night long, tossing and turning and unable to fall into a deep sleep. I didn't have anything on my mind. I wasn't overtired. I just couldn't sleep.

I diligently put on my running clothes and drove to the track, hopeful that I would feel more like running once I got there. I did my warm up mile and still felt less than enthused about running repeat 800's. So, I told myself that I would continue my workout until someone else showed up on the track. Then I would complete just one more 800. Someone always shows up at some point during my workout. Surely someone would show up before I completed all six of my 800 repeats.

After Repeat 1, I scanned the parking lot and area surrounding the track - no one yet. Repeat 2? No one yet, but surely they are on their way. Repeat 3? Not yet. Repeat 4? You've got to be kidding... someone is always here by now.

Five 800's later, still just me on the track. It was very warm and humid. I was tempted to stop early even though I was alone on the track. Who would know? Then, in an odd way, I realized that "no one showing up" forced me to "show up". I had a choice to quit or be true to my word.

Most of us are pretty good about following through on our word to other people. We like to think others can count on us to be true to our word. We like to believe those around us consider us to have integrity - our actions and words are true. That's the easy part.

How about the things we say to ourselves inside of our own heads? Are we as true to those statements as we are to what we say out loud to other people? I've heard it said that you should never promise something (even something seemingly very small or insignificant) unless you are sure you can deliver.

All of us know of someone who we can count on to not be on time, to not complete tasks as promised, to not show up when they said they would. So, we begin to count on not counting on them (and their word). Here's the truth.... Not only do we all know someone like that, we all are that someone at certain times and in certain situations.

I actually believe it is just important that we follow through on those things we say in the privacy of our own heads. Each time we do so, we are more in integrity with ourselves. Each time we do so, we begin to count on ourselves and believe in our own word.

So, thank you to everyone who did not show up on the track today! By doing so, you helped me show up for myself.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Park to Park (to Park) Race Report

Typically the weather at race start for the 5 mile Park to Park race is very warm (often already approaching 80 degrees) and quite humid. This year we were greeted with cool temperatures (58-60 degrees) at the start, relatively low humidity and light winds. So all of the usual excuses for not running well went immediately out the window.

I had two strategies for the race - one was to run it hard (with a goal to beat my last Park to Park time of 42:30 run in 2004), the second strategy was to run it fairly hard, but not so hard that I wouldn't feel like running back the other direction. The race goes from Miller Park in Bloomington to Fairview Park in Normal. I've never run back the other direction, although I know many runners do that in order to pick up their cars.

I ultimately decided to run 8:30 pace (which would match the 2004 time), and then run back to Miller Park with Terry (the Team in Training coach). Two disadvantages to this plan - it would mean skipping the post-race treat of ice cream (runners get to select a free ice cream treat from the ice cream truck) and it would mean running back with Terry. Terry ran a 32-minute Park to Park. I'll save you the math calculation and let you know that is 6:30 mile pace.

I ran a 42:42 which is 8:32 mile pace and placed 1st (out of 20) in my age group. As a parting gift I received a lovely mug which I would be happy to give to any interested person. Words really can't describe the beauty of this mug.

I did run back the other direction and felt pretty good. We ran at my pace, not Terry's. 8:30 mile pace for Terry is very, very easy. So basically I ran both directions at about the same pace.

Keeping my next two goal races (Evergreen Olympic Tri and Steelhead 1/2 Ironman) in mind, I did manage to sandwich three other workouts in my holiday weekend. I managed a 7-mile run on Saturday morning, a 3/4 mile swim on Sunday morning, and a 1 1/2 hour bike mid-afternoon Sunday with temperatures in the upper 80 - 90 range.

The reason I had the word sandwich in italics was because most of my holiday weekend involved the cross-training activity of eating. Friday's lunch consisted of fried cheese curds (delicious) accompanied by a mixed green salad and a salmon sandwich with roasted red peppers and goat cheese. Friday's dinner consisted snacks and assorted buffet foods from a 4th of July picnic at a friend's house, followed by the obligatory popcorn while watching the fireworks. A surprise greeted us at Fairview Park - free pie! Baker's Square was giving out free slices of pie. Yum. This was the first time our two granddaughters (Ella age 2 and Madison age 3) had gone to the fireworks. They loved them!

After a short night's sleep because of neighborhood fireworks continuing well into the night, Saturday morning arrived. 7:00 AM seemed way too early to be getting up for a run, but we all managed to do it. Another opportunity to run and another day to enjoy food and good company.

Saturday morning's run was followed by a leisurely stroll around the Farmer's Market while sipping coffee. We moved at such a slow pace around the market, it would have been difficult for the casual observer to believe the three of us (Howard, my sister and I) had actually taken a running step that morning. Lunch was a healthy brown rice, black beans, steamed broccoli and slices of red and yellow peppers. Before you get too impressed, know that our Saturday afternoon found us at a local winery.

We sat outside on a beautiful afternoon, sipping wine, eating cheese & crackers, a fresh fruit medley of raspberries, cantaloupe, and green grapes, and looking out at the vineyard. We followed this with an all-American cookout of hamburgers and grilled zucchini, and ice cream at a local ice cream place with our two granddaughters.

Sunday morning began with coffee and quiche at our favorite coffee place, followed by lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. (I told you I got a lot of cross training in this weekend.) Believe it or not, after all that leisure activity, I did manage to get on my bike Sunday afternoon and ride for 90 minutes. The mama bird still comes after me every time I ride by her territory, but I'm ready for her now.

All in all, it was a wonderful 4th of July weekend! We included many of the favorite American pastimes - fireworks, apple pie, cookout and time with family. We didn't play baseball.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Release Your Inner Masterpiece

I happened to read an excerpt from a book and found it fascinating. Now I need to get the book. The book entitled "The Michelangelo Method ~ Release Your Inner Masterpiece & Create an Extraordinary Life", is written by Ken Schuman & Ron Paxton.

The authors recount how Michelangelo carved the David from a block of stone so damaged that his contemporaries considered it ruined. Michelangelo considered his job to be chipping away and clearing away what was not needed in order to find what was waiting inside.

The premise of the book seems to be that we each have our own masterpiece to sculpt and create - it is the life that we are meant to live. It's inside waiting for each of us. Our job is to chip away and clear away all that is not needed (fears, beliefs imposed on us by others, self-limiting patterns of thought and behavior) and discover the beauty waiting on the inside. We won't find this on the outside of ourselves - we won't find it in what and who others think we should be. We won't find our own masterpiece in external elements. We can't be who we are meant to be if we are just pretending.