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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The second most epic 5k that I've ever run

   The most epic 5k of my life will always be our conference meet my final year of collegiate cross country, when a foot of melted October snow followed by two consecutive weeks of nonstop rain left Beaver Island a complete, total swamp/mudpit/continuation of the Niagara River.  I've run over 23 minutes in a 5k twice in my life.  Once was my very first 5k ever.  The other time was there.  (Note: club nationals in Spokane a few years ago, when it was 15 degrees with a windchill of -381 might have made this list, but that was a 6k.  It just deserved a shout out.)  Anyways, my training schedule called for a 5k this weekend, mostly for HR zone testing purposes.  I selected the Post Christmas Blues 5k, a fun little race in Canandaigua that I ran a couple of years ago, and enjoyed for the cheery atmosphere and Christmas-themed race shirt (I love anything festive holiday, as I've previously stated).  However, I'd been feeling sort of off all week, I hadn't run a single sub-7 mile in well over a month, I'm admittedly not in race mentality mode, I'm just flat-out out of shape (there's been a lot of chocolate involved in my Christmas season), and I hadn't run a 5k in over a needless to say, it wasn't going to be a PR-quality race.  While brushing my teeth last night, I figured that a sub-20 performance would be adequate.  It briefly occurred to me that this would mean that I'd be running my 70.3 half marathon pace-stellar.  I then became thankful for two things-1. The course had been changed, so I wouldn't have to compare myself to the 18:2x surprise performance from a couple of years ago (it was the one freak 50 degree day that winter), and 2. it might snow, giving me a fantastic excuse for a slow time.

   Fast forward to this morning.  I dragged Dave out of bed nice and early, as he complained and tried to weasel his way out of joining me, saying that the best things for the cold he's had this week would be sleeping all day and continuing his self-pity party.  I'd have been more sympathetic, but he went to bed before seven last night, and, most importantly, he'd backed out of running this race a couple of years ago, costing us the husband/wife prize.  I wasn't willing to let that happen again, after all.  When we left Irondequoit (later than I wanted to, of course), light flakes were falling, but nothing was sticking to the road.  Naturally, I packed my ancient flats with negative traction.  I thought maybe it'd stay clear enough until we were through the race.  Wrong.  As I drove further and further south, the roads became snowier and snowier.  I remembered the whole "excuse to run slow" thing, though, and didn't panic.  By the time I was warming up, a good 1-2 inches of fresh powder were on the ground.  My race goals shifted from "hopefully break 19, at the very least 20" to "don't fall, or completely embarrass yourself".  By the time I got to the starting line, I decided to at least try to enjoy the craziness of it all-after all, if I'd wanted perfect conditions, I'd have gone to the upstate indoor track meet.  But, the thought of running a 5k on an indoor track sounded less appealing than navigating a snowy wonderland, so there I was!

   When the race started, I was about as ready to go as I was going to be.  I settled in behind former Canandaigua standout/current collegian Meghan McCormick, and basically just stayed there the entire race. Occasionally, I'd try to see if I could close the gap a bit, but it wasn't going to happen.  I knew that she had been one of the best high school runners in the state last year, and had pr's that put mine to shame, so I didn't worry too much about it, and concentrated on a. staying upright, b. trying not to let the gap get too huge, and c. trying to smile at the high school volunteers directing us at intersections (it had to be COLD for them just standing there, after all-I was uncharacteristically easily distracted during the race, which was nice). The footing during the first mile actually wasn't too bad, and I felt pretty decent, running it around 6:15.  During the second mile, I tried to keep the same intensity, and entertained myself by trying to find the best route through the snow, alternating between the tire tracks (less snow but more slipping in the slipper-flats) and the undisturbed snow (less slipping but olf-like running through sand).  The garmin flashed a 6:37 for that mile.  I justified it as the second fastest mile I'd run in the past month (to the first mile of that race), and continued on.

   The final mile consisted of me trying to stay a respectable distance behind Meghan (I was thankful she was there, otherwise I probably would have started sandbagging things entirely) and counting down the distance left.  As expected after months of zone 1, I wasn't in a ton of pain, I just had no other gear in my arsenal.  Plus, the snow kept getting deeper (tends to do that as it falls, I suppose).  By this point, my HR monitor had slid down my chest and was reading in ventricular fibrillation range, too.  The slight uphill towards the final turns passed in slow motion, and the garmin beeped with a 7:04-or, slower than any mile I'd run in any 70.3 all season.  Oh well.  I made the final turn and finished up in 21:09.  While this may have been slower than the first 5k of my marathon during IM Florida, it still fell within a good range-slow enough to indicate that something other than my (lack of) fitness had caused (at least part of) the deviation from my normal times, yet faster than my epic condition 23 minute cutoff.  Dave finished shortly thereafter, thus locking up our husband/wife title (and drawing far more sympathy from Joe Williams and Curbeau as he stumbled through the finish chute with the cold of the century).

   Afterwards, we enjoyed what I miss the most about running road races-post-race socializing while eating (Chobanis and hot chocolate=awesomeness).  We caught up a bit with Joe and Matt, and got our husband/wife swag, selecting a new sweet flashlight from the offerings.  This may not seem very exciting, but as I learned when I was slightly concerned about power outages before Sandy, we actually didn't own an adequate flashlight.  Plus, it gave me another opportunity to make fun of Dave for the time that he bought some $1.99 "lantern" from his favorite website,, and bragged incessantly about what a fantastic deal he'd gotten on this amazing light source, until it arrived and was all of 3 inches tall.  I don't think that one should be lived down.  Ever.  Overall, though, although the last time I ran a 5k, I ran over 3 minutes faster, I still enjoyed the race (it remains pretty high on my list of personal favorite 5ks), and we accomplished the goal of getting some HR data (until it fell down around my stomach).  Plus, I just love snow, so I'll never fault it for anything (we even went out and bought some new xc skies right afterwards, taking them for a spin later on).  With the new year will come some harder training-and I'm more than ready to tackle it!

Dave and our flashlight.  He loves me for getting him out of bed this morning.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

10 things that my dogs do that make no logical sense whatsoever

Almost a year ago, I wrote up this post about ten things I've learned from our dogs.  As a follow up to this, I began to think about its antithesis-basically, ten things the dogs do that really just don't make sense.  Some of these are typical to many dogs (fear of fireworks); some of them are specific to our sometimes lovable mutts (the figure 8 thing).  Our dogs are certainly unique, and they frequent my social media presence.  Being rescues, we cut them (especially the Moose and her mystery history) some slack when it comes to their idiosyncrasies (we don't expect dogs to be furry four-legged Einsteins, after all-especially our dogs); still, some stuff makes us scratch our heads, sigh, or in the end, just laugh.  So, for a little light-hearted Christmas reading, here we go, in no particular order!  (Disclaimer-multiple poop-related references are made here, but given this is mainly a triathlon-related blog, and triathlons often involve close encounters with bodily functions, I figured I was in the clear).

1. They have zero fear of things that could maim/dismember them.

Things that my dogs are not afraid of include:

School buses...or any motor vehicle, for that matter
Both dogs have chased coyotes.  Any time that Bailey has managed to sneak out our front door or slither under our fence, her immediate instinct has been to go play in traffic.  One morning, after escaping our back yard, she was running along the sidewalk as a school bus barreled its way up the street.  Dave and I watched in horror, sensing what would happen next-Bailey would decide to run across the street right as it approached.  Sure enough, she did.  To this day, I have no idea how she wasn't run over.  No fear.  Moose, while not quite as brainless, also has no street sense.  Her MO is sprinting up to cars as they pull into the driveway, because she can't wait for the two ton death machine to actually stop moving before greeting its occupants.

2. Yet, they are terrified of objects that pose absolutely no threat to them.

Things that my dogs are afraid of include:
The ordinary hula hoop

The vacuum clea...omg OMG RUN IT'S MAKING NOISES

It only works if the blade is fully contained and my human is making it go, but I don't get that because I'm a dog!
At dog obedience class, the Moose retreated from the hula hoops on agility day, terrified for no good reason.  Like most dogs, ours run terrified from the vacuum.  Fireworks (and thunder) cause our 50lb Bailey to voluntarily retreat to the dreaded, awful bathtub.  When chopping up walnuts to help my mom with Christmas cookies last week using the hand blender, she ran into the basement.  Seriously, dogs?  Theoretically, I'd imagine that all of these things could somehow cause harm if weirdly misused (not that we leave our dogs outside during thunderstorms, or light off backyard fireworks).  But, chances of death by hula hoop or hand blender are far less than the chances of death by getting run over by a school bus.
This is where we found Bailey after getting home from the Fourth of July fireworks one year.  That would be hiding in one of her other great fears, the BATHTUB (cue horror music)

3. They do this:

Dogs roll in gross. I get that.  Well, I don't get it get it, but I understand that dogs are attracted to all kinds of nastiness.  This, though, defied explanation, due to its location.  While on a romp in the woods one day, Moose disappeared for a bit.  When she returned, that was on her thigh, and her thigh alone.  I still can't figure out how she managed to get a thick smear of...whatever that is...only there.  Did she rub up against it with her hip?  Did she lay on her side for a second, and that just happened to be there?  Did she find some other animal in the woods and stand there against its rear while it #2'ed?  The Moose.  Ew.

4. They eat pounds of raw rice, experience the unpleasant results, and then seek it out and eat pounds of it again.

One morning, probably a couple of years ago now, Dave and I came downstairs and found a incriminating trail of rice coming out of the pantry, starting from the weirdly giant bag that Dave had purchased.  We chastised Bailey a bit (because anytime a dog does something bad, she automatically gets blamed).  I wondered what would happen-we postulated that the rice might absorb water in her stomach, expanding her freakishly skinny midsection.  We were wrong on both accounts, as I found out a few days later when the Moose squatted down on a walk and pooped out completely undigested rice.  After gagging for a bit, I couldn't help but think, that must have felt like straight sandpaper coming out.  Unfortunately, neither human nor dog learned a lesson from this experience, as Dave then moved the rice to another dog-accessible location.  This time, both dogs ate several pounds worth of it, and the process repeated.  Nothing starts the weekend off right like cleaning dog rice poop up from your den carpet, let me tell you.  After that, we hid the rice somewhere good-or so we thought.  Those brats, despite the fact that their nether regions must have been rubbed raw, sought it out yet again.  This time, Bailey did most of the damage, which was fantastic, given that we were bringing her to a hotel shortly afterwards.  Luckily, she did wake us up at night to do her business...but I did get a few nasty looks the next day when I was dragging her as she was trying to squat on someone's front yard while running.  There would have been no cleaning that up with a plastic bag, after all.  Thinking back, yes, we were idiots for leaving the rices places where the dogs could get at it...but, it's freaking rice.  When raw, it's absolutely tasteless little hard pellets that hold no appeal to anything with moderate intelligence in the first place.  After what had to have been the most painful poops of our dogs' lives, one would think that would have killed all desire to forage for more.  There's just no way that the taste of raw rice can be so awesome that it outweighs what it must feel like to pass it.  Unless you're one of our dogs, that is.  

5. The whole "lick something ridiculously hot, retreat and smack lips, approach plate again, sniff a little, and repeat" deal.

This typically happens with one of two items: wasabi or Dave's favorite sriracha hot sauce.  After dinner, we'll often clear anything possibly dog-harmful (bones, undigestibles, etc) off our plates and set them down for the dogs to prewash for us.  Sometimes, the plates will have one of the aforementioned items on them.  The dogs will have the sense to lick around the tongue-searing stuff at first, but at the end, they'll be faced with a dilemma-let the goodness end, or try that stuff that sort of burns the nostrils when we sniff it?  Naturally, the choice is to continue licking.  This leads to a fun little cycle.  The dog will immediately back off, looking scared and confused as she smacks her lips repeatedly, not understanding what's going on.  She'll then be overwhelmed by her inner obese dog voice, and will tentatively sneak closer and closer back to the plate, seemingly expecting the hot monster to jump out and attack.  When that doesn't happen, she'll carefully sniff at the plate, tentative at first, and then repeat the entire process, experiencing the same results yet again.
Maybe it stopped being hot in the past 30 seconds!   Let's try again!

6. Moose refuses to run away from the house.

This one is Moose-specific.  Given she's a stout little 35 lb dog, I don't expect the Moose to be able to hang with me for 10 milers.  In the woods, though, off-leash, she'll sprint around endlessly, leading me to believe that she could make it a mile or two.  However, this isn't about the Moose's ability to run.  It's about her willingness to run.  She literally just flat out refuses if I'm heading away from the house.  If you start to run behind this dog on a walk, she will sit down and absolutely refuse to move, no matter how much pulling, encouraging, or pleading you do.  It's almost bizarre.  I've never been able to get her to go more than a block before this happens.  On the way back to the house, though, she'll break out into a dead sprint, dragging me along in her frantic attempt to get back to the safety "no running" zone.  My only thought is that her previous owners drove 1000 miles away from home, went for a run with her, left her, immediately hopped back into their car, and drove off, leaving the Moose stranded.  Or maybe she just makes no sense whatsoever, because she's a dog.  Who knows.

7. Moose also refuses to walk in a figure 8

At dog obedience class, one of the exercises we were supposed to do was walk our dogs in a figure 8.  The response from the Moose on the first attempt mirrored what happens when we try to run her.  She refused, sitting in the middle of the floor while all of the other dogs happily trotted around, making their owners look halfway competent.  The instructor shot us a look, and told us to practice this skill.  Determined not to be embarrassed the next week, I took Moose out into the yard, setting up a mini figure 8 course.  More refusal. I tried treats, I tried bribing, I tried every type of collar or harness that we had, I tried as much dragging as I could.  The Moose just adhered herself to the grass.  At class the next week, we were supposed to demonstrate how awesome our dogs had become at their figure 8'ing over the past week.  Again, all of the other dogs pranced along.  The Moose planted herself firmly on the ground.  The instructor came over, suspecting that perhaps I hadn't done my homework.  Well, even the highly experienced instructor, who had assisted in the basic training of thousands of rescue mutts over the course of the years, could not get the Moose to budge (almost to my relief).  As the rest of the class gawked, the Moose, firmly superglued to the ground by that point, yelped as the instructor tried every trick in the books to get her to walk a figure 8, to no avail.  After several minutes of this, she gave up, stating that this was the first time in her career she'd ever failed to get a dog to do something so simple and harmless.  Yep.  That's our dog.
The configuration of death 

8. They chose to stand in the worst positions possible in the car.

When car shopping a few years ago, I selected a versatile, practical hatchback, figuring it would be perfect for transporting two dogs, two people, and a bunch of triathlon gear.  The car design has been fantastic-except for when the dogs decide to inexplicably leap out of the comfy, spacious back (fully equipped with a blanket, plenty of windows to look out, and often some bones) in order to stand in weird positions all over the rest of the car, spreading their epoxy-like fur everywhere.  They'll usually try to weasel their way up to the front seat, not understanding the whole "I'm driving" concept.  The favorite position is standing with back feet on back seat, front feet on the center console between the front seats-aka, the most unstable dog position ever.  They never seem to learn that every time I turn, brake, or accelerate, this leads to a scrambler-like effect, and a struggle to stay upright (that sometimes ends up in falling all over the place).  My favorite example of this was on the way home from the Poconos 70.3, when Bailey slunk her way out of the back into the backseat, trying to perch/lay among wheel bags and piles of gear.  Conveniently, we were stuck in traffic at the time, with no means of pulling over and shoving her back into place, so she sort of awkwardly stood/laid there while Dave yelled about her standing on his carbon wheels.  Good times, Bailey, good times.
Why lay comfortably in the back of the car when you can awkwardly perch like this?

9. They poop on the upslope.

The back part of our property is a steep uphill, covered in various types of groundcover plants and pine trees-i.e., unusable to humans.  Thus, we thoroughly appreciate when the dogs decide to #2 up there.  How they chose to do their business, though, is what confuses me.  When they choose to use this area as their bathroom (the Moose in particular), they poop with their butt up the hill, and their arms down below.  I don't get this.  I can concede that this position would mean less squatting.  However, the laws of gravity still apply in other ways here.  Having the butt above just doesn't seem like it'd be ideal pooping position (the multiple times Bailey pooped in a 45min run done immediately after witnessing her doing this confirmed my opinion on this matter).  Plus...what if stuff started rolling down the hill into their front legs?  Gross.  I guess this wouldn't bother the dogs, given they eat/roll in poop, but it bothers me.  And I feed them.  They should respect that more.

10. They completely don't realize that they only delay the start of their walk (or, in Bailey's case, run) by spazzing all over the hallway beforehand

Although Bailey ranks towards (at) the bottom of dog intelligence charts, she has some sort of savant-ness/hyperactive radar regarding runs or walks.  The second she hears anything that suggests that one of us might be heading out for a run or preparing to take them for a walk (this includes turning on a garmin, putting on a shoe, coming upstairs after biking, grabbing a plastic bag out of the cabinet, changing after biking, making any sort of move towards the hat/glove bag, etc), even if she's been lounging on our bed all morning, she immediately comes downstairs.  This is when things start to get irritating.  She then loses all control over her excitement, frantically leaping, digging at her leash, picking up gloves in her mouth and transporting them elsewhere, and jumping around into the shoe rack, knocking shoes all over the place.  Trying to get shoes, hats, gloves, and leashes on then becomes a gargantuan task, as I have to deal with a 50lb, lanky, spastic disaster of a dog spewing equipment everywhere, sometime smashing into my face if I try to lean down to tie my shoes.  She sometimes senses that sitting gets her what she wants, so she'll do that...but it'll last all of 2-3 seconds before her uncontrollable excitement gets the better of her.  My favorite is transporting the gloves elsewhere-maybe, Bailey, maybe we'd get out the door sooner if I could find my gloves.  The Moose tends to be a bit more reserved, given she knows that she doesn't always get to go on our mysterious outings. However, when it's clear that we're going on a walk instead of a run (i.e., when I reach for the drawstring bag of treats and poop bags), she then contributes in her own way, which is by sitting at the door and barking.  I get it, the Moose.  You want to go for a walk.  Fifteen (or so it feels like) unnecessary minutes later, when I finally get us all ready, I force them to sit before I open the door.  Of course, the second I open the door, they forget that they're on leashes, and take off in a 6ft dead sprint.  Canine geniuses.
Captured in her .3 seconds of sitting.  I didn't touch her leash at all; its positioning is all her
Well, that about sums up some of our dogs quirky, "endearing" little qualities.  Because a picture's worth a thousand words, I'll close out with a few more that summarize day to day life with our mutts.
Enjoying some butt
And washing it down with some butt water

Why yes, it is possible to get a blanket stuck in your collar and drag it off the couch
But look how cute they are!  So that's how they get away with all that stuff...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

16 reasons why running is better than swimming (Jennie's rebuttal)

  Earlier today, in response to an article about why swimming makes you smart, Mary posted this blog post about the real reasons that swimmers are smarter.  Because I'll never let up in my battle against swimming (and because I feel like I have to make up for my uncharacteristic moment of weakness yesterday morning, when I posted a rare positive thought about swimming on social media for the world to see), I spent most of my workout this morning mentally composing this list of reasons that running is better than swimming.  I could have kept going, too; I have more in my brain.  Still, the list was getting long, so I decided to cut myself off at 16.  So here they are, in no particular order!

1. You can look at stuff when you run. 
Right now, Christmas decorations are out.  They make me happy.  Earlier in the year, I composed this blog post about 5 nice things that I get to look at while I run.  You’ll notice I have no such list about swimming.  That’s because when I swim, the five things I get to look at are the bottom of the pool (boring), the wall (boring), the lane line (boring), the digital clocks at the ends of the lengths (depressing), and, once a lap, Dave (gross.  I know he’s my husband, but men wearing nothing but spandex bottoms are, as a rule, gross).  Plus, half the time my goggles are fogged up, so I can’t even make that stuff out that well, anyways.

           2. You can listen to stuff when you run.
I don’t always bring music with me when I run; I actually probably don’t bring it more than I bring it (see above-it’s because I actually get to look at stuff).  Still, it’s nice to have that option.  Even if I’m not listening to music, I can still listen to outdoor noises.  I know that Mary has blogged about how she enjoys the noise of the water when swimming before.  However, when I swim, all I can hear is my gasping, asthmatic breathing.  I suppose I might enjoy the sound of the water if it wasn't drowned out by the COPD-like sounds that I make.  But it is.  So that's that.

3. You get to breathe the entire time that you run.
Self-explanatory.  For a lifelong endurance athlete, I have zero lung capacity.  I can hold my breath for about 10 seconds before I start to get really, really uncomfortable.  As a child, I always lost horrifically when we would hold "see how many times you can swim across the pool in one breath" contests (which is probably why my sister became the swimmer).  When Mary tries to give me stuff to do in the pool that involves me to do something other than breathe every stroke, I remind her of this fact.  With running, I just get to...breathe.  I don't have to time it or suffocate even at slow speeds.  I appreciate that.

4. My winter running clothes are more forgiving/flattering than my bathing suits are at off season weights.  
This morning, I had to wrestle my way into my bathing suit.  I marveled at how it cut off half of my butt, creating a second butt.  I noticed how it appeared lighter in color because it was being stretched so thin.  I wondered if I was 5 months pregnant.  Most unappealingly, I felt my upper back fat spilling over the straps.  In my winter running clothes, though, the only thing I notice is that my thighs are kind of large in my spandex.  Still, spandex prevents chafing for me, so even this isn't that bad.  All those other things?  They're hidden.  Plus, I can tell myself that it's not me, it's the extra layers.

5. Year-round, the first minute or so of swimming absolutely sucks.     
I will admit that when it's cold out, the first couple of minutes of running aren't that pleasant.  However, the pool is freaking freezing every single morning, winter, spring, summer or fall.  Mary has also said before she loves the first push-off from the wall.  I can't say I feel the same way.  In fact, I spend the entire morning dreading the moment in which I leave the warm, dry, bright, pleasant pool deck and plunge myself into the freezing cold, wet abyss.  Not to mention, this moment also represents the fact that the pool workout is just beginning.  Gross.  At that point, I know that I'm not going to get to breathe nearly as much as I'd like to in the coming 1-1.5 hours, too.

6. You can fully wash off the running smell.
Sure, I probably smell better after getting out of the pool than I smell after finishing a run.  However, after showering, the sweat odor is gone.  The pool chlorine odor, though, sticks around faintly the entire day.  I'll be at work writing notes, resting my head on my hand when I'll catch the slight aroma of municipal pool.  Mmmm.  I love smelling like a water park.

7. I don't have to pay $2.50 every time I run.
And that's a good pool price.

8. I don't have to get up at 5am to run.  I can do it whenever I want to...because outside is always open.

9. When I begin/return from a run, there's exactly a 0% chance that I'm going to inadvertently see a naked old woman doing something that should be done AFTER getting dressed.
I have to say, this isn't really an issue at the Irondequoit pool.  Sure, some women shower in the open showers there, but that's probably a necessity.  They then grab a towel, head to the lockers, and promptly get dressed first.  There's nothing wrong with that.  When I swim other places, though, (i.e. the JCC), though, this isn't the case.  I come out of the pool and see naked old women doing things that, in my world, rank below at least putting on underwear in priority, such as drying their hair, putting one leg up on a bench and lotioning it up (one of my personal favorites), or conversing with me.  When I run, though, I'm guaranteed that there won't be any naked old women in my house.

10. I do think when I swim.  It's just never about anything good.
When I swim, I'm basically forced to think about three things: 1. how far I've gone (which inevitably leads into how freaking far I still have to go); 2. what the heck my arms are doing (which inevitably frustrates/confuses me); 3. how much this either a. is really hard, b. is really slow, or c. both of the above.  When I run, I can zone out and think about other things.  I don't have to constantly be aware of how far I still have to go.  I do try to think about my form here and there, but if I don't, it doesn't start doing something completely foreign.  Which leads me to my next point.

11. My run form, while not perfect either, at least doesn't vary wildly, and I can easily better it if I actually think about it.  My swim form is an enigma, and it doesn't always get better if I think about it.  In fact, it probably often gets worse.

12. If you stop running, nothing bad happens.  If you stop swimming, you drown.
Are there lifeguards required when I go out for runs?  No.

13. I've never had a giant clump of unidentified hair intersperse itself in my fingers while running.  
This has happened on more than one occasion while swimming.  There's nothing worse than seeing the giant hair clump gradually drift closer and closer to you each lap, until it ends up intertwined among your fingers, forcing you to spend the rest of the interval trying to breathe sporadically and gag at the same time.

14. Speaking of hair, although running doesn't make me a beauty queen, it doesn't leave my hair quite as gnarly as swimming does.
When I get out of the pool, my hair is a snarled, birds-nest like creation sitting on the top of my head.  It basically requires half a bottle of my $2/bottle Suave conditioner to untangle.  Half of it then ends up on the drain of the shower, on the bathroom floor, or stuck on my work clothes.  I'm not entirely sure how I actually still have hair, in fact.  

15. I can enjoy the company of my dog on runs.
She does not swim.  But she's kind of cute when she runs.  Running makes her happy.  And less annoying the rest of the day.  Win-win for both of us.

16. I'm comparatively much better at running.  
Let's face it, this helps.  As Jesse put it at the end of the season (on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being best and 10 being worst), "if your running is a 3, your biking is a 4 and your swimming is a 9".  I've missed out on a lot by swim margins these past couple of years-top 3 in my AG at age group nationals, the overall IM 70.3 amateur title last year, and the podium in all of my fall races this year.  I've exited the water in DFL more than once.  Given that I've put way more time and effort into swimming than running for the past year, I *might* be harboring a bit of frustration here and there. 

In reality though, I really want to like swimming.  I've grown to tolerate it a little bit more over the past year, and sometimes I find some redeeming qualities in it (especially when I get to wear fins).  I hope that my struggles in the water will make any (relative) successes in it even sweeter if they (eventually) every happen.  I've been making some progress recently, so I'm actually at a good place with it right now (this might last another day, another week, or another month...we'll see.  Swimming is fickle for me).  But...I'll always like running more.  

I do like the festive holiday bathing suit my mom gave me last year that's in this picture.  Yes, this is a picture of dogs in Christmas outfits posed in front of aero wheels adorned with a festive holiday swimsuit and a QT2 swim cap.  Yes, we have issues.  Serious issues.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

The balancing act

  My offseason officially concluded today (with some threshold testing on the bike-olf).  Four weeks of unstructured "training" later (I occasionally ironically thought about how the amount of exercise I was doing in that time probably qualified me as a normal, healthy person), tomorrow I'll be starting back into the grind.  Mary and I met today, we set my season up, and I'm obviously excited about what's (hoping that all goes according to plan, of course) on tap for 2013-the rookie jitters are gone, and it's time to take the kids gloves off a bit.  I'm already looking at flights and elevation profiles and pro rankings and all that.  But, at the same time, I honestly haven't spent the last month in any great rush to get started.  People asked me here and there if I was going nuts yet, and really, after spending a year juggling work and training and dogs and the normal challenge of house upkeep in a two ironman household...I just wasn't.  I obviously don't have children, and my schedule certainly wasn't as packed as it is for many of my peers, but I still spent a good portion of 2012 just tired.  Life keep seeming to have this way of bringing me just to the brink of my sanity (I remember just sitting back and crying one morning as I crawled around my bedroom floor through piles of laundry looking for a freaking matching pair of socks to wear to work, feeling that I was defying the laws of probability as I pulled out one stray sock after another), and then throwing me a bone just in the nick of time, whether it was a recovery day or week, a long ride where I was able to shake off my fatigue and feel inexplicably strong, or even something as simple as a smile from my favorite cross guard on a morning run with the dog, or calling back a new patient and finding him/her to be, as I might put it, "basically the nicest person ever" in the midst of an otherwise stressful day.

   But enough complaining, my life isn't really all that hard.  It's actually pretty darn good.  And my husband even cooks dinner most nights (and hand washes dishes-because he's just so much better at it than I am, of course).  What I really wanted to reflect upon is something that came up today when we met (Dave and Logan Franks were there participating too) after my testing-the concept of balance.  While Chrissie Wellington's retirement announcement surprised some, I honestly couldn't say that I was surprised-the woman did incredible things in/for the sport, and has nothing left to prove.  I've been reading her autobiography, and I can relate to some of the things she described from her childhood days-excelling in school, a desire to use her brain for good.  So, I can understand how after using her body instead for a number of years and accomplishing all their is to accomplish in long course racing, she might just want to go back to using her position and her brain and her time to pursue different pursuits.  Throughout my high school, college, and graduate school careers, my academic achievements far outpaced my athletics ones.  This might be part of what drives me so much athletically-academically, I could put in the work and get my 4.0 every semester, and that was that.  Athletically, it's not as linear, and there's no ceiling-well, there is, but I don't know what it is and I won't unless I keep at it.  Still, I can't turn my back on the 20 years of school and the doctorate degree I spent so much time (and money) on-and I don't want to.  It's something I worked towards, it's something I continue to try to work at, and it's balance.
I'm a libra, so I guess that means I was born level or something.
  Successful long course racing takes time and dedication-no doubt about that.  I've made many of the common concessions of the pro triathlete without hesitation, including Friday nights in, Saturdays spent on the bike, 5am wake up times, using all my vacation time on trips to races, swapping out those diet cokes for water, coming to terms with my clothes being everywhere (well, that one might just be laziness...) etc.  This hasn't been a big deal for me-I know what my goals are, and I feverishly want to do my best to get after them.  I've never crossed a finish line wishing I'd done less to get there.  Of course, there's always more I could do-and I do need to work on some of this next year.  Except for a select few of us, there's always something else we could change.  But, the question becomes-what's the cost?  Where's the tipping point between healthy sacrifice needed to maximize ability and reach a goal, and an unbalanced life that leaves one cranky and miserable, usually with a lack of return on investment and in many cases declining performance and a loss of passion for the sport?  I could leave my family and friends and go live in a tent at altitude, subsisting off of vegetables and training 35 hours/week (that might be a bit of an exaggeration...but we get the idea)-but that wouldn't work for me.  I do think that the tipping point probably varies from person to person, and while an adherence to a certain lifestyle or certain sacrifices can be suggested, it can't be dictated.  I'm incredibly lucky to have a coach that gets this, that respects this, and that lives this herself.

   I know what I need for my balance-I need time with my family and friends, I need sleep, I need a bit of time to take the dogs for a hike in the woods a couple of days each week, I need ice cream and chocolate and pizza here and there, I need human contact after four hour training days, I need to be gainfully employed, I need a chance to utilize my talents outside of triathlon.  I also have outside interests-I like to garden, I like to deck out the house for holidays, I like to write in this darn blog, I like to walk around my dad's property and look at the growing plants and pick stuff, I like to watch a few mindless tv shows every week, I actually do sometimes like to clean.  These "things" all keep me somewhat grounded in normalcy, and, conversely, keep my passion for the sport high (after all, nothing beats daydreaming about racing while planting vegetables on a warm summer evening).  Next year, I do intend on dedicating myself to the sport to a greater degree, but not to the point where I lose my sense of balance.  I can waste less time browsing slowtwitch and spend more time sleeping, reading something educational, or even preparing bottles to save time for the following week's workouts (  I can get my butt to the pool for an extra session each week.  I can clean up my diet more.  These are all things that require more self-discipline, but the type that I consider worth it.  I want to better myself as a triathlete, but not at the expense of worsening myself as a human being.  Apart from a small charm I wear around my neck, nothing about my outside appearance or carriage of myself screams "crazy triathlete", and I hope to keep it that way.

  So, as my offseason comes to a close, was I bored?  Was I going nuts?  I was decking the halls, enjoying staying up past ten and sleeping past seven, spending my Saturday shopping with my mom and sister and having a grand old time, and putting together a 1000 piece puzzle.  I even washed the windows and windowsills on the first floor of our house.  Trust me, that's a big deal for me.  The laundry...still didn't get done, but I'll keep telling myself someday on that.  Basically, I righted the triathlon/life scales towards the life side of things, until I was ready to start building the triathlon bank again.  That starts tomorrow, and I'm right where I need to be heading into it.  I'll be pushing my limits and testing my thresholds and making sacrifices, but at the same time, keeping in touch with my sanity.    

  Just in case anyone was still worried I've been's some photographic evidence of our overly festive Griswold house.  I love Christmas.  It's like a disease.  Dave loves me.
Festive holiday mantle.  No fears, the other dog has a stocking too-it's just hidden behind the woodstove.  Because dogs have any freaking idea what Christmas is, or that they have stockings hanging.

More den.  Dave likes giraffes, so he Christmas more when I somehow make them fit in the decor-hence the giraffe planter with fabric poinsettas jammed in its butt.

Festive holiday dining room table.  Sometimes Dave comes in here with his laptop and does work and moves things.  It makes me disproportionately upset.

Festive holiday kitchen table (not that we're classy enough to eat at the table).  Find the giraffe!  Dave did.  It was the one thing he complimented about all of my festive holiday kitchen touches.  Actually, a giraffe can be found in the mantle picture, too.  Oh, Dave.
We decorated the dog too.  She's trying to hide.  Yes, I do realize that it'd be healthier for us to have children someday.