Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Cost of All This

Triathlon is expensive, and I'm never sure whether it or the animals will send me over the edge financially first. Triathlon is like a giant magnet hiding in my checking account and sucking money out as quickly as it goes in. Here, for example, are a list of things I need right now, or in the near future:

*New swimsuit. I need this one urgently. The inner layer has separated from the outer layer in my (not very old) Speedo, so that I feel like I'm swimming draped in disintegrating Kleenex and every time I pull forward, anyone could look down the front of my suit all the way to my feet if they wanted to. (Not that anyone would want to, or does, do this, but still, it is an uncomfortable feeling and can't be very hydrodynamic.) And no I don't have to get a $50-$70 Speedo; I could just get something from Target or something for half the price, but I don't feel like a real swimmer in a non-Speedo. And I just love the way a new Speedo fits so perfectly, like body paint. So new Speedo it will have to be.

*Running tights for the winter. I have one pair of those and they are torn. Since they're black I could just wear them every day and let everyone think I have 20 different pairs of tights, all black, but that's probably not a very practical idea, since I would either have to stink or else do laundry every other day. These run anywhere from $25-$30 on sale, up to $50 or more.

*A speed/cadence sensor for my Garmin 310. Not that I really need one, when I'm as out-of-shape as I am, but I WANT one, based on the theory that I am actually going to TRAIN on the bike while recovering from my stress fracture, and therefore will need to know things like cadence. That's $60.

*New swim goggles, since with both pairs of my old ones I have a choice between A) cinch them up so tight I have a splitting headache by the time I exit the pool, or B) let them leak so that I have to stop every few laps and dump out the water. $15 - $30 depending on which pair I get.

*Cycling clothes for winter. This is a necessity given the facts that A) I have zero tolerance for cold, B) I do a lot of my miles before the sun comes up, which in winter will be COLD, C) I can't run for a while so will have no choice but to do those hard bike miles when it's cold, D) I bought my bike in March and don't own a single piece of long-sleeved bike gear. I need AT LEAST a long-sleeved jersey, a jacket, tights, and full-fingered gloves. I will make a conservative estimate of $200 but suspect it will be more than that.

*Sports doc for the presumed stress fracture. I can't even begin to estimate how much that will cost but suspect it will easily be in the several hundreds of dollars range, since my insurance doesn't cover any of the doctors I want and regular doctors just tell you to rest the injured body part, which isn't going to happen.

Those are just the needs of the moment, and don't include ongoing things like tubes, race registration, GU gels, batteries for bike lights, renewals to subscriptions of Runner's World/Bicycling/Triathlete magazines, impulse purchases of triathlon-related books, annual memberships to SAR and Tri-Girls, gas to drive to training runs/rides, membership fees for the pool, race registration fees, airfare/hotels for races in distant cities, visits to the bike shop for tune-ups, repairs, et cetera... it goes on and on, and never stops.  I am lucky to have an easy, overpaid government job where I can handle most of these expenses, but it would be nice to have a little left over for, you know, new clothes that I can wear to work as opposed to only on workouts, and stuff like that.

Monday, October 25, 2010

No, I Will NOT Change My Own Damn Bike Tire!

I'm sitting here in my house, looking at my bike in the Arizona room. Once again, it has a flat tire.

How can this POSSIBLY be? I've ridden less than 100 miles in the past month, yet this is the fifth flat tire I've had in that same time period. I have Gatorskin tires, which cost $80 for the pair and are supposed to be some of the toughest road bike tires that are still light enough to not hamper performance too much. So why is it that every flat I get turns out to be the work of some hair-thin piece of plant or tree that you can barely even see without a magnifier?

Of course, I will not change my own flats. Not ever. One thing I have always hated about bikes is that if you want to be a real cyclist, you have to know your machine, not only know what its parts are called but also know how to adjust them, when necessary. (And it seems to be necessary an awful lot.) I have A) zero mechanical aptitude, B) zero interest in anything mechanical, and C) a profound reluctance to do anything that involves getting grease or road dirt on my clothes, hands, or anywhere else. I never even pretended to have an interest in doing any of this stuff with my old hybrid bike, but my road bike is such a better class of bike that I felt that learning how to take care of it was something I needed to do to prove myself worthy of the bike. Or to show my devotion to it, or something like that.

So I took a couple of classes (TriSports, BICAS), and was given hands-on tutoring by a couple of people (alas, opportunities for learning how to change my bike's flats have always been abundant), and watched instructional videos on YouTube, and read books and articles galore, and hoped that this whole process would awaken my inner bike mechanic. If nothing else, changing a flat tire is hardly rocket science. I can recite the steps backwards and forwards, and yet... the thought of touching those filthy, greasy, grimy tires, and having to do actual manual labor to get my tire back on the wheel afterwards, makes my skin crawl. (In fairness to myself, I don't believe that anyone who has changed a flat on my bike has ever failed to mention how difficult it is relative to other bikes, due to some complication with the rims. Also, no one has ever succeeded in getting the tire back on without tire levers. So it isn't just me.) Instead, the more I learn about the mechanics of a bike, the more I hate that same subject. I don't know an Allen wrench from pliers or a derailleur from a crankshaft, and don't want to. (Although I DO know how to spell derailleur. I am the Grammar Police, after all.) I have no idea how shifting works, beyond knowing that a push of a lever makes it harder or easier to pedal. I am amazed that real bike people think in terms of millimeters and think that those millimeters make a difference.

I'm lucky enough to live with Tim, who thinks he's getting the better end of it in a deal in which I do all the housework, cleaning, et cetera, and he fixes stuff when it breaks and does any manual labor that requires that someone breaks a sweat. Fixing flats falls squarely in Tim's realm of responsibilities, and all I have to do is look mournful, point sadly at my bike, and pay for the tubes (which I really should start buying in packs of 100 for the sake of economy), and soon I will have a rideable bike again. But this bike has been so bad lately that I am afraid Tim will want to renegotiate our deal. For example, it has been sitting on two flats for the past two weeks while I rested before and after the Mount Lemmon Marathon. Yesterday we finally decided it was time to ride again, so he changed both tires and we had a beautiful sunset/night ride all over Tucson and up and down "A" Mountain. The bike was fine when I put her to bed last night, and then I came home this afternoon and found her like this. Right now I actually want to throw the bike (or at least the wheels) over the backyard fence and let someone take it away rather than have to deal with flat tires one more time.

One more thing, I actually believe that if I fail to do an Ironman in my lifetime, it will not be due to injury, or to fear of doing the training. It will be due to the fact that you have to change your own flats in an Ironman.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Love Being Injured

Seriously, I do love being injured. I have had all of the following at one time or another: stress fracture (this was the best, as it gave me an excuse for no running AT ALL for a solid two months, and only light running after that for another couple months); IT band syndrome (not so good since the damage could be mediated by stretching and tape, which just added MORE time to my workouts but made me feel guilty if I didn't do it), tendinitis (also not good because, as I discovered in the Missoula Marathon, I could run just as fast with tendinitis as without it; it just hurt with every step), and now this mystery ailment somewhere near my left ankle. I have a vague feeling that tendons are involved somehow, but not the big ones. Probably some little tiny insignificant tendon that doesn't even have a name. It doesn't actively hurt like it did the week before and during the Mount Lemmon Marathon, but if I bend my foot a certain way or push in on the spot, I can feel it, so I know it's still there. It has been a nice excuse to not run at all since the MLM.

Why do I like being injured? Mainly because it allows me time to do the other stuff I like to do, more than I like exercising. Reading, writing, training my dogs, writing this blog, thinking about doing another blog, researching law school to see whether that is a good idea or not... those things are a lot easier to schedule when not having to fit in workouts. Running is almost guaranteed to produce a whole host of injuries in a staggered but never-ending parade.

Unfortunately, although running injuries are common, it is rare that any injury affects my whole body to the point where I can't ride or swim. Technically, I could have been doing both of those this whole past week; however, I firmly believe that you deserve a whole week off of everything following a marathon, at least if you are a normal person who would prefer NON-exercising over exercising. That was one of my reasons for not quitting in the MLM -- I wanted the week of sloth and gluttony to follow the marathon, and knew I couldn't have it if I quit. But that week is officially over as of tonight, and tomorrow I will have to... GASP... do something. Something physical, I mean, something harder than strolling at 2 miles an hour behind elderly blind veterans for a few hours a day.

Oh, and I'm getting fatter. I definitely think it is easier to be motivated for training when you are heartbroken than when you are in a stable, happy relationship where road trips, dining out, and cuddling up in movie theaters are options that conflict with workouts. We are BOTH getting fatter, actually. Heartbreak definitely is not preferable to stability and happiness as a life experience, but as a training fuel it was second to none.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boston, Here I Come, Hope You're Ready For Me!

October 18th -- a day I have been looking forward to since the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon where I qualified for the Boston Marathon on my 16th attempt. October 18th was the day registration opened for Boston.

Right from the start, I must say that I was not about to let anything stop me from registering for Boston. Not lack of money, not injuries, not a website that wouldn't cooperate, not having to go to work, NOTHING! I was leaving nothing up to chance. I knew registration opened at 9 a.m. East Coast time, which is 6 a.m. Arizona time, and I was sitting on the BAA's webpage from 5:30 on, clicking Refresh every couple minutes, ATM card in hand, in case they opened early.

They opened right on time, but as soon as I filled out my form and hit "Submit", my information disappeared and I was left with a blank form again. Horrors! I envisioned 26,000 wanna-be Boston marathoners beating me to "Submit" by seconds, jamming the website and leaving me unregistered and in the position of having to qualify again for 2012. I filled out the form and hit "Submit" again, and the same thing happened. I thought briefly about what would happen if they were actually charging my card each time I did this, and decided I didn't care. I would deal with the bank later; right now only one thing mattered and that was getting registered.

After several more unsuccessful attempts, I had to go to work. I got there and tried again with the same result. I tried to look up the Boston Marathon website in hopes of finding a contact phone number but couldn't do it. Every search result for the Boston Marathon led only to the registration page that wasn't working. Finally it did work. I got my submission number and my email and printed them out and stashed them in a safe place. Registering for Boston still felt like a dream. It HAS been a dream for so long I almost can't believe it's real.

I got home after work to the news that Boston registration had closed only 8 hours after opening. This was truly shocking. It has been filling faster and faster each year, but even last year, it took 9 weeks to fill. I was simultaneously relieved that I had been on top of it and registered right away, and bummed for the huge numbers of disappointed people I knew were out there. Think about it -- those who were waiting for a Friday paycheck before registering, those who trained their asses off and are going to qualify in Marine Corps or NYC Marathons, even those who, like me, qualified when they never thought they possibly could and just thought they had plenty of time to register... Yeah, I feel sorry for a lot of people.

Now the big question is, what will the BAA do about next year's registration? Obviously the same thing would happen again only worse, since I'm sure this will be one of the biggest if not THE biggest marathon story of the whole year and everyone will know about it. The way I see it, there's a few different ways they could handle this situation:

1) Reduce qualifying times. This is the most obvious and, I think, least debatable of all of the options. It has been common knowledge for years that a higher percentage of women qualify than men, particularly women in the under-35 age group (my age group) who need a 3:40 to qualify. As the differences in record times between male and female marathoners have been shrinking, from about 30 minutes apart to more like 20 minutes apart, the 30-minute difference in qualifying times has stayed the same. I slaved for years to get that 3:40, and always dreaded the possibility that they would lower the qualifying time and render it impossible for me to qualify. But if they had done that, I would have accepted it philosophically. What else could I do? You can't really argue with the numbers. (And actually it wouldn't have mattered, since I qualified with a 3:24:17 instead of the 3:40:59 I was planning on getting, but that's beside the point.) Even if they dropped the qualifying times for women by 5 minutes for each age group, that would still eliminate huge numbers of people.

2) Keep qualifying times the same, but give a 1- or 2-day window of preference to those whose times are the fastest. Say, 10-20 minutes faster than the qualifying time, or something like that. That would keep Boston elite, which it really should be. (And I'm saying this as a lifelong mid-pack runner who somehow managed to squeeze out a qualifying time.)

3) Tweak the charity entries somehow. I don't know enough about the charity entries to know exactly how this should be done, but it doesn't seem fair to people who have gotten better times to have less deserving runners take their spot just because they agree to raise money. Team in Training has raised how many gazillions of dollars at other marathons... why not leave charities out of Boston, or allow charity runners but only those who have achieved qualifying times? (And yes, I know some of the charity runners DO have to have run qualifying times. See above sentence beginning "I don't know enough about the charity entries...".)

4) Keep the same qualifying times, but institute a lottery. Or make it a partial lottery, where the extra-fast runners get in regardless but the mediocre qualifiers have to enter the lottery.

5) Some combination of any of the above. I sympathize with the organizers at the BAA; they have a massive task ahead of them and whatever decision they make is going to piss off a lot of people. As for me, though, I must say that I'm just happy to be in.

OH, one more thing. I have been reading various forums in which the issue of Boston's early closing has been discussed, and there are some really ugly things being said by fast runners who are pissed off because they missed registration. To read these things, you would think that everyone who runs a non-elite qualifying time is a fat, out-of-shape slob who will probably walk the whole thing and who really shouldn't even shame the Boston Marathon with their presence. To those runners I say, that is a load of crap. Even the slowest possible qualifying time is somewhere around the top 15% of runners in that age group. Boston is not meant to be an exhibition of elite athletes; it's meant to be a race for top runners. So suck it up and next time listen to all the forecasts predicting that registration would close quickly. That's what I did, and that's why I'm in and you're not.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

OW, Mt. Lemmon, That Hurt!

My mysterious injury has continued to hurt over the past several days. No better, no worse. It's been hurting the least when I don't have shoes on, so maybe I should have gone that route for the marathon. Kidding! (Sort of.)

This morning when I woke up it wasn't too bad, so I figured I had no excuse to not at least attempt the Mt. Lemmon Marathon. I don't know why I even signed up for this thing. Well, yes I do... it's because I told Craig I would. And because somehow, a year ago, it didn't sound too bad, like something just crazy and masochistic enough that it might be fun. Well. It was NOT fun, not unless the most painful "race" of your life can be called "fun".

I have not had any excitement about this race, well, ever, really. I wasn't excited about packet pick-up. I like giant expos, lots of free samples, thousands of runners milling around, travel to a strange city, et cetera, et cetera. It seemed wrong somehow to make packet pick-up just one of my regular Saturday errands, and still more wrong that there were, like, 6 booths set up and my "goodie bag" was stuffed with nothing but advertisements, not even a teeny granola bar or sample packet of powdered Xood, the drink of choice for the MLM and the grossest sports drink in existence, in my opinion. Also, it has always bugged me that so many things involved with Mt. Lemmon have a big yellow lemon on them (and yes, the phrase "squeezing the Lemmon" when used to refer to long, painful rides or runs up Mt. Lemmon ALSO bothers me). Seriously -- Lemon the citrus = L-E-M-O-N. Lemmon the mountain = L-E-M-M-O-N. Doesn't that bother anyone else? (Thought not. It's tough being compulsive about spelling.)

I didn't do any pre-race preparation (number-pinning, logistics planning, the laying-out-of-clothes, etc) until late Saturday night. Not entirely my fault -- Tim and I went to Bratfest, where I downed bratwurst, beans, soda, and 5 pieces of cheesecake, and no, I am not exaggerating. I had no concern at all for how I would feel during the race because I already pretty much knew it would be a bust. I had been toying with the idea of not doing it this whole week, but in the end decided to start because 1) everyone at work was sure I wouldn't, 2) I wanted the medal and the number for my refrigerator door, and 3) I was still harboring some faint hope that the injury was imaginary. After getting everything organized, we stayed up until almost midnight watching episodes of The Office on Hulu.

I woke up at 3:15 to have coffee, make breakfast, and make Tim's breakfast so that getting out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4:15 would be slightly less painful. (He is emphatically NOT a morning person, and I can't believe how lucky I am that he -- willingly! -- not only got up at that hour to drive me to the start line, but then spent his whole day on the mountain. Lucky, lucky me. But I digress.)

The start line was just past Mile 0 at the base of the Catalina Highway. I had been concerned about logistics, and thought that the whole thing sounded like a massive clusterf*ck where many things could go wrong. The start line was surprisingly uneventful. There were more than enough porta-potties; start line access couldn't have been easier, and the race started practically on time. It was much cooler than any of our practice run starts had been, and it was neat to start in the dark. I started at a slow jog with the other WOGgers and felt decent for about a mile... and then my leg started to twinge.

I kept up with Aly and Craig for another mile, and by the end of Mile 2 the twinge had become pain. As in, pretty bad pain. As in, the kind where every step taken at a walk is exquisitely painful and there is no other kind of step OTHER than those taken at a walk, because running or even jogging slowly increases the pain factor so much that it becomes next to impossible.

Somewhere between Mile 2 and Mile 3, I decided to drop. Screw it -- no medal or number or vanity over never having had a DNF was worth this amount of suffering. I hit stop on my Garmin and slowed to a painful trudge as I realized I didn't know HOW to drop. What would I do -- flag down an emergency vehicle? Sit on the guardrail looking forlorn until someone drove by and asked if I needed help? And would they transport me to Windy Point at Mile 13, where Tim was waiting with no way for me to contact him? Or would they just take me to the bottom? Can emergency vehicles just GIVE someone a ride without any paperwork being filled out? I didn't know. My thinking was kind of haphazard at this point but I somehow decided there would be a full aid station at Molino Basin, around Mile 5, and I would make it to Mile 5 and let the people at the imaginary aid station get me a ride up to Windy Point. I started the Garmin again.

The only problem with that was that my damn leg still HURT so bad that every step was painful. It felt like every time I stepped on it it rolled to the outside and stretched whatever tendon or muscle it is that was giving me so much trouble. All of a sudden, I decided my orthotics were to blame. You know, the very expensive ones that have never once felt comfortable. Rational or not, I stopped, took out my left orthotic, and put the shoe back on. It now had no orthotic and, of course, no insole either, and it still hurt but at least now I could walk at a relatively fast walk. (That being about 14:30 pace... but well below the 23:00 pace required to finish.) I knew now I would make it to Molino and decided then that I would make it to Windy Point too. All I had to do was keep walking, one foot in front of the other. I had to AT LEAST get to Windy Point to show Tim I wasn't a quitter. Not that he wouldn't have been supportive either way. He totally would not have thought any less of me if I had dropped out for fear of incurring some permanent injury. But somehow on the way up persisting through this marathon became all mixed up with persevering through life, and relationships, etc, and I just plain didn't want to quit. So what if it took me 6 hours? Or even 7? (So easy to say at Mile 4.)

I DID make it to Windy Point, but was still in pain with every step. I thought the Missoula Marathon hurt, but, pshaw, that was nothing, tendinitis is nothing compared to this mystery leg/tendon/ankle/shin/calf? whatever-it-is ailment that I have right now. (Though by Mile 20, tendinitis, my old friend, had come back too for a repeat visit, along with a nasty blister on the back of my right foot. Luckily all of those things fought it out with each other so that no one injury was allowed to take up too much of my attention. That, along with endorphins, was probably what let me finish.) It was so good to see Tim at Windy Point! He gave me a Clif Bar and a hug, both of which were awesome, and then I told him I didn't want to quit and that I would see him at the finish. I also left my orthotic with him. I'd been carrying it for the past 10 miles and can't wait to see the race pictures of me suffering with that stupid orthotic in my hand. I think I will have to buy one of those pictures as a monument to my suffering. It felt really good to be more than halfway done, but since that first half took me 3 hours and 3 minutes, I figured I would be lucky to break 6 hours even with all the downhill in the second half. Still, I thought it was possible if things didn't get worse.

Things got worse almost immediately afterwards. My leg hurt worse and I wanted to quit, again. I told myself I had to keep walking until the pilot car that Tim was following passed me. (Because there's only one two-lane road to the top of Mt. Lemmon, and one lane of it was closed for the runners, all vehicle traffic going up or down had to wait for the pilot car.) Well, the pilot car didn't pass for another hour, when I was at Mile 17, which was less than 10 miles from the finish. I waved at Tim as he went by, thought about asking him to stop at Palisades, Mile 20, instead of the end, and didn't do it because I knew that if he was at Mile 20 I would want to quit there.

After Mile 21, everything goes downhill. I got there by keeping my eyes fixed on the white line and pretending it was magic and every time my foot touched it I got energy. I convinced myself of this so thoroughly that every time I had to leave the white line to pass another runner, the pain immediately got worse. Also, I began muttering to myself, "I want that f-ing medal" over and over again. I did not want to have put in over 20 miles of painful walking and not get a medal out of it.

Downhill! Most of the other runners around me, all of whom had been walking for a long time, were able to manage a slow jog on the downhill. But for me it was much, much more painful than the uphill. Not only could I not run, I had to slow down my walk even more. There were about 3 miles of downhill, and then I saw the best thing ever -- Chia-Chi, Joan, and Doreen from WOG, parked on the side of the road, waving and cheering. That was great! Chia-Chi ran out offering ice, water, Gatorade, massage, practically everything but a ride to the finish. She dug her fingers into the trouble spot and it felt better, briefly. Then she said she was going to finish the course with me. I protested a little, but not much. I actually managed to jog on the downhill leading to Summerhaven, where the race ended. But before we got to Summerhaven, we had to make a nasty little detour into Ski Valley in order to make 26.2 miles.

This was a horrible, sadistic idea of the course planners. We had to go one mile up the Ski Valley Road, and I mean up and up and UP, before we turned around and jogged the mile back down. It is one of the steepest grades on the whole course. At Mile 24 -- really? After the race was over, someone told me that there was one runner who just didn't make the turn onto the Ski Valley road -- didn't miss it, because there were large numbers of volunteers and spectators pointing the way, but just didn't make it. Didn't feel like it, apparently. Not that I can totally blame that person, as that part of the course just really sucks, but still, if  you're going to run the marathon, you kind of have to do the whole thing. You know? (I expected a mat at the turnaround, to register the timing chip and prove you did it, but there wasn't one.) Thank God for Chia-Chi. We walked to the turnaround and then I managed to jog back down. It was extremely painful, of course, but the fact that I could do it made me think I probably could have done some more jogging on that earlier downhill. I guess we'll never know.

The finish was almost uneventful, except that it was so great to see Tim. I forget my finish time, but it was something like 6:20, which meant he had spent 8 hours (9 by the time we got down) driving me around and waiting for me to finish. It doesn't get any better than that. The medal I had been using as a motivator this whole time was small and looked like something a 4th grader might make out of clay in day camp. Also, the cord it's on is the cheap kind you can buy at a crafts store for like 10 cents for 6 feet. Oh well. The best reward of all was getting to stop moving, and hang out with all the other WOGgers, most of whom did really amazingly well.

I'm immensely proud of marathons like San Diego where I get a new PR, but I think I am even more proud of marathons where I really suffer and finish anyway. I hope there's a race picture of me suffering really, really bad. I will totally buy it.

And I know I will be hurting in a bad way tomorrow, but... Boston registration opens tomorrow! That should alleviate the pain somewhat.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Injured Four Days Before the Race... Greeeeeeeeeaaaaaat.

I hadn't run since my excruciatingly painful double loop at Saguaro East on Sunday, October 3rd, so I knew I had better run on Tuesday night, the 12th, since my marathon is the 17th and bad things happen when I don't run at all the week before a race. Tuesday night was my Dog Intervals. I did not mention that before I even stepped out the door on Tuesday, my leg had had a dull ache pretty much all day. It's my lower left leg, on the outside, not exactly in the calf muscle and not in the shin, but sort of to the side of both of those. It was a dull but steady pain for most of the hilly 8 miles, but it got much worse on the last mile home, to the point where I could just manage a 9:30 jog and I was seriously gimping when I walked in the door. It's hurt ever since.

It's not any typical injury, though I feel like it has to do with my calf somehow. That's been a weak spot ever since San Diego in June. I've been icing it and shoveling down loads of Vitamin I and it hurts worse than ever today. It feels like a small rodent with long, sharp teeth has attched itself firmly in my leg and is hanging on, gnawing down deeper every now and then.

Last night I did something I probably shouldn't and went for a sunset hike with Tim on the 36th Street trails. It was short -- less than a mile total -- and the uphills weren't so bad but the downhills were awful. Who knows if I would have been in less pain today if I hadn't done that hike? I guess I shouldn't have. (But it was an awfully beautiful night...)

Lots of times I have gotten phantom injuries, either right before a race (i.e. intense, non-weight-bearing foot pain walking to the start line of the Marine Corps Marathon, which disappeared as soon as the gun went off and I started moving) or else at some other time when I just didn't feel like running (i.e., the phantom stress fracture at my mom's house one Christmas -- felt exactly like a stress fracture, persisted through vacation, but disappeared when vacation was over and I returned to Tucson). I think this injury is in that category. It's like the brain says to itself, "I know she is about to do something crazy and abuse her body in a terrible way, and she will do it unless I stop her by creating some pain. So I will make a phantom injury."

I don't really mind if I have to scratch this race, since it doesn't help me in my 50 States quest and I haven't properly trained for it anyway, but the bummer thing is that I have actually been looking forward to it. Okay, not a lot, because you have to be crazy to look forward to something like this, 26.2 miles pretty much straight up a mountain, but I have been looking forward to the raw experience of pushing myself into REALLY uncomfortable territory, which is where you usually get some pretty interesting insights. I have also looked forward to the feeling of great accomplishment that accompanies finishing any marathon, let alone one like that, and the camaraderie of doing it with other WOGgers, and best of all the excuse to eat anything I want afterwards. So I would be a little bummed to lose all that.

Brain, you might think you can outsmart me, but I am willing to bet I will be at that start line on Sunday despite all your best efforts, so don't get too cocky.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dog Intervals

Marathon in 5 days; I really, really needed to run last night. So I came up with the brilliant idea of Dog Intervals. The way this works is that you start with your most hyper dog, take it out, and run a few miles with it. Then you come back home, get a drink, swap the tired dog for the second-most hyper dog, and do it again. Repeat until miles are done or until all dogs are tired, whichever comes first.

I started with Citrus, my year-old Lab who has simply been driving us nuts with her energy in the house lately. I have never run with her before, partly because she is just barely old enough to run safely for any distance and partly because it's been so hot. She thought running was a fine thing... for about the first 3/4 of a mile. I headed west on 36th Street toward the 36th Street trailhead. This is a route that is almost entirely rolling hills, mostly uphill on the way out and mostly downhill on the way back. Once we had done a couple of the uphills, Citrus's pace slowed to a jog, then to a protesting walk. I was feeling all right, but was unable to do more than a slow jog myself, and that with Citrus at the end of the leash 6 feet behind me. I gave her short walk breaks, during which she perked up considerably. It was a beautiful cool evening, and she wasn't panting too hard or anything like that; she just plain didn't like the idea of running. It was total fat-kid-in-gym-class. I had planned to do 4 miles total with her, but since I was dragging her when I got to the 1.5 mile mark, I figured that was enough torture (for her and me both) so turned around and dragged her lazy butt the rest of the way home.

My 4-year-old Australian shepherd Sunny was next. He used to be quite the runner, but since his ACL tear a couple years ago he has been mainly a couch potato. I planned 2 miles for him, just in our neighborhood, since, even though he loves to run, I'm never sure how his leg is going to do, especially when it's a long(ish) distance and he hasn't run with me for probably a year. His running style hasn't changed. He goes out full throttle, running as fast as he possibly can and dragging me along behind him, with lots of hysterical barking. Then he gets tired and settles into a jog. As tired as he gets, though, he never quits. (The difference between shepherds and Labs -- the same difference I saw a thousand times when training both breeds as guide dogs.) We had a fine two miles.

Finally I swapped him for Hilda, my 8-year-old German shepherd. She has always been an excellent running companion -- settling into a steady, ground-eating pace from the beginning, making it her responsibility to watch for things like obstacles, narrowing sidewalks, etc. She did not disappoint even though I gave up running with her quite a while ago. (I got too fast when I was training to Boston qualify, and she couldn't keep up anymore. Now, though, 9:00 miles feel like 7:00 miles and she had no trouble keeping up with me.) We ran down Mission to Ajo and then back for a total of 3 miles. When we stopped at the turnaround, she jumped up on me and I asked her if she wanted to go home and she turned around and pinned her ears back in shepherd work mode and started heading for home without any further direction needed.

Dog Intervals are a lot of fun. They broke up an 8-mile into shorter, easier distances, and they tired out my three high-energy dogs, giving me and Tim a peaceful, quiet evening at home, and they gave me a chance to spend quality time with my (lately) very neglected dogs. Three cheers for Dog Intervals!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Went To Vegas, Didn't Exercise At All

Looking back, I don't know why I even bothered to pack workout clothes. I love Vegas -- the 24-7 entertainment, the freaky drunks, the foreigners, the casinos, the shows, the food, the fact that the entire city is a monument to greed, stimulation, and instant gratification -- and the thought that I could, or would, squeeze in a run or any other type of workout is kind of preposterous, especially given my level of motivation lately. But I packed running clothes nevertheless. ONE outfit, so it wasn't like I was planning to go crazy, or anything.

Friday evening, we weren't planning to leave until after dark. I get off work at 3:30, so conceivably there was time to squeeze in at least a quick swim before departure. But by the time I dropped off the dog at the dog sitter's house, then returned home and cleaned the house for the house sitter, then packed my suitcase, that time had sort of evaporated.

Saturday, 12:00 a.m.: Made it to a motel in Flagstaff. Flagstaff was COLD. I could, technically, have squeezed in a run in Saturday morning, since I got up at 7 and Tim slept till 9. But, seriously, it was 38 degrees out and I was wearing a fleece. Hardly running weather; much easier to sit in the motel lobby and drink coffee and read my book for a couple of hours. So that's what I did.

Saturday, 2:00 p.m.: Arrived in Vegas. It was hot, too hot for a run. Besides, Mom was there at my brother's house, so visiting was called for. The sun set and it started to cool off, but then it was time to introduce Tim to the Strip, not time to run. We parked at Mandalay Bay and walked up to the MGM Grand, eating at Panda Express along the way, and then decided to catch a 10:30 cabaret show, the Crazy Horse. That show got out at midnight, so by the time we got back home, it was pretty clear that an early morning run would NOT be happening on Sunday.

Sunday, 8:00 a.m.: Woke up, contemplated running. Had coffee and then went back to bed instead. Decided to count last night's Strip walking as a workout. (Hey, there were a lot of stairs involved since every up escalator between Mandalay and the MGM seemed to be out of service.)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.: Finally got up and got dressed. Tim was still sick from giardia. We left him at home in bed while Mom and I went to see The Social Network at the theater.

Sunday, 5:00 p.m.: Went to dinner at Hash House A Go Go, where I ordered Sage Fried Chicken Benedict, which, when it arrived, turned out to be a mountain of food: giant fried chicken breast piled on top of tomatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, an enormous biscuit, and a mound of eggs, and topped with bacon and creamy chipotle sauce. Oh, and an 8-inch-tall sprig of rosemary stuck in the top of the food pile like a conquering flag. I had already stuffed myself on biscuits prior to the arrival of the food, so could only nibble at it. In reality, that was too much food even for me. (Tim was still sick but nevertheless valiantly got himself up for dinner, AND ate it. That's the spirit!)

Sunday, 7:30 p.m.: Cirque du Soleil Zumanity at New York, New York. Wonderful show. During one of the acts, one of the cast members came up to us and asked Tim and I if we were together and if we would like to go up on stage. We had to pass because Tim was still sick and really didn't want to put his giardia on display for the Zumanity audience. Guess we will just have to go back since normally both of us would welcome an opportunity to take center stage in a "naughty" show. Show was out by 9:00, home by 9:30, so no excuse not to get up for a morning run on Monday.

Sunday, 9:30 p.m.: Birthday party for Mom with surprise bundt cake -- spice flavor with cream cheese icing. Mmmm. I had two pieces, which was OK because I would run them off in the morning.

Monday, 6:45 a.m.: I'm awake and in my running clothes, waiting for coffee to brew and posting on Facebook about how I don't want to run.

Monday, 8:00 a.m.: I'm drinking my second cup of coffee on my brother's couch, absorbed in my book, Oscar and Lucinda, a novel about a romance in 1860's Australia. It's really good. I have admitted to myself that I won't run even though I'm in running clothes. Why? Because I don't want to.

Monday, 7:00 pm.: We're home. I should take the dogs for a run because they are all worked up from us being gone and from not having exercised all day. I'm still in my running clothes from this morning. We don't go for a run.

Tuesday, 9:00 a.m.: I'm at work. Empty schedule today so nothing to do but write my blog and wonder if I will run tonight.

Days to Mt. Lemmon Marathon: 5. Day of my last run: Sunday the 2nd. Day of my last workout: Tuesday the 5th. It was a swim. I better run tonight.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Goodbye, Cruel Summer; I Think This is Finally Goodbye.

Dear Summer,

I have had it with you. You've overstayed your welcome by about a month (second-hottest September in 125 years of record-keeping!), and I am very happy to see you finally packing your bags and getting out of town.

I do not like you, no I don't. I don't like how you give me one more excuse not to get out the door; like I NEED another one. I don't like the way you suck my throat dry when I'm running (or riding, for that matter). I don't like the way you make my long runs miserable if I'm not done with them by 6 a.m. (I'm going to ignore the fact that I did not, actually, do a single double digits run this summer except for my marathons and the Mt. Lemmon escapades, because I remember how you did me LAST year on my long runs and I didn't like that either.) I don't like how you super-heat the asphalt so that when I'm stopped at a light or just to get a drink I feel like I'm standing over a blast furnace. I hate the way you make me run slow; I hate the way you make Reid Park unbearable in the afternoons so I can't bring myself to go to WOG. I hate how you make it so hot that I can't bring the dogs with me. Monsoons: Pfui on those. Like we really need humidity in addition to the high temperatures. And snakes! I hate how you make it comfortable for snakes to be out and about so that I worry about stepping on the li'l bastards any time I'm on a trail or it's dark and I can't see where I'm putting my feet.

It's not all hate, though. Here's what I like about you: I like that you legitimize my preference to wear next-to-no clothes when running. I like that, because you are such a tough bitch, you make me feel like a total badass compared to athletes in more moderate climates. (Though I still bow down to anyone who trains through the summer in Vegas, Yuma, Phoenix, or any of those places that always seem to be 10 degrees hotter than here.) I like the way I can lose 6 pounds on a 20-mile run. (Yeah, I know that is water weight and therefore is indicative of nothing but dehydration, but still, sometimes you just need to see the numbers on the scale in order to justify a reward of donuts, DQ Blizzards, and/or frozen pie crust.)

At the end of the day, though, I really can't complain too much about you. The joy of that first fall marathon in some cooler place when you've trained throughout the inferno is unbeatable. And for anyone who complains too much about the summer heat, I have just one word: February. Thanks.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm Not Even Sure I AM a Triathlete.

What makes someone a triathlete? Is it the training, or the competing?

If it's the competing part, I have to say that I am not a triathlete. I first started triathlon training in January 2009, on the recommendation of the book Run Less, Run Faster, in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. At that time, I was already a semi-experienced runner but could barely make it through one length of the pool without stopping to catch my breath. Also, my bike was a Specialized hybrid that was nice enough for cruising around town, but definitely not something you would want to "train" on. I followed that training schedule for one marathon training cycle, and was so pleased with the results that I have been following it or variations of it ever since. But now, almost two years from the time I started tri training, I still haven't entered a competition of any kind.

I always have an excuse. For a long time, it was that I didn't have a good bike. Yes, I know that people compete on all kinds of bikes, including mountain bikes and hybrids, but I wanted a fast road bike. Finally I bought one this past March. So there went that excuse.

My other perennial excuse was that I was a lousy swimmer and couldn't bear the thought of putting my lousy swimming skills on display. I said that I would enter a triathlon at some point in the future when my swimming skills improved to the point where they were respectable. (I know better than to shoot for fantastic, at least where the pool is concerned.) I am still a lousy swimmer, but this summer I got talked into doing the aquathlon series, a group of races held weekly throughout the summer that involve an 800-meter swim followed by a 5-K run. I learned two things from the aquathlon series: 1) even though my swimming is not good, there are still many people slower than me in the pool, and 2) I am a strong enough runner that I was able to make up huge chunks of time on the run, and the satisfaction of whipping past those people who had beat me out of the pool by three or four minutes was extremely rewarding. Therefore, I can't really use my swimming as an excuse not to compete in tris.

So then I was ready to pick a triathlon. I decided I would do the Mountain Man half-Ironman in Flagstaff in August. I really am not interested in the short-distance races; I want to go straight to half-Ironman. (And yes, everyone tells me I should start with a shorter distance, but they also told me I should not do a marathon for my first race, and I did. So there.) I was all set to do Mountain Man, even though I was afraid of the elevation and the open-water swim. Then, unfortunately, I was waylaid by tendinitis and spent 2 months pretty much unable to bike or run, and unwilling to swim. So there went Mountain Man.
I was also planning to do the Soma half-Ironman in Tempe in October. But then I forgot that I had promised my friend Craig that I would do the inaugural Mt. Lemmon Marathon, which was the same day as Soma. I felt bad, but a promise was a promise, so there went Soma. (And a good thing, too, because what ended up happening was that a dam broke at Tempe Town Lake, where the swim portion was going to be held, and now the triathlon has been cancelled due to the absence of any other place to swim.)

So here it is now, October, almost two years into my 
triathlon training, and I have not yet competed in a triathlon. I belong to Tucson TriGirls; I subscribe to Triathlete magazine; I attend all the local triathlons; and I don't even have a triathlon on my radar right now. And yet I bike at least 5 days a week, I run 3 days a week, and I swim 2 or 3 days a week. So am I a triathlete, or not? I still think I am, but it would be nice to just pick a triathlon and sign up for it so I know for sure.