Monday, August 31, 2009

August Reading Recap

You guys. I feel like I'm back in the swing of things when it comes to reading.

Why? Because I read four books in August. Four of them. And 1,771 pages. That brings my yearly total up to 22 books and 8,080 pages. That compares to 29 books and 9,388 pages at this time last year. I've still got a bit of catching up to do.

But still. I read this month. And that makes me happy. So what'd I read? Take a look.

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
Charmed Thirds by Megan McCafferty

I liked The Hour I First Believed, even though at 730 pages it was quite long. It had a little Columbine and a little Hurricane Katrina action along with some family history. A lot of stuff to absorb. But it was good. I recommend it. All 730 pages.

So it looks like I've gotten back into the swing of things with reading. And on a side note, did anyone else hear that Reading Rainbow is no more? So sad, I grew up with that show and the theme song is still stuck in my head. On repeat.

RIP Reading Rainbow. It was a good 26 years.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Speedy cars lead me to recapture the running bug

It all started with a test drive.

A local auto dealership was holding a charity event last weekend. Go to the lot, get your pink wristband and you were free. Free to drive any vehicle from a fleet of over 50 imported vehicles - BMWs, Mercedes, Lexus, Mazda, Audi, Acura - on an 11-mile route. And for every mile that was driven, that auto dealer was going to donate $1 to breast cancer research.

It's something that has affected my family.

So I drove. Started off behind the wheel of a VW Jetta Wagon. Moved on to a Mazda SUV and then took a ride in a Lexus sedan. But the best one? This sporty, swanky 2-door Acura RL. You put your foot on the gas and you just go. Pick up. Amazing. So cool.

And of course a car I'll never be able to afford.

But it driving it was for a good cause. Not only breast cancer research, but also in some weird way, for me. Gave me back a taste of speed and a tasty of feeling the wind in my hair (because yes, I had the windows down and the moon roof wide open).

I got home Saturday night and I ran. Yes, it was on the treadmill in my parents' basement and it was at 8:30 at night. But I ran 3.1 miles. And it felt good. No wind in my hair, but I felt it Sunday when I jumped on my bike for a nice 17.25 mile ride which featured a nice mix of hills and flat roads. It was good. I liked it.

And when I saw rain in the forecast today? I thought ahead and packed the gym bag that's been sitting on my bedroom floor most of the summer. Took out the swimming gear and packed the running shoes and shorts.

When I got done with work and it was still sprinkling? I headed over to the YMCA and grabbed a treadmill. And ran. When I got kicked off after 31 minutes - really don't like the 30-minute time limit when you're in a running groove, a rarity on a treadmill - I didn't just pack it up and go home.

Nope. I found another treadmill and kept running. It took me two treadmills and almost 43 minutes, but I cranked out 4 miles. And it felt so good. Really got in a groove, with each mile faster than the previous. And the last mile? Yeah, logged that one at 10 minutes, which is super speedy for me.

Felt good. And it all goes back to getting to drive that swanky, speedy Acura.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I've been MIA. But I'm calling it a "recovery"

I've been in a bit of a funk the last week.

Lots going on in my head coupled with working a week of nights result in a bit of a stressed out Badgergirl. And even though going for a run or hopping on my bike for a ride would have been a good way to clear my head, I just wasn' t feeling it.

So I didn't.

I call it a week long recovery week after the Oshkosh Triathlon. Physically I probably didn't need an entire week since I really wasn't sore. But like I said, lots of thoughts swirling around in my head and I was stuck in this funk.

So I recovered for a week. And then added on a couple of extra days after I tripped and fell down a couple of stairs at my parents' house this weekend. Yes. I was stone cold sober at the time. And yes, I'm OK. Just a few circle-shaped bruises from where I landed on the mat in their garage.

But today? Today I ran. Came home, changed into shorts and a tank and ran. I didn't go far, just 2 miles, but it felt good. And I'm looking forward to doing it again. Because now that my triathlons are done for the year, I think I'm going to switch gears a bit and focus on the running. Try to regain a little bit of the speed I've lost - and shoot for that 32 minutes 5K - and increase the mileage.

And maybe if I run fast enough I'll leave that funk in my dust. A girl can hope.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oshkosh Sprint Triathlon Race Report

When you're standing on the beach waiting for your swim wave to start and you can feel the sweat dripping down your body, you know it's hot.

And that's what I was feeling minutes before the Oshkosh Sprint Triathlon started Sunday. Dripping sweat. I know, I know. I should have been prepared. The weather man was telling me all week that it was going to be hot and humid on Sunday. And the fact that my sunglasses fogged up the moment I stepped out of my apartment should have given me a hint.

Call it denial. Maybe I was crossing my fingers during the 20-minute drive that the weather would suddenly change. No luck.

But I had a race to finish. So when they called Wave 11 to the water, I waded into the lake along with the 49 other people in my wave. It was time to start the Oshkosh Sprint Triathlon.

The Swim - 1/4 mile
I stayed towards the back and the outside for the start of the swim. It's what I normally do. And it usually works. This time? I should have found a middle of the pack spot and risked getting kicked.

It was an out and back swim. And midway through the out portion I found myself swimming behind a pack of swimmers who just decided to stop swimming and stand up in the lake. Right in my path. Which meant I had to stop swimming and find a way around them. And they didn't really care. After having to do this a handful of times, I opted to swim as close to the buoy as possible. And it was much clearer.

Once I had that figured out, the swim went much smoother. Got in a groove. But the swim still felt kind of long. Got out of the water, glanced down at my watch. Just over 10 minutes. Hmmm. I didn't think I lost that much time with the randomly stopping swimmers. Maybe it was long. Oh well. On to the bike.

Transition 1: Swim to Bike
You know how race organizers are always telling people that no one except athletes are allowed in the transition area? Well apparently some folks didn't get that message. I get up to the rack where my stuff was and I find a man and a woman standing right there. And these weren't athletes. They were decked out in casual shorts and T-shirts. Both of them had camp chairs slung over their shoulders and the man had a camera slung over his neck. Not competitors. If they had stayed out of my way I would have been less annoyed but the woman (camp chair and all), decided she just needed to get into a cooler that was sitting right next to my transition spot while I was changing into my shoes and bike gear. And she did this not once. But twice! I almost yelled at her. But grabbed my bike and ran off in disgust.

The Bike - 16 miles
After dealing with the non-athlete transition people, I was glad to get out on my bike. The course was mostly along rural roads surrounding Winneconne. Some rolling hills, but there were two semi nasty climbs in the second half of the ride.

I did have one "nutrition malfunction." I had stuck some Jelly Belly Sport Beans in the pocket of my tank. It's what I did for the Trek Women's Triathlon last month and it worked really well. For some reason, this time I decided to zip up the zipper on the pocket. And do you know how hard it is to unzip a zipper with one hand while riding a bike? Kind of difficult. And I really didn't want to run the risk of crashing by riding without hands to unzip it. So I pulled off to the side of the road about half way through, unzipped the zipper and was off.

Shortly after I was riding along and I heard a ton of sirens. Hmm, I thought. You don't usually get that many sirens in sleepy little Winneconne unless the town has blown up (not likely since I didn't hear any explosions), something is burning down or there's a major medical problem at the race site.

I kept pedaling. Little did I know what was happening.

Wind was pretty gusty on the way back in. At one point I felt like I was going to get blown over a highway overpass. And that wouldn't have been good.

Finished the ride feeling pretty good.

Transition 2: Bike to Run
Got back into transition. Thankfully the transition visitors were not around this time. Racked my bike. Threw off my helmet (which I noticed had a broken strap, looks like I'll be replacing it) and grabbed the visor. Took a swig of water, grabbed the iPod and was off to run.

The Run - 3.1 miles
I've never gotten to run with my iPod during a triathlon, but the race organizers were letting us use them for the run. I was glad. Because at some point between the last mile of the bike and the beginning of the run, I felt the weather starting to take its toll on me.

Feeling the affects of the weather, I didn't want to over do it and risk getting sick, so I stuck with an easy pace. Just kind of put one foot in front of the other. I had two girls within my sight that I felt like I was playing a game of leap frog with. They'd pass me before stopping to walk and then I'd pass them. Repeat continuously. I decided just to keep them within my sights or behind me. Worked OK. I think one girl finished before me, but I lost the other girl. I passed her at one point and she never came back.

Like I said, it was hot. The sun was beating down. I took full advantage of the water stops. I decided to walk through the water stops, grabbing a drinking and taking advantage of the sprinklers they had set up.

I knew I was running slow, but I still felt OK on the run. By the time I hit the turn around, I was glad the end was just 1.5 miles away. I was ready to be done. I kept running. Walked through that sprinkler again. Turned on to the bridge and the park was in sight. Kicked it up into a "sprint" and made it through the finish line.

Had my chip removed, grabbed some water and soaked up the water from a sprinkler the race organizers had set up in the finish area. I met up with my mom and found a shady spot.

She then filled me in on those sirens that I heard. Turns out a woman was pulled from the water unresponsive during the swim. Ambulances came. CPR was performed. She was taken away. I later found out that she died. They're still not sure what happened.

Time wise, I went into this triathlon with a goal just to finish given my lack of training the last two weeks and the weather Mother Nature decided to give up. While out on the course, when I started the run, I glanced at my watch and thought I might be able to finish in under 2 hours.

I was close. But I must have enjoyed that sprinkler at the water station on the run for a bit too long or walked a bit too slow through the water stations. I ended up finishing in 2 hours, 1 minute and 25 seconds. I'll take it though.

So the numbers? Let's have a look.

2009 Oshkosh Sprint Triathlon
Swim: 11 minutes, 37 seconds
Transition 1: 3 minutes, 11 seconds
Bike: 1 hour, 4 minutes, 15 seconds
Transition 2: 1 minute, 27 seconds
Run: 40 minutes, 54 seconds

Age Group: 33 out of 40
Women: 223 out of 291

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It was brutal, but I survived

Just a quick update.

It was brutal out this morning. Hot. Humid. Hazy. The kind of hot where you can feel the sweat running down your back when you're just standing on the beach, waiting for your swim wave to start.

Add in actual physical activity, in the form of swimming, biking or running and it was brutal outside this morning.

But I survived. I finished the Oshkosh Triathlon today and turned in a time that I was actually kind of pleased with given the lack of preparation the last few weeks and the weather.

While I was able to cross the finish line, one woman wasn't quite so lucky. She died during the swim leg of her race.

You'll have to come back tomorrow for a race report. My 4 a.m. wake up called kicked me in the butt and I'm thinking I'll be sound asleep by 8:30ish tonight.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

So this is what unprepared feels like


The Oshkosh Triathlon is Sunday.

And for the past week and a half? My training? It's been non-existent. A lot of walking on the AirVenture grounds. A couple of bike rides. Running? Yeah, it was mid-July the last time I did that if you don't include the run/walk that I snuck in Tuesday night in The 'burg.

And to top off my lack of training? Mother Nature has decided to be nice and give us some summer weather this weekend. The Sunday forecast is calling for sun, a high in the lower 90s and LOTS of humidity. That's a bit of a change from the mid- to upper-70s and lower 80s we've had all summer.

This should be an interesting race. I think the race plan is to just finish without dying.

With race day a few days away, I'm hoping to sneak in a short swim either Friday or Saturday. Nothing much, maybe 1,000 yards, just to remind myself how to swim in preparation for the quarter-mile swim. And if I'm smart, I might throw in a short 2-mile run Friday, just to remind the legs what running feels like.

And maybe I'll get lucky and Mother Nature will hold off on the heat and humidity until Monday. Doubtful though. I'll just have to remember to push the fluids Sunday.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This might qualify as a failure

This monthly reading recap will be really quick. So quick you might miss it if your eyelids happen to stay closed too long when you blink.

I read one book in July.

One. I tried to finish up a second book as the end of the month got closer. But it Just.Wasn't.Going.To.Happen.

That's getting close to a reading failure.

With the one book I read, that brings the yearly totals to 18 books and 6,309 pages. With five months to go, I'm still 22 books from my goal of 40 books for the year. At the rate I'm reading, maybe I should change that goal to 30 books for the year. There might be hope for 40 though. I would only have to average 4.4 books per month, which might be doable - assuming I don't pull another reading failure like July.

Oh, you want to know what I did read in July? Take a look.

Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting by Michael Perry

I like Michael Perry, who also wrote one of my favorites Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren At A Time. But I admit, this wasn't one of my favorites. But it was still good. Still worth reading.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A once in a lifetime chance

I promise, this week I'll get back to talking about running, biking and swimming. Of course, it will help that I won't have a sky full of airplanes to distract me.

But before that I need to talk about airplanes one more time. I promise. No more airplanes after this. But this time? It's big news people. It's not just planes that landed or that were coming to AirVenture.

No this is about how Friday morning I flew with a stunt pilot. We flew upside down and right side up and it was

Flying with an aerobatic pilot kind of fell in my lap late last week. Another reporter I work with was originally scheduled to fly with John Klatt on Thursday morning. But it was rescheduled after it rained all Thursday morning.

So when my boss called Thursday afternoon and asked, "So do you want to fly with a stunt pilot tomorrow morning?" I couldn't say no. I was being given a once in a lifetime opportunity. And I knew if I turned it down, I'd be kicking myself in the rear end and regretting it.

Even though I was nervous, I said yes. Barely slept Thursday night and was wide awake at 6 a.m. Friday, ready to fly. I didn't eat anything for breakfast, didn't even take the medicine I take every morning. I didn't want to chance having it come back up when I went upside down.

I went out to the hangar and met up with a photographer I work with who was going to be flying in a chase plane and taking pictures. At this point, I think I looked nervous because Klatt's air show team were like, don't worry, you'll be fine. John's a really good pilot. Just enjoy yourself.

Moments later, the plane taxied up to the hangar and it was time to get ready to fly. I signed a waiver, put on a parachute and settled into the cockpit (with a barf bag stuck under my five-point harness, just in case). I was in the front seat and the pilot was flying from the backseat. We taxied out to the runway and we were off.

After a five minute flight, we were flying over Lake Butte des Morts and all over a sudden John Klatt is talking to me over the headset.

"You ready to fly upside down?"

Yup. Let's go.

And we were upside down with the lake below my head. Nothing fancy. Just flying upside down in a straight line. My stomach felt fine. I could feel the pressure in my head, but it wasn't bad. Then the plane was righted.

"What'd you think?"

I liked it. Let's keep flying. And we did. Some more upside down flying and then it was time to roll. We rolled. And rolled. And kept rolling. We rolled so many times I lost count and was starting to get dizzy. I was about to ask John Klatt to stop rolling due to the dizziness when the plane stopped spinning. Good thing. A couple of more rolls and maybe I would have had to reach for that barf bag.

Then it was time for the loop-de-loop. Really weird sensation. Pressure going up, kind of felt normal at the top of the loop and holy pressure on the head when coming back to the bottom of the loop. Then it was time for flying straight up and kind of hanging out there in mid-air for a moment or two before we dove straight back down towards the (very green) lake.

"What'd you think?"

Very cool. I wanted to keep flying and doing some tricks, but my time was up.

When we got back to the airport and I got myself out of the cockpit, my legs were a little wobbly, but after downing some water and (eventually) putting some food in my stomach I felt fine.

Like I said, I was a bit nervous at first, but I think that was mostly due to the anticipation. Because once they threw that parachute on my back I was totally calm and excited about what I was about to do. I knew that not everyone gets the chance to go up in a plane with a stunt pilot, and I was fortunate my job gave me this opportunity.

When I got back to the little shack I worked out of all week, I took a few moments to really soak in the experience and reflect on what I'd just done. I wanted to remember what it felt like. What I had just done. I didn't want to forget. And I'm lucky the photographer I work with was up in the chase plane, because she captured some amazing shots that I'll be able to look back at. And there's video footage of me in the cockpit (yes, through the entire flight a camera was staring me straight in the face) that I haven't gotten a chance to watch yet, but I've heard it's amusing.

Like I said, my days of airplanes are done. Now it's time to buckle down and get in a few decent workouts before the Oshkosh Triathlon this weekend.

*Photo by Shu-Ling Zhou of the Oshkosh Northwestern*