Thursday, April 30, 2009

Snooze or swim? Which should I choose?

I admit, I'm not a morning person.

Alarm clocks and me? We don't necessarily get along. The snooze button? Lately that's been my best friend.

But I think that might need to change. I think I need to begin to like getting up earlier. Because if I don't? I might be in trouble.

Here's my problem. I need to get back in the pool. The High Cliff Triathlon is a little more than a month and a half away. And me and the pool? We haven't been the best of friends lately. In fact, I've been ignoring the pool. And it's probably mad at me.

So I went to look up the YMCA's pool schedule to figure out the best day for me to plan when I'm going to start getting my swim workouts in. Last year when I did this I had no problems. But this year? It seems like the pool is only open for lap swims for an hour or so a night after I get done with work. And it usually isn't right when I finish.

Yes, I could drive across town to the other YMCA facility, which has a slightly more favorable lap schedule and, honestly, a nicer pool. But it's way out of my way, especially when I can see the downtown facility from my office window.

My other option. Get up earlier. I'm not talking the crack of dawn, or even when it's still dark out. But maybe set the alarm so I can head over for a swim before I need to be to work at 8ish (one of the advantages of my reporter job, somewhat flexible on the start time). Of course that would require me breaking my snooze button habit. And getting used to the whole early morning workout routine, which I admit, I've never been very good at.

I keep telling myself it's only one or two days a week. The rest of the week I can sleep a little longer. It would be just like I was taking an early shift at work.

So I'm strongly leaning towards the early morning swims. My decision will be made by the time Monday rolls around. Because seriously, I've got to swim sometime.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'd say that fell in the 'good' category

That felt better.

My last few runs have fallen in the "eh" category. Nothing spectacular. Nothing to write home about. But at the same time, I wasn't really feeling it. I was putting one foot in front of the other, but it felt like I was just slogging along. Never really felt good after I was done. More like "Eh, another run done. Thankfully it's over."

Today? I definitely had a run that didn't fall in the "eh" category.

It was a good one.

One where I threw in a little speed work and actually felt fast at certain points. Felt like I was working hard, but not so hard that it was painful or I didn't enjoy it or was wondering if I was going to live to see the end of the run.

Given my last few runs, I went out with the intent to just do a short two miles. But after the first mile I still felt fresh. Still felt good. Didn't really want to be done in a mile. So I turned left instead of right, ran down a new road, one that had tiny hills. At the end of the road I turned around, but since there was a street sweeper coming towards me, I ran a little faster, no knowing if the street sweeper would be following me down the road and swallow me up or engulf me with dust.

I just kept running. Mile 2 passed and I still felt good. I glanced down at my watch, the numbers weren't too scary. Kept running, changing up the pace every so often, and soon I was back at my apartment door.

I glanced at my watched. I covered 3.25 miles in 37 minutes. Not bad. Better than my Oshkosh 5K. And I still felt like I could keep running.

Hopefully there will be more runs like that one. Because I'd say that was a good run.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A review: "Running the Sahara"

Inspiration is big.

A spectator cheering on the side of the course. Words of encouragement from your family and friends when you tell them about your latest crazy goal. Or maybe just repeating a phrase to yourself, a phrase that keeps you going.

Back in February, Runner Leana asked her blog readers what phrases got us through the tough times. The times when we just wanted to stop. When I'm at the end of a run and it's hurting and I just want to stop, I tend to have the lyrics to Kanye West's "Stronger" going through my mind, particularly "Now that that don't kill me / can only make me strong" or the refrain that repeats throughout, "Work it harder, make it better / do it faster makes us stronger."

A couple of random readers, including me, won a free download of the movie, "Running the Sahara," a movie about the journey of three guys who run 4,300 miles through six countries over the course of 111 days. Their journey begins in Senegal, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, and takes them through Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Libya and Egypt, where they end their journey at the Red Sea.

What those three guys did was inspiring. From the miles they logged to the conditions they dealt with. The injuries. The planning. The uncertainty of not knowing if Libya was going to let them enter. All while crossing 4,300 miles. And they never gave up. They knew they had an end point - Egypt and the Red Sea - and they kept going. Kept putting one foot in front of the other. And as a result they accomplished their goal, grew together as teammates and became different men.

While I got something out each minute of the film, I think the part that struck me most was minutes from the end. The runners had accomplished their goal. They had stuck their hands in the Red Sea and their journey was done. Standing on the beach, Ray Zahab was talking about the experience and goals. And what he said really struck me:
"Any limitations we have are ones that we set upon ourselves. If you think you can only run 5 or 10K, you'll only run 5 or 10K. It's where you set those goals, because really there are no boundaries."
It's up to you and me - no one else - to determine what we're capable, or not capable, of doing. Any goal is within reach as long as we believe we can do it.

If you get the chance, watch "Running the Sahara." Everyone - athletes and non-athletes alike - will get something out of it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bee stings, tan lines - all in a day's bike ride

Even a bee sting couldn't keep me off my bike yesterday.

It was gorgeous. The sun was shining. There were a couple of puffy white clouds in the sky. Temperatures were in the lower 80s. It was actually a tiny bit humid. And did I mention I had the day off? I did and I wasn't going to spend it indoors.

So after lunch, I threw on some shorts and a tank top - yes, a tank top, in Wisconsin in April! I filled up the water bottle, grabbed a few bucks, my sunglasses and iPod and hopped on my bike and took off.

I got two blocks away from my garage and there was pain. With every peddle it felt like a needle was being shoved in the top of my foot. So I pulled over, parked my bike and attempted to take my shoe off while hoping the cars that were flying by me at 50 miles an hour wouldn't hit and kill me.

As I pulled off my shoe, a bee flew out of my shoe and almost into my face before he was blown away by the wind. He must have gotten trapped in my shoe at some point between my garage and the start of my ride. And apparently his plans didn't include a bike ride on a glorious spring day so he decided to let me know by stinging me a couple of times.

Point taken Mr. Bee.

While it hurt, I didn't really want to turn around and go back. My bike was calling my name. So I got back on and started riding.

Around the boarded up marina, along the lake through the park, past the grave sites in one of the city's cemeteries, along the river trail through campus and back to my apartment. When I was nearing the end of my ride, I did make a quick pit stop at Ardy & Ed's, a classic little diner about 2 miles from my apartment for a to-die-for chocolate shake. I deserved it. I just put 20 miles in on my bike, a good chunk that were directly into the super gusty southerly winds.

All in all, it was a good ride. Even the bee sting - the only evidence of the bee's unhappiness is two small red marks on the top of my foot - and a slight sunburn that left me with a nifty tan line from my iPod.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It was just a quick spin, but it was so good

After two gloomy, cold, wet and windy days, the sun and warmer temperatures decided to return today.

Since I'm working a week of nights this week, I had time this morning to just putz around a bit. I had my English muffin with peanut butter, checked my e-mail, watched an episode of The Office and then checked the weather.


As in, the mercury in the thermometer was spilling over 50 degrees. At least that's what the National Weather Service was telling me. And although it was a bit windy, I couldn't resist. Must go outside and enjoy the spring-like weather.

So the big question was do I throw on the running shoes and go for a run or do I pull the bike out and take a ride?

It was actually an easy decision.

After the sub-par 5K Saturday, I had loaded my bike up on my car and took it up to my parents' house where my Dad showed it a little TLC. Some air for the tires, grease for the chain and some other mystery cure for squeaky brakes. My bike, which still doesn't have a name, was ready to log some miles and I did take a good ride on Saturday afternoon.

That ride was fabulous. So it was a no-brainer when I had to decide between a run and a ride today. I wanted to jump back in the saddle and ride some more. So I did.

I only had about 45 minutes, so I hopped on and took off. I ended up riding 7.5 miles and I wish it could have been farther, but I thought a shower was in order before I headed into work and sat in a courtroom all afternoon.

The best part? I have a three-day weekend coming up and the National Weather Service folks tell me it's supposed to be gorgeous. Sunny. Summer-like temperatures. Granted, there are a few chances of thunderstorms. But still. It's going to be nice. And I won't be stuck at work. So I can assure you a long bike ride, or two, will be taken and I may even run.

Can't. Wait.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oshkosh 5K Race Report

My first 5K of the season is done.

I ran the Oshkosh 5K on Saturday. And it wasn't pretty.

For starters, I wasn't dressed appropriately, so I got really warm. Really quick. When I was getting ready to leave my apartment in the morning, it was in the lower 40s. I thought I'd be fine in my long running pants and a short-sleeved T-shirt layered over a long sleeve tech top. I wasn't expecting the mercury in the thermometer to shoot up to the 60s by the time I crossed the finish line an hour later when the sun was beating down on me.

The Oshkosh 5K is a race I've done in the past. And I've enjoyed it. But this year they decided to change things up a bit. They putzed with the route, which I guess was OK. But a good chunk of the race route, I'd say about a mile or so, was run on sidewalks.

I didn't like it.

When I run by myself, I don't mind running on sidewalks. It keeps me out of traffic and lessens my chances of getting schmucked by a car. But when I register for a 5K along with about 800 other runners? Could we stick to the roads? You know, cone off a lane of traffic so we can run in peace. And not have to worry about those runners who decide to take a walk break along with their three friends and proceed to walk in a line, blocking the entire sidewalk so that no other runner can get by them?

Yeah. Didn't really like that so much. And it happened to me. Multiple times.

So I ran. Every step of the way. And I was slow. Like 37 minutes slow. Like I said, not my best time ever. But I remember how the last year has dealt me some setbacks - an extra 30 pounds, a love-hate relationship with running - and then throw in being super hot because Mother Nature decided to spring summer on us and I'm kind of OK with my time.

Besides, the time? It gives me an incentive to work harder this spring and summer and improve. And chop some minutes off of the 5K time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's T-shirt weather today


That's how I felt today after finishing my run.

The sun was shining. The mercury in the thermometer was hovering right at 60 degrees. Yes, there was a bit of a breeze, but it was nothing like the constant gusts we've had the last two days. With conditions like that, I couldn't wait to get done with work for the day.

I was antsy.

When the clock hit quitting time, I dashed out the door and went home. Where I promptly changed into capris and a short-sleeve T-shirt. I threw on my sunglasses and plugged into my iPod and I was off.

Yes, it was a quasi slow 3 miles. But I loved every minute of it. All 33 of them. And actually? I could have probably gone with shorts today. It was that nice.

It's days like today that I remember why I enjoy running. And the next two days? Supposed to be exactly the same.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The library folks were reading

Apparently it pays to whine about a library request on a blog.

Because today when I checked my email? There was a note from the library folks. A note telling me that Season 4 of The Office was waiting for me.

Needless to say I hurried over to the library during my lunch break and picked up the DVDs. And then promptly hid them in my car so they wouldn't taunt me the rest of the work day. But I couldn't resist. When I got home from work tonight? I popped in disc 1 and watched the first two episodes.

I was in heaven.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some must-see-TV and a chipmunk

I admit, I'm not much of a TV watcher. Yes. I used to be able to watch TV and I had my list of shows I needed to watch.

But the last year or so? That list has dwindled. I don't know if it's because what's on TV is just so bad or because I can't sit still for 30 minutes or an hour. I dunno. But the list? It's almost non-existent.

When the fall TV season came on this year, I had a very short list. Grey's Anatomy and 24 when it started up in January. Well, October came and a night out with the girls for a drink or two became more important that sitting in a chair and keeping tabs on what was going on with Meredith and McDreamy and Izzy. I keep thinking I'll catch up with the Grey's gang, but at the rate I'm going, it might be summer before that happens.

Then 24 started up in January. And if there was one thing that was certain, it was that on Monday nights at 8 p.m. I would be parked in front of my TV for my date with Jack Bauer. Same place I've been for the last six season when Jack's saved the world. And I was doing good. Then a boy happened. And I missed a few episodes. And it was hard to catch up. So Jack's probably mad at me. Heck, we've probably broken up by now. Because I think I'm like eight hours behind on his latest saving the world from terror campaign.

Jack. I promise. I'm going to catch up. Hopefully before the season finale. I've still got, what, six hours? Gulp.

The boy did introduce me to a new version of must-see-TV though. The Office. Yes, I admit, up until a couple of months ago, I had never seen an episode. But we watched a few while I was visiting. And I was hooked.

I immediately came back to the City on the Water and reserved Season 1 at the library. I flew through it. Same with Season 2 and 3. I love 'em all, Dwight. Michael Scott. Stanley. Angela. Kelly. The Temp. I love 'em. But I admit, my favorites are Jim and Pam.



But the end of Season 3? Where Jim comes back from the job interview in Manhattan, sticks his head in the conference room while Pam is talking to the cameras and asks her out to dinner. On a date? Oh my gosh!

And then the credits roll.

And the library? They aren't getting me the Season 4 DVDs quick enough. Must. Watch. Season. 4. Now. But it's not in yet. Some other fool is taking their sweet time. Probably will keep the DVDs too long, rack up a late fee and make me wait.

Must see more episodes of The Office and find out what happens to Jim and Pam and their date.


And speaking of dates. I went on one Friday night. It was one of those blind date varieties. In terms of looks he reminded me of Theodore (the chipmunk on the right) from Alvin and the Chipmunks and in personality? It was like hanging out with a 30-something man with the mentality of a college sophomore who could only say the word "Awesome" like a wanna be Boston boy. Kind of annoying. Needless to say there will not be a second date.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Outside or the treadmill? Easy question

Do I dare jinx it?

I think Mother Nature has finally decided she's toyed with us Wisconsinites long enough and that we've had more than our fair share of winter.

It's been gorgeous the last two days. Sunny. Temperatures near 50. Granted, it was a wee bit windy yesterday, but I'll take it. And the forecast isn't changing. More of the same is called for. All. Week. Through the weekend even.

I think spring has finally arrived.

Which means I've abandoned the YMCA. Seriously. How can I make myself stay inside and run on a treadmill to nowhere when I can throw on my shoes and run outside. Because running outside, where I actually run places and the scenery changes, is so much easier than running on the treadmill to nowhere.

So yesterday and today I took my runs outdoors. Like I said, it was a bit windy yesterday, as in steady winds from the north and west around 25 miles per hour, gusting to 30 miles per hour at times. Whenever I ran south and east it was nice. Got a little push from the wind. Running north and west? That was a different story. Too bad about half of my run was spent running in those directions. Today the wind had died down so my short 2-mile run wasn't bad at all.

Hoping the weather sticks around, especially since I have the Oshkosh 5K coming up next week. And after that? It's time to seriously buckle down and start following my triathlon training program, since High Cliff is a little over two months from now!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The juice that runs cars is expensive

I had to head out to a play rehearsal this afternoon since I was pulling weekend reporter duty this weekend.

I never made it.

When it was time to leave for work, I went outside (gorgeous day by the way, if I hadn't been going into work I would have considered a run outdoors) and threw my stuff in the backseat of my car. I got in. Shut the door and put the key into the ignition.

Click. Click. Click. And all the lights lit up.

No rumbling of the engine. Just a clicking noise.

I tried again.

Click. Click. Click. Hmmm. Seemed like all life had been drained from my car. It was dead. As in, so dead it's final resting place was not going to be junkyard, but instead my garage.

I got out. Opened the hood and looked at it's guts, even though I wasn't sure what I was looking at. Closed the hood and did what any 20-something girl who knows nothing about cars other than it needs an oil change every 3,000 miles and tires rotated every 6,000.

I called my Dad.

Who wasn't home. So I called Mom. She said maybe Dad was out for a bike ride, so I should keep trying him every 10 minutes or so. And that although she didn't know much about cars either, it sounded like it could be my battery.


At that point, my car's still dead and I'm supposed to be at work. So I called a co-worker who was also working today, she came and gave me a ride into the office. I kept calling Dad, kept getting their answering machine. I ditched the play rehearsal and made plans to catch it on Monday and told the editor who was working today that nothing could blow up because I had no car. He was carless as well since his wife gave him a ride to work. Some news staff we were today - no one had transportation.

After an hour I finally got a hold of Dad. After he got done raking his yard he said he'd go and pick up a battery for me and come down to the City on the Water to give my car life again.

Him and Mom drove down, went to my apartment and put the new battery in and then dropped my car - which now was on its second life - off at the office for me.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised the battery was dead. My car is going on 7 years old and the oil change people did warn me I'd probably need a new battery at some point in the near future during an oil change last fall. What I wasn't expecting was the price tag. Apparently my 2002 Ford Focus is picky when it comes to batteries. It only likes one variety. The $107 variety.

At least it's alive again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

That training plan didn't get off to a very good start

I've got 12 weeks before I tackle the High Cliff Triathlon. It doesn't seem like it should be that close. Of course, it doesn't feel like it should be April 1 either since it's still somewhat winter-like outside. But after counting backwards I confirmed it.

The triathlon's 12 weeks away.

Which means my 12-week training plan went into effect on Monday.

And I promptly slacked.

Yup. Skipped my first two workouts. Missed a swim and a run. Oops. I'll try to make some of it up yet this week. But the good news is that I didn't skip out on the bike workout tonight. I logged some time on the spin bike and covered 11 miles in 30 minutes on a bike that featured a seat that was a tiny bit too high for me. But I pedaled.

And starting today? No more slacking. Seriously. I mean it.