Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Still alive


Don't worry. I didn't vanish off the face of the earth. And I'm still alive. Just have been a little busy in the last week. And the workouts? Yeah, those have been skipped. Oops. I've excuses though.

Got in a quick 8-mile bike ride on Thursday before heading out to meet the girls for drinks, appetizers and some fun. Didn't intend to stay out very late. But the next thing I knew it was early Friday morning, the birds were getting ready to wake up and I was crawling in to bed. Good thing I didn't have to work until the afternoon.

I was originally planning on a run Friday morning before work. But the late bedtime meant that wasn't going to happen. It's OK though. Because I spent the night walking around (and around and around) the grounds out at Country USA for work. Probably logged a few miles before the headliner, Brad Paisley, took the stage at 11 p.m. Good show. Once again, another late night.

More work on Saturday. And the legs were a bit tired.

Headed up by Mom and Dad on Sunday. Was planning on tackling the trails at High Cliff. You know the site of last weekend's triathlon. The one featuring a run that kicked my behind? Wanted to show those trails (and that cliff road) who was boss. But The Rugrats were over. So I played with them instead.

Came home from work intending to run yesterday. But as soon as I was ready, it was pouring rain. And once it stopped? My stomach was growling something fierce. So I figured food might be a better option.

Today I ran. Wanted to log 3 miles. But the sky looked like it was going to open up and pour at any moment, so I cut the run short. Just logged 2 miles. But I threw in some fartleks, worked on a little speed. And the run went pretty well.

Now if I can just do it once or twice more this week, remind my legs what it's like to run. Because guess what I realized yesterday. I've got a 5K race this weekend. Yikes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When it gets this hot - head to the pool

I think it's finally summer here in Wisconsin.

Gone are the temperatures in the upper 60s and lower 70s. The past two days? More like mid-90s with dew points in the upper 60s and lower 70s, making it super humid. Kind of makes me want to hole up in a building with air conditioning.

Oh wait. That's kind of what I've been doing the last two days. I think I've only left my office once during the workday.

I skipped out on a workout yesterday. Called it a recovery day and used the heat and the fact that I was walking around with one less pint of blood due to a blood donation as my excuses.

Today I toyed with heading home for a bike ride after work. But the thermometer was still 90 at 5 p.m. and the dew point was hovering around 70. So I opted to head indoors to the pool, because water is good when it's hot.

This was my first swim since High Cliff is done. Now I've got to concentrate on the Trek Women's Triathlon, which is on July 12, where I'll have to be ready to swim a half-mile across Lake Andrea. While I could stop and touch bottom if necessary last weekend at High Cliff, that's not going to be a possibility in July.

With that in mind, I headed to the pool with the intent to start upping the distance I was swimming. The past month I've been doing workouts somewhere between 1,000 and 1,700 yards. Today? I donned my swim cap and goggles with a 2,000 yard workout in sight.

And it went pretty well. I attempted to do a little bit of speed work mid-swim and tried out a couple of different breathing options - breathing every on the left every time I took a stroke on that side versus every other time. Wasn't too bad.

When I started the swim, I was sharing a lane with another guy. I don't know what happened to him. He disappeared somewhere around 300 yards into my workout. Then there was a little kids' swim lesson in the lane next to me. They also disappeared about 35 minutes into the workout and then it was just me and the lifeguard. At times I think the lifeguard was looking at me, just wishing I would go home.

Fifty minutes and 2,050 yards later I did just that. I got out of the pool. Sat in the hot tub for about 10 minutes and then went home.

It was a little more tolerable outside. The temperature must have dropped a degree or two. I considered hopping on my bike for a few miles, but decided not to, thinking dinner was much more important. I'll tackle the bike - or a run - tomorrow. It's only supposed to be 87.

Monday, June 22, 2009

High Cliff Sprint Triathlon Race Report

The water wasn't freezing. The cliff road was conquered not once, but twice. And although I'm kind of kicking myself for making a poor decision that impacted my finishing time, I'm happy with the number I put up.

High Cliff is done. It was a good race. One that I'll be doing again next year with hopes to shave some minutes off the time.

On to the race report...

Race Expo
I snuck out of work a bit early on Friday in order to go home, pack my bags, load up my bike and head to my parents' house in time for packet pick-up and the race expo. A storm rolled through just as I was about to load my bike onto my car, but since it was just a heavy downpour, I decided to go ahead and pack up the bike anyway. The old lady who lives next door? She was warning me about tornadoes and bad storms and advised me to call the sheriff. I didn't.

So after getting to my parents' house, my mom climbed in my car with me and we drove the four miles over to High Cliff State Park for the expo. I picked up my packet which included my race number, two T-shirts, swim cap and a bunch of goodies. And I may have treated myself to a new sports bra and a running skirt at one of the vendor tables. I think I deserve it.

After I got my stuff, my mom and I took a quick walk around the transition area. She was scoping out places to spectate the next morning. Me? After almost freezing in Lake Winnebago last week, I wanted to check out the water temperature. I was grateful to find out it had warmed up considerably. The lake looked really cool though. Since it was super humid - it was about 80 degrees with a dew point in the mid-60s - there was this haze hanging over the water. Kind of eerie looking. I was just hoping it wasn't going to be too hot and humid in the morning.

Race Day
My alarm started screeching at 4:30 a.m. I let myself hit snooze once and then bolted out of bed and took a really shower. I know. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it wakes me up. I had about 3/4 of a bagel and then mom and I took off for the park.

I got to the park with about 1 hour, 15 minutes before transition would close. I made it just before the massive influx of cars. Got myself a good parking spot, picked up my chip, got body marked and then headed over to set up my transition. Made a pit stop at the port-a-pottys, one last glance over everything in transition and then made my way down to the water for a quick warm up.

Before I knew it, we were listening to the national anthem, the half Ironman competitors were starting and 20 minutes later it was my turn.

The Swim
Since I didn't want to get swum over within the first 10 seconds, I decided to start near the back on the outside. Probably didn't have to do this since I think everyone in my wave decided to walk almost to the first buoy before starting to swim.

Once I was near that buoy, I dove in and started the quarter-mile swim. It was going pretty well. Got kicked in the stomach once, but soon I was at the third buoy, making my way around it and starting to head to the swim finish. It was pretty wavy, so the water was pretty choppy, making it a little difficult to swim, but I just kept my cool and kept swimming. No more walking for me.

Soon my knees were scrapping the sandy bottom and that was my cue to stop swimming and start wading in. As I was running up the hill, I tore off my swim cap and goggles, heard my mom cheering me on and started thinking about the bike.

Transition 1: Swim to Bike
I felt like I was fairly speedy here. Quickly dried off my feet, put on my socks, laced up my shoes and threw on my bike shorts. Put on my helmet and grabbed my bike. I was off. The Cliff Bar remained untouched.

The Bike
I hopped on my bike at the mount line and had a little bit before starting to tackle the cliff road, so I shifted down into a really low gear in preparation for the hill. When I got to it, I just pedaled. Was kind of in a zone, but I heard others around me complaining about the hill. And we weren't even on the truly awful incline yet. I just kept pedaling. I even passed a few folks. Before I knew it, the cliff road was done and I was leaving the park.

I admit, I had a bit of bike envy. There were so many cool looking bikes. And the super hard core folks? I heard them coming before they passed me - whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. Like I said, bike envy. Got me thinking. But that's a whole different post.

The bike went well. I kept pretty decent pace. Yes, I was passed a lot, but I also passed my share of people. I was glad I took the time last weekend to ride the 22 mile route. I knew what to expect - rolling hills, lots of farmland. For the most part, during the first half of the 22 miles, the wind wasn't a problem. It only really became an issue around Mile 13 or so. Then I was heading into the wind, which was blowing around 15 miles an hour. Not to bad

Around Mile 16 I saw two guys on the side of the road, in the ditch. Thought they were making a pit stop. Actually turned out to be fixing a flat. I kept riding.

With 3 miles to go, I made the last turn and was heading south, approaching the last major intersection before heading through a subdivision and back to the park. Saw my dad standing on the side of the road. Wasn't expecting him to be there, but was happy he made it out to cheer me on. Gave him and wave and kept pedaling. Before I knew it, I was dismounting the bike and heading back into transition.

Transition 2: Bike to Run
Got this one done quickly. Just racked my bike. Exchanged the bike helmet for a visor and I was off. Once again, the Cliff Bar sat untouched.

The Run
Ugh. Immediately my legs felt like bricks. But I was expecting that. I knew if I just started running, even if it was super slow, they'd loosen up and I'd be fine within a few minutes and the rest of the 3-miles run would be OK.

Five minutes passed. Still hard to run. Legs still felt like bricks. I caved. I walked for a few seconds. Started running again. By this time the cliff road was staring me in the face. I kept running. Didn't want to have to walk the hill. First section. Brutal. Caved again. Walked a bit of the flat section. Then the steep section were looming. I ran. Brutal. But kept pushing. Must. Keep. Running. To. The. Top. Made it and followed the arrow to the shady trails.

I think I ended up walking a good chunk of the first mile, but managed to run most of the final two miles. At this point it was still hard to run, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Granted, my run was more like a shuffle. It was brutal. But I didn't want to quit. At some point, I thought to myself, the run will get easier.

Then it dawned on me. D'oh! The Cliff Bar. It had sat in transition untouched. My water bottle on the bike? Should have been empty, but there was still liquid left. My running issues weren't because I hadn't trained properly, because I had. The issues were because I didn't fuel and hydrate properly. In the past, I've always eaten half of the Cliff Bar between the swim and bike and the remaining half at the start of the run. The Cliff Bar I brought? Package hadn't even been opened.

Now that I knew the reasons behind the miserableness of my run, I made a point to take lots of water and Gatorade at the aid stations. Unfortunately there were only two left. And of course it didn't help that at this point in the day it was starting to get warm. And the humidity was increasing.

But I kept running. Only stopped for one brief walk break before running down the cliff road - which I have to admit was nice after running and biking up it. Then it was just a short flat stretch which I sprinted to the finish line.

High Cliff. Done.

So let's look at the numbers...

Total time: 2 hours, 26 minutes, 28 seconds
Swim: 8 minutes, 28 seconds - 2:06 pace
T1: 4 minutes, 52 seconds
Bike: 1 hour, 26 minutes, 33 seconds - 15.3 miles per hour pace
T2: 1 minute, 59 seconds
Run: 44 minutes, 34 minutes - 14:22 pace (OUCH!)

Age group: 30 out of 38
Women: 197 out of 247

Not awful. Like I said, I know where my problem was. The run kicked my butt. Before I started it I was on pace to finish in 2 hours, 15 minutes. But I didn't. I look at it as motivation for next year and reminder for the rest of the year - the Cliff Bar? It's meant to be eaten!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


It's done.

I finished the High Cliff Triathlon this morning in 2 hours, 26 minutes. Could have finished a bit faster, but the run kicked me in the behind.

Race report and pictures to follow in the next few days.

Now, time to ice my knee and be completely lazy the rest of the night.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Let the countdown begin

Pick up race packet - check.

Figure out wave and when triathlon will start - check.

Look over the course, feel water temperature - check.

Organize what I'll need to do race morning - check.

Sleep - will be starting in less than an hour.

In 9.5 hours, I'll dive into the water and start the High Cliff Triathlon.

I'm ready for this race. Of course it helps that I have a bit of motivation - a post-race massage that's scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Bring on High Cliff.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The sweat just kept dripping

I was dripping. It felt like I had just stepped out of the shower.

But I hadn't.


I'd just finished a 2-mile run after work. It was sunny and warm out today, with temperatures in the mid-70s. But it felt nice out. So I ran, my last run before High Cliff on Saturday. I didn't think that 20 minutes after I put my running shoes on I'd be dripping and sweat would be rolling down my face, getting into my eyes and making them sting so bad I couldn't keep them open.

But I was.

And you know what? I liked it. Made me remember what it was like to run in the summer. And how good I felt afterward, knowing I had just accomplished something. Looking forward to more of those feelings next week when the weather's supposed to be even more summer-like.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not much to say

I haven't got much to say.

With High Cliff looming in the distance - it's four days away in case you lost count - I'm taking it relatively easy this week. Took a rest day yesterday. Actually I was going to go for a run, but then when I got home, looked in my bare cupboards, I decided making a grocery store run was a bit more important. Because apparently food is vital. Today I just hopped on my bike for a short 7 mile ride. I thought about abandoning it since it looked like it was going to start pouring buckets any moment, but I did it. I'm glad I did too since it felt good to get the legs moving a bit.

So not much from me.


If you're looking for new reading material, head on over to Steve's blog. The guy is hilarious. He runs. He swims. He bikes. And he tells stories about the adventures he has. And seriously, how many guys out there finish a half ironman while dressed as The Grim Reaper during the 13.1 mile run? He did. Go. Now. Start reading. You'll enjoy it. Trust me. And if you go, you'll get a chance to win a free pair of shoes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One last brick before High Cliff

The countdown begins.

High Cliff is just six days away. Six days people. That's not a lot of time.

Today I logged my last big workout before the race. I got up, read the newspaper while eating some cereal and then decided it was time. Time to tackle the bike course and some of the park trails I'll be running on in less than a week.

Course maps in hand, I loaded up my bike and set off for High Cliff. Once I was there, it was just a few more minutes before I was off to tackle the cliff road. A few weeks ago I was freaked out when I started the climb and barely made it up the first incline without almost having to stop. But today? I stayed calm. Breathed. And set my gears to the lowest ones possible. I kept pedaling. And you know what? This time around the climb wasn't so bad. Before I knew it, the first incline was done and the second one was looming ahead of me. Not bad either.

Aside from the cliff road, the rest of the 22-mile bike was relatively flat. A few rolling hills here and there throughout the countryside, but nothing scary. Rolling hills that I didn't even have to change gears on. The worst part about it was the last 6 miles or so when I was biking directly into the wind. It stunk, but since the course is rectangular, I figured I have to be biking into the wind at some point. Oh well.

Finished the course in 1 hour, 33 minutes. After loading my bike back onto my car, changing into my running shoes and grabbing a drink, it was time to run.

After studying the map last week, I realized the run? It also started up the cliff road. Just in case I didn't love it enough the first time through, I got to do it again. Only this time after coming off 22 miles on the bike.


Yes, my legs felt like lead, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other on my way up the cliff road. It sucked. It hurt. It was hard. It was hot. But at the top? It was over. Then it was off onto the shady trails. I originally intended to run about half of the 3-mile course, but I missed a turn and ended up going farther on the trail than I needed to before looping back. As a result, I actually ended up running 3 miles, just not the 3 miles I'll need to run on Saturday.

And while running up the cliff road at the beginning of the run stunk, there was a silver lining. The end of the run? It involved running down the cliff road, right to the finish line. Very cool. Very nice. Very fast. I loved it.

The bike was done. The run was done. There was a layer of grit and grime covering my body and my shoulders and back were pink due to a newly acquired sunburn. But I was done.

And not a moment too soon. I was sitting in a spot of shade in the parking lot, finishing my Cliff Bar, having some water and changing into my flip flops when I noticed the dark clouds rolling in, a streak of lightning and heard the rumble of thunder. A storm was brewing and it was time to go. I managed to drive into my parents' driveway and unload my bike just as the downpour started.

But I got in the brick workout that I wanted to today. And it felt good. I already knew what the water would be like after Thursday freezing dip into the lake, but now I know what I'll encounter on the bike and I know what it'll feel like running up, and down, the cliff road.

I'm ready for High Cliff.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This icicle can swim

I turned into an icicle today.

And four hours later, I think I'm still thawing out.

The local tri club held an open water swim session in Lake Winnebago today. Since that's where I'll be swimming when the starting gun for the High Cliff Triathlon goes off in eight days (eight days people!), I figured it might be a good idea for me to go.

There were about 30 people that showed up and about 80 percent of them were sporting their wetsuits. Me? I don't have one and I don't intend to get one. I'll be swimming a quarter-mile. That's not that far. And if Mother Nature would ever get her butt in gear and give us some summer-like weather, the lake water would warm up.

But anyway. No wetsuit for me.

Eventually it was time to get in the water. The wetsuit people flocked. "Oh, it's not that cold." A couple of swimming suit-clad swimmers went in next. Shrieks. Whimpers. Wails.

I stuck a foot in.

Cold. Chilling. Icy.

But I kept walking. Soon it was up to just above my knee and that's where we stood while the tri club folks gave us a run down on what to expect during an open water triathlon swim. Swimmers will be kicked. Swam over. Splashed. Hit.

Yes. Yes. I know this. And I'm starting to lose feeling in my feet.

We were going to go through The Gauntlet, during which the more experienced club members would simulate the kicking, splashing and hitting. One swimmer at a time.

Pretty soon it was my turn. And I remember that piece of advice I got when I was a kid, "It's not so bad as soon as you go under."

So I dove in. Head first towards The Gauntlet. And you know what? It wasn't as cold anymore. And now that my legs and arms were moving, I had feeling back. I could feel every nudge, hit, splash and kick, even the one I got to the stomach.

We faced The Gauntlet twice and then swam the sprint course. It wasn't so bad. Since the course runs parallel to the shoreline and isn't that far out, there is no part that is over my head. In fact, I think the deepest part comes to my chest. So I'll be able to touch the sandy bottom during the entire swim if I need to.

I'm glad I braved the icy cold waters tonight. Makes me feel a little bit prepared for next week. Now if only Mother Nature would glance at the calendar, see it's mid-June and realize it's supposed to be a heck of a lot warmer. Then the water wouldn't be quite so chilly.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Furloughs are meant to be spent outdoors. Not inside.

When I scheduled this furlough, I looked at the calendar and choose my week carefully. I had my choice, any week between April and the end of June.

I picked this week. Mostly because it's been a while since I had some time off of work and usually June is pretty nice here in Wisconsin in terms of weather.

Apparently Mother Nature didn't get the memo I'd be off this week. Because the weather? Yuck. Temperatures in the mid-50s (if we're lucky), cloudy and rainy. Just the kind of weather that makes me want to stay inside, curled up under a blanket with a book.

Which is basically what I've been doing since Saturday.

I was lucky Friday. Had a gorgeous day before the crappy weather kicked in. Sunny and warm. Very summer-like. So I took advantage of it, took a nice bike ride and then sat out on my patio with a book until it was time to get ready to meet my parents in Appleton for "Grease."

The show was really good. I'm glad I made the last minute decision to splurge and get myself a ticket. My parents have season tickets to the Broadway series, so if I want to see a show and none of my friends want to, I just buy a single ticket to the night they go. I don't mind sitting alone, besides, it's not like you talk during the show anyway.

Like I said, it was "Grease." Danny. Sandy. Rizzo. Kenickie. The Teen Angel, who just happened to be played by Taylor Hicks. Yes, that Taylor Hicks. The one from American Idol. He was good. Although I think he should stick to singing, the guitar and the harmonica. Because when the big ice cream cone above the drive-in open and Hicks started dancing? It was almost painful to watch, not to mention his eyes looked really freaky. He was only on stage for the one scene, "Beauty School Drop Out," and it was an entertaining one. He came back on stage after the encore and belted out his newest single, "Seven Mile Breakdown." Not bad.

Good think it poured all day Saturday and continued raining most of Sunday. Because I didn't do much. It was still gloomy today, but I made myself get up and go to the YMCA, where I stepped on the treadmill for a 3-mile run before hitting the pool for 1,000 yards.

The weathermen tell me it's not supposed to rain tomorrow. I'm crossing my fingers they're right. Because I'm not spending my entire furlough cooped up indoors due to the cruddy weather. You hear that Mother Nature?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Furlough, it's nice to see you again

Well hello Furlough. It's been a while since I've seen you.

Today begins my second week-long furlough. You know, those things that have become the cool thing for companies to do. It's like they pull you into a room, tell you you're getting an extra week of vacation. But we're not going to pay you.

In other words, a forced, unpaid vacation.

This will be Furlough No. 2 for me. I had one back in February. I traveled a bit during that furlough. Made a trip across the state to La Crosse to see a friend. Another trip down to Milwaukee to see an old college roommate.

This time around? I'm staying put in the City on the Water. Although I'll probably make the half-hour trip north to my parents' house and High Cliff State Park a couple of times.

Which means I should have plenty of time to accomplish the few goals I have for my week off.

During this furlough, I will:
  • Ride my bike. Maybe tackle that 31-mile route I did last weekend for the Strong Kids Ride. And this time have my camera with me.

  • Run. I've been neglecting my running shoes lately. And there ideas swirling around in my head.

  • Swim. Might even do an open water swim in Lake Winnebago in preparation for the High Cliff Triathlon. Which is in two weeks. Two weeks people! That's quick.

  • Catch up with Jack Bauer and see how he ended up saving the world this season. Jack's probably pretty ticked off at me since I stopped watching 24 after probably Hour No. 10 since I got so far behind. But the DVDs of season 7 went on sale the day after the season finale and I got a great deal. And for the past week, Jack's been sitting on my end table. Just waiting for me to pop in the first DVD.

  • The not so fun task of cleaning my apartment. But it needs to be done.
So that's the list. Add in some reading. Some relaxing. And a possible trip to the zoo with The Rugrats. Should be a good week off. And it all kicks off tonight when I head to see Grease at the performing arts center with my parents.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Late nights at work mean no morning workouts for me

I admit, I've been slacking this week. Blame it spending my nights at my desk, working a night shift. Late nights mean it's hard to get up and going in the morning.

With an early morning assignment followed by a big chunk of free time in the early afternoon before I had to be at my desk, I was planning on sneaking in a run on National Running Day Wednesday. But first I wanted to finish reading something and the next thing I knew I had to be to work in a half hour. I guess a 2 1/2 hour nap was more important because the run? I failed at that miserably.

But I managed to get on my bike today for a 14-mile ride before heading into the office. That felt good. And it didn't hurt that it was a gorgeous day out this afternoon. Although there were a bunch of clouds o' bugs that I managed to ride through. Ugh. Nasty.

And next week? I've got no excuses to keep me from running, biking, swimming or generally enjoying the days. Why? Well it's furlough time again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

May Reading Recap

The end of the month has passed, so it's time to check in on the reading progress.

It's getting a bit better. More pages are getting read, but I'm still really far behind where I normally am in terms of numbers.

In May I finished four books and 1,154 pages. That brings the yearly total to 12 books and 5,476 pages. Compare that to last year, when I had read 21 books and 6,617 pages by the time the end of May rolled around. Nine fewer books and 1,141 fewer pages.

I still blame it on my decision to read Gone With the Wind. Oh well. It was a good read. One I'm glad I tackled.

Anyway. What'd I read in May? Take a look.

The Innocent Man by John Grisham
The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Why They Killed Big Boy and Other Stories by Michael Perry

I really enjoyed Life of Pi. It was one of those books that I had been considering reading for the past year. But every time I picked it up and read the back cover, I came up with a reason to read something else. I finally read it this month and enjoyed it a lot. Made me think when I finished it. I'd recommend reading it if you haven't already.