Monday, September 13, 2010

THE JAMES RIVER IS DELICIOUS




6:40 am
Sept. 12, 2010
Jamestown Beach, Williamsburg Virginia

I am mentally preparing myself for the big event. Please notice the only tattoo is my number 172. I should have done the others, especially the Iron Man one to psych out my competition. I think they seemed pretty scared of me however when they see my huge muscles.

7:05 am
Sept. 12, 2010
James River, Williamsburg Virginia

I am trying to beat the pack into the water. Once there, I realize how stinking hard it is to swim in murky brown water, no sunlight, with foggy goggles. Oh, and every time I try to breathe on the left, my strong side, I inhale another pint of the James River. And oh, is it yummy.


7:20 am ish..
Sept. 12, 2010
Transition area, Virginia

I decide that running in a wetsuit is actually terrible. Please note the old men walking that appear to be moving faster then me. But Whit is standing there looking cute so I smile, sort of and keep running, hoping my legs won't collapse. Praise God, they don't.


7:23 am ish
Sept. 12, 2010

Route 5, Williamsburg Virginia

My bike and I are ready to go... REALLY ready to go - and so we are off for 12 miles which was actually kind of fun. I liked the bike part. I really liked the bike part, surprisingly. I was worried my outfit was not covering what it was supposed to, but apparently no one was offended so the ride went well.

8:00am ish
Sept. 12, 2010
Some greenway - Williamsburg, Virginia

I am off the bike , ready to run! My goal was 1:45 minutes. If I can run my 3.2 miles in under 30 minutes, I will beat my goal by 15 minutes and finish in 1hour 30 minutes. For me, a decent time.



8:35 am
Sept. 12, 2010
Random parking lot near transition area, Virginia

I race the 5k in less than 29 minutes - and so I finished in 1 hour, 30 minutes and 13 seconds. A new world record. Ok, that's a lie.

But I did have fun, felt strong, and enjoyed the whole process.

I also wanted to thank my friends and family that said prayers, read my silly blogs, sent encouraging notes and emails - and asked me how the training was going.

It was a fun process. Although I am walking with a slight limp today, I will likely do one of these again - and won't bore you all with the details. I do however, appreciate your encouragement and kindness. It meant more than I can say.


In the end - my first TRI was great fun! Thanks for joining me. And thanks to this guy, who wasn't rude when he passed me right before the finish line.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

VIRGINIA HAM

Yesterday in a conversation with a friend at work, I was reminded of an old unfortunate nick-name I acquired in Middle School.

Virginia Ham.

The origin of the nickname is as shameful as the name itself. A swim coach (we'll call him Dick Smith because that's his name) was commenting on my weight. No, not a nice thing to do but a topic Coach frequently brought up with his female swimmers. I will not comment on the appropriateness of this - you would just have to know Dick to not be totally bothered by his commentary.. anyhow,  having just moved to Florida from Virginia, Coach commented that perhaps I should lay off the Virginia Ham.

The name stuck.

And last night, as I was trying on my wetsuit for Sunday's race, I actually felt like a Ham for the first time in my life.

Please note, I don't eat Ham. I am not a ham.  I just felt like one.

Have you ever been squeezed into a casing of sort? A fabric so tight you actually have to bend and pull it across your skin. I'm not sure I like the feeling, but it I will like the benefit of the slick black suit Sunday morning.

In fact, I'm thinking of resurrecting the name this weekend. Rather than draw fake IronMan Kona tattoos so the other racers think I know what I am doing, I might sharpie Virginia Ham on my back. I'm not a chubby brace face wearing 13 year old anymore - praise God... but the name does make me laugh, especially when stuffed into a wetsuit. It may also make the other race participants smile which is good mid race.

After all - this event on Sunday is supposed to be fun.

Coach Smith - Virginia Ham will be thinking of you during the swim. Too bad you won't be there to yell  VIRGINIA HAM when I come up to breathe.

Monday, September 6, 2010

1 WEEK COUNTDOWN AND UPDATE: AVOID PUKE

In 7 days I will be back at work with sore legs and my brief brush with athletic greatness will be over.

In the meanwhile, I have much to do. No really. Its going to be a very busy week.

1. Call and speak harshly to wet suit company who apparently thought my order was for year 2013 or beyond since it has not arrived yet.

2. Run 5 k this morning and avoid the pukers. Perhaps you recall my earlier run in with Roanokers who jog and puke at the same time in the early summer. Anyway, in 1 hour or more from now, I will run the first annual Roanoke Donut Dash where people (not me) run 2 miles, eat 1 dozen donuts, then run 2 more miles. I will be running but not eating, or puking. I hope. I intend to get out ahead of the pack on the way back for obvious reasons. Elected not to bring the dogs, also for reasons I need not explain.

3. Shave so I look like a real athlete by next week, not just some lumpy 31 year old who saw her husband do a triathlon last spring and said "Hey, I can do that, hee hee hee."

4. Begin work on temporary tattoo that says Kona 2009. You see, Kona is where the real Iron Man competition is and I really want all the nice people in Williamsburg next week to think I am awesome so a wee bit of fake body art may be just the ticket. I am also hoping to paint muscles on my stomach and arms. Will keep you posted.

5. Swim today if our pool is open - federal holiday and all.

6.  Ride my bike tomorrow.

7. Swim again on Wednesday.

8. Ride again on Thursday. Perfect the grimace face while on bike so it looks like I am working really really hard while peddling. Also learn to ride with awesome sippy cup husband installed on bike last night so I can have water without having to move my face from the grimace position.

9. Travel to Williamsburg - buy tricorn hat and fake musket to fit in with locals.

10. Eat pasta for 5 days (actually, I think this is the most important element of the race taper)

11. Put all of stuff including lets hope and pray a wetsuit, in a bucket so I can change during this crazy little race. I would hate to have to bike in the wetsuit or run in bike shoes so bringing all the right gear may be important.

12. Pay photographers to keep pictures of the event off the interwebs.

It will be a busy week, which I hope starts by avoiding throw up this morning and ends by avoiding throw up next Sunday. Will keep you posted as the countdown begins.

Monday, August 30, 2010

B.R.I.C. WORK OUT - WHAT?

People who train for triathlons know what BRIC work outs are. Since you can't really call what I have been doing "training," it stands to reason that I have no idea what BRIC or BRICK stands for. I simply know the lingo and that with two weeks left before this race, I should be doing lots of BRIC/K workouts.

Practically, it means doing a bike and run back to back to prepare your legs for the state which they will endure during the actual race.

But when it comes to understanding the acronym, and what it stands for, I am at a total loss. My best guesses are as follows:

BIKE
RUN
IN
CONCRETE

BEAT
RATS
IN
COMPETITION

BIKE
RACE
IN
CANADA

BEAT
RAMBLERS
IN
CONSTANT
KICKING

See the problem I am having here? So when I attempted to preform this feat on Saturday, bike 11-12 miles then run 3 miles, I felt saddened by my stupidity. No, not by the throbbing pain in my knee, the numbness in my hands, or the soreness of my legs, my ignorance made me sad. So this morning, I resolved to be ignorant no longer and so I googled the term.

And the good news is it doens't really stand for anything according to some guy on the interwebs who is in Minnesota racing and writing about triathlons. He seems to know what he is talking about and according to the guy, Brick means:

Some think its origin come from “B”ike and “R”un. Others say the term “brick” only accurately reflects what your legs feel like when you jump off the bike and start running. Still others say the term comes from New Zealand triathlete Mike Brick who perhaps coined the term when he started doing the regimen.



Ok. So it doesn't mean anything. It means I have 13 days to get my tail in gear - my tush in the water and my legs on a bike or run.

It means no more lollygagging.

It means I have to buckle down and get to work.

It means I need more cliches to describe an increased intensity in training.

Encouraging speeches, bribes and other tokens are welcome. If you see my running around Roanoke wearing a bathing suit, yes, a bathingsuit, don't stare or laugh, please. Just ignore me and let me brick in peace.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

THIS TRIATHLON TRAINING MAY KILL ME

Now, if you know me, you are aware that I tend to exaggerate sometimes. Whit, no comment. But occasionally something so scary will happen that I have no need to embellish the story - because it speaks for itself.

Like last night.



My puppies and I (pictured here) went for a run. We all needed some exercise and while it was late, I considered my dogs to be good protectors.

We ran from our house to the Roanoke City / Roanoke River Greenway, and headed West. I had planned on a 3 mile run, nothing crazy.

Atticus and Gracie were having a great time - prancing, saying hello to others, trotting in front of me on their leashes...

Around mile 1, we were going down to an area of the Greenway that often gets flooded during heavy rains when the Roanoke River swells... I was watching the puddles to make sure the Dogs were not stepping in any too deep, when all of a sudden, about 6 feet ahead of me I saw this:


NO KIDDING.

I saw what I am quite sure was the biggest copperhead I had ever seen in my life. His head was so big, it was the width of my cellphone. His body was fat in places, but he had a skinny tail - no rattle.

Thankfully, he was heading away from us at the time and my dogs, thank God, did not see him at all. Had Gracie seen the moving snake, I have no doubt she would have gotten close to say hello and make friends. She has attempted this with squirrels, possums, etc.

When I saw how close the dogs were to the snake's tail - I freaked out, screamed, pulled them back and headed in the other way. Thankfully, by the time the snake's head turned toward us, we were long gone - FAST...

For starters, I am so grateful the dogs did not see the snake first. I cannot imagine any scenario where that would have worked out well.

Secondly, I want you all to know that I am a faster runner then I ever realized, I just have to have a huge 2-3 foot snake within striking distance from my dogs to reach optimum race speed.

And last, I would like to say that really really really hate snakes, and I hope I don't see that one, or any other one for the rest of my life. I am still kind of scared and keep looking at the rug in my office. YIKES.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

LIKE I NEED MORE STUFF

The crazy thing about triathlons, is that you have to have a lot of stuff... and frankly, as of late, I have been kind of anti-stuff.

For example, I try to take a pile of stuff to the Rescue Mission or place in a pile for our church yard sale in October. This purging of stuff has been occurring weekly in the Ellerman house because we are increasingly aware how little we actually need.

BUT - if I want to safely complete this race, event, whatever you want to call it in 3.5 weeks, I need stuff.

  • I need a bike. Check. Had that for years.
  • Bike shoes. Check. Again, been collecting dust in our basement and are glad to be in use.
  • Running shoes. Check - although I may need a new pair and will go to my local running store this week and ask.
  • Bathing suit and/or Tri-athlon suit. Now, I have bathing suits, but not one I could run and bike in (hello - chaffing) so I had to buy a new one. I considered the whole "tri-suit" thing but my body is just not built to wear a flimsy unitard in public. It's not. I promise. So, I now own a new suit, and a top to wear over the suit for running and biking so I can hide snacks in the pockets, and well, hide the body that is not built for a unitard.
  • Wetsuit. I really think this is unnecessary but the people who claim to know these things, recommend one... and so last night I tried one on. Apparently, it was designed for barbie. No, not a woman who looks like Barbie, the plastic doll. It was teeny tiny. My ankles fit, but everything north of my knees remained uncovered. Ugh. so now I have to rent a wetsuit to wear.
Oh, and while we are discussing perfectly terrible images like me trying on a wetsuit at 10pm in my new bathing suit in my living room with cats and dogs watching in amazement, I would like for you to picture my workout last night.

Imagine my basement, typical unfinished basement. A bike on a stationary trainer. Me in my new bathing suit and shirt, bike shoes, socks, sitting on said trainer sweating like I am in a sauna, trying to peddle. How can a machine that is perfectly still, be so painful to ride? How can a bike that is not actually going anywhere, make my heart rate go through the roof? How can I still be so sucky at bike riding after 4 months?

Apparently, I haven't been doing it enough... and that is why the bike and trainer won last night, and I stumbled off in an exhausted defeated state.

So from now on, every night - 30 minutes on the trainer. At least maybe by the end of this I will suck less and be able to ride in this event. And, maybe, it is slightly less embarrassing to be riding a bike in your basement in a bathing suit and clip shoes, then it is to be wearing a wetsuit in your living room.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

AWESOME RUN

There used to be a waiter at a restaurant here in Roanoke that would always respond to your order, by saying "Awesome."

Did he really think me ordering a Millet Burger was awesome? Did my order or the way I expressed it, inspire awe in this perky guy? I doubt it but the word is used in lieu of many other expressions these days, like Great, or Outstanding. I however, will attempt to use it in this blog, as it was originally intended.

I went for an awesome run on Sunday. No, my performance did not inspire awe, nor my ability. It was where the run took place that was awesome.

3300 feet above sea level, on a gravel road, atop a mountain due west of my home, Potts Mountain. The temperature on Potts Mountain is usually 10-15 degrees cooler than the temp. down here in the valley. So please, if you will, imagine a cool 73 degree morning, bright blue sky, isolated gravel road, with the most beautiful lush green trees, wildflowers and rock formations on either side. Imagine with me, the quiet that exists in such a place with no cars, no airplanes, no sounds but for my feet hitting the gravel in rhythm, and the occasional buzz of a bee flying by my head in curiosity.

My running companion was a lovely purple butterfly. It flew beside me, in front of me, occasionally landing on the grey gravel a few yards ahead. Perhaps my bright red running shirt and pink shorts were as shocking to him, as his bright purple wings were to me. Either way, we ran/flew together for 40 minutes, quietly watching one another moving forward with purpose.

His home, apparently, is one where black eyed susans, daisies and Queen Ann's lace grows naturally at the road's edge. Mine is typically one where cigarette butts and trash are found in the same location. His is one where the day is defined by the location of the sun, and mine where the day is often defined by an alarm, or calender warning sent by email.

It was an awesome run because I finished encouraged, excited, oddly rejuvenated. So hopefully before this whole triathlon is done in 1 month (from tomorrow) I will get to go back and run with my new friend. And thanks to a great website on Virginia butterflies, I now know his name: Limenitis arthemis astyanax. I will call him AL for short.



Wednesday, August 4, 2010

FLAT. AGAIN

I took vacation last week. Not from training, I mean, who would ever want to take vacay from biking and swimming and running? Not me, I assure you. No way.

I took vacation from my vacuum. My job. Email. My cell phone - and I went to the beach with my hubbie's people. Very nice people by the way.

We stayed on an island with flat long roads and bike paths. You see where I am going, right? Lots of extra time to train for this great event which will take place in a little over 4 weeks.

Day 1 - Biked 32 miles. Flat Tire at Mile 26. Not awesome. Husband kindly fixed flat and we went home.

Day 2 - Biked 8 miles - ran 1 mile. This was a poor attempt at a BRIC work out.

Day 3 - Ran 4.2 miles - it was hot and gross and not pleasant. Hated every step of it.

Day 4 - Biked 31 miles. Flat on Mile 28. Hubby / mechanic was no where in sight so I started to walk. Walked 1 mile, and mechanic arrived. He had been on a longer ride and thankfully not passed me yet on the way home. Fixed flat. Rode home.

Day 5 - Ran a few miles - not too terrible.

Day 6 - did nothing. Best day of all.

Day 7 - came home, strapped bike to the top of the car - and wouldn't you know it, Tire was FLAT by the time we got home.

The good news is maybe I am not to blame for all the flats. Afterall, if air can do it, my bum, weight and legs can't be totally to blame? Can they?

Have 4 plus weeks to figure out my equipment problem - because lets be frank about this. Am I really gonna stop and change a tire mid Triathlon? No way. I will just stop - leave my bike and hobble back to base with my bike shoes on, ask for snacks and call it a day.

Now, that would be a bad ending to months and months of work.

So, I will speak to my mechanic (ie - husband) and hopefully no more flats. But just in case, I will watch this handy dandy how to video on the interwebs - complete with how to change a flat advice.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

WHAT GOES AROUND - COMES AROUND

I generally believe this to be a true statement. Call it what you will, but I often think the world does not reward terrible acts.

So I wondered yesterday, when I arrived at the local pool for my training, what I had done to mankind? I wondered this when I found a new floater in the outdoor swim lane at my local pool.

Please imagine with me, if you can, an older gentlemen, maybe early 70's, khaki babeball hat on his head, large blue noodle between his legs and under his back as a floatation device, black speedo, floating back and forth in lane 2 of 2 lanes. Cute kids getting lessons in lane 1, and the "open swim" area empty.



"HA" I say to myself. Been down this road and don't want to do it again. I will ask the lifeguard whether it is more appropriate for man and noodle to leave the lane so I can use it... I have a swim cap on. I plan on getting my face in the water. I mean business.

Life guard, clearly not interested or sympathetic to my concern, cooly says "you can ask him if you want - but he just got there."

Not helpful young man. Not helpful at all.

Well, I don't have the guts to ask Senor speedo to move, or share, so I sheepishly swam in the open swim part, dodging small children who eventually decided swimming underneath me and in front of me was a fun game.

Again, tried to splash the noodle guy - to no avail. That must be why he brought the hat.

So what have I done to hurt the world? Did I kill too many bugs this week? Was I unkind to a stranger who called our office?

I am repentant. I am sorry. I am hopeful for brighter days and fewer men floating mid-lane. I will run tonight, and send blessings to those I pass. Perhaps I can make amends - and things will get better. Perhaps the greenways will be less crowded with people standing or walking at a snails pace mid lane.

Monday, July 19, 2010

TWO- A- DAY

When my brother was in High School in Tampa Florida (think hot, very hot), he had a week or two in mid-August where they had football practice, twice a day.

People threw up.
People ate spaghetti.
People threw up again.
People were miserable.
My brother quit football.


So when the triathlon book left by the triathlon fairy in our bathroom, suggested I start working out twice a day, starting like now, I decided it was a terrible idea.

Some people have to take medicine twice a day.

Some people watch Law & Order re runs twice a day.

I imagine some folks eat chips and salsa twice a day (YUM!)

But seriously. Work out twice a day? If we ever had to do that in my athletic past I have blocked it out as a painful memory.

But maybe the book is right. Since technically the race is 3 workouts in one day, in a row, without chips and salsa, perhaps I should do that.

So I will start, some combination of the following every week - which, by the sheer numbers, means more than 1 in a day:

Long run
Hard run
easy run
long swim
easy swim
Long Bike
bike / run - BRIC
easy bike

Yuck. I already don't love this - but like eating your vegetables and taking vitamins, it'll be good for me.

Will report of any throwing up or quitting that occurs. Will also report if spaghetti is involved because I like to eat.

7 weeks to go!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I THINK I CAN, I THINK I CAN

When I look at a bridge or hill on foot or bike, I feel like the little engine that could.... "I think I can I think I can," I will whisper to myself. "I can run over this thing without walking. I can bike up this mountain. I can I can."

For the last few weeks, these challenges have thankfully become easier. Apparently your body can become stronger, your lungs more capable of aerobic exercise etc. So when I read in a Women's triathlon book yesterday that I needed to set an intention for my race, a goal, I became despondent.

My goal, Duh ( I revert to 4th grade vocabulary when despondent), is to finish this thing without walking. Isn't that enough?

Maybe it is... but maybe, I could do more.  Maybe I could actually enjoy this whole process. Maybe I could learn to like running and biking. Maybe swimming could again become a place to rest my mind and worries.

I ran 4.2 miles yesterday.
I saw a lovely Indian man in a crown.
I killed three bugs with my left eye.
I felt strong and able to run longer.
I smiled at people on the greenway.
I counted 7 trains filed with coal sitting in Roanoke.
I saw three lovely pregnant ladies exercising.
It took over 45 minutes.
I actually had fun.

Today (weather permitting) I will bike or swim outside. I will do my best not to complain, but to enjoy the new found strength in my legs and arms. I will enjoy pushing my body to new limits, and try to be gracious when it resists.

Yesterday was the 8 week mark - 2 months until race day. Can I keep training, gaining strength and enjoy this process?

"I think I can, I think I can."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

SUNRISE....

For any of your high school theater nerds like me (and I know a few of you are out there), what do you think of when I say "SUNRISE?"

I hope you think of "SUNSET." After all, we have all either been in or enjoyed more than one performance of Fiddler on the Roof.

That being said (and here is a link to a classic version of the song
)

I will no longer think of Sunrise... and Sunset.

I will think of SUNRISE - and snot.

A lesson learned today:

When one rides their bike shortly after the sun is up, and one is not used to such activity and that hour, or the speed of a bike when the weather is cool, snot happens.

Alot of it. It's gross. And I think, that is why bike gloves are recommended and used by professionals.

I also think I should have been prepared for this but sadly wa snot. Get it?

Even in the pool there are ways to gracefully take care of the "snot issue."
Runners also have their ways. But Bikers? How do they do it.

You sort of need your hands on the bike... and sudden head movements, jerks etc., are not encouraged. So how does one truly handle the issue?

I needed advice so I looked online, duh. And I am NOT, I repeat, NOT the first person to have this problem. There are blogs and blogs written about it. Numerous bits of helpful advice.

My favorite, written by FatCyclist.com, even calculates the amount of snot produced over his lifetime of riding. He, by the way, uses the glove and wipe on the shorts technique.

I am looking into alternatives, but for now think I need to get something to wear around my neck, like a little cloth I can use to help... or wipe the tears away when my legs burn so much I can't peddle any more.

I realize the easiest solution would be to not ride at sunrise, but basically that means I wouldn't be riding at all and that makes for bad training when over 2/3 of this competition will be spent on a bike.

So, back to work. I will keep you posted on my research and riding and let you know how the snot issue turns out.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

OPEN WATER SWIM - OH MY

Pop quiz regarding triathlon training in the Florida Keys:

What lives in the ocean (Gulf of Mexico / Atlantic)?
a. crabs
b. sting rays
c. fishes
d. barracuda

ANSWER: all of the above


What did I see during my open water swims this week in the Gulf of Mexico?
a. crabs
b. sting rays
c. fishes
d. barracuda

ANSWER: A, C & D, sort of (they were nearby)


What did my brother see during his float around the ocean and have fun swim?
a. crabs
b. sting rays
c. fishes
d. barracuda

ANSWER: B



What landed on my shoulder when I stopped to catch my breath mid-swim in the ocean?
a. crabs
b. sting rays
c. fishes
d. barracuda

ANSWER: A, and he did not look happy


What made me swim very fast during these open water swims?
a. crabs
b. sting rays
c. fishes
d. barracuda

ANSWER: The crab that landed on my shoulder


What do I hope is not in the James River when I swim there in September 2010 during the Patriot Triathlon?
a. crabs
b. sting rays
c. fishes
d. barracuda

ANSWER: All of the above
 
It was a fun few days swimming in the keys, fighting the current, swinging my arms against salty waves of green water. I had to learn the rhythm of ocean swimming and breathing, to not be alarmed by the saltiness of the water or the murky bottom below. Just kick, stroke, breathe - repeat. Oh, and scream when you realize a small spotted crab is sitting on your shoulder extending his pinchers towards your earlobes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

AHH, IT'S GOING

Some lovely friends have asked me how my training is going. These people are kind, and they mean well. They may actually care about my training and or athletic prowess, although for the most part I think they are just being thoughtful.

My pat response has been "Ahh, its going." What this really means is I am running, biking and swimming when I can, but it's not the highlight of my life.

Henri  Nouwen is actually the current highlight of my life but alas I will save my love for Henri for another day. (Henri is pictured here for fun).

Swimming is good. But for the Division I Varsity swimmer who beat my tail back and forth at the RAC pool last week, I have felt strong and confident in the water. I have also enjoyed swimming more than I have in years which to me is a great blessing.

Biking has been fine. I have yet to face plant and I have decided the biking shorts with room for two may not be a great fit, so I am in the market for shorts that only have room for one person. This is a good start on the bike I think.

The real hard part has been running. I have been jogging, and jogging and jogging more, yet I am still terrible at it. It's hot out, my legs feel heavy and I generally count down the minutes until I am at home sipping something cold. That was until last night. Last night I went for a late jog - goal, 32 minutes or around 3.2 miles.

According to http://www.mapmyrun.com/ - it wasn't actually a 3.2 miler - more like a 3 miler, but it didn't hurt and I only looked at my watch once. This friends, is a mini miracle. For the first time in years, I ran and didn't hate every step.

I came home excited, almost thrilled. I told Whit the run was so not bad, so surprisingly not terrible, it was almost fun.

So ask me today how the training is going and I won't say "Ahh, its going." I will say - "It's going well, thank you" and I will maintain this sentiment until the next time I go for a jog and hate every minute.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

MANNA FROM HEAVEN

In the book of Exodus, God provides His people with food when they are in need. Although Exodus mentions the manna is cake like and tastes like honey, my people have always described their favorite food as manna from heaven.

It's the ultimate compliment from an evangelical that likes to eat.

Rumor has it my great grandmother called blue crabs, "manna from heaven."

My mother has also used the term but I don't recall what delicious dish deserved the compliment.

For me, manna = pizza.

I have been vegan for most of the last 5 months. Vegan = no animal products like CHEESE, EGGS, etc. Last night, I needed a pizza fix and no vegan oath was going to get in my way... so off to Grace's Pizza in Grandin Village.


Spinach, mushrooms, green peppers, extra garlic and tomatoes - YUM. I ate alot. It was delicious.
It was a reward for my two days of running and motivation to get my toes in the pool today. Yes, I require special treats to train for this triathlon.

Although I am not a theologian, I think that God was telling his people in Exodus that they should not worry, He was in control and would provide.

In my life, He used a wonderful baked bread slathered with red sauce and fresh veggies - baked with cheese to communicate the same thing.

"Lauren - go run, go bike and swim. You are not alone. It will be fun. I will provide - and every once in awhile, my provisions will be so tasty you will be tempted to blog about them." Ok, so not a direct quote... but I feel blessed either way.

Monday, June 14, 2010

OUCH MY HAMMIES HURT

So I have been trying to run bike and swim blah blah blah like the books say... a few runs, swims and 1 hour with my bum on a plastic seat a week.

And so far I am seeing great results.

Like new bruises are beginning to form on my legs... and it hurts to walk up stairs... and chain grease is permanently affixed to my knees...and I have to do more laundry.... and there is one new
development which made me turn to the interwebs in search of answers.

My hamstrings hurt. Both of them with equal intensity. They have hurt for a few days now and so I am wondering, why do they hurt?

Was it the 10 miles I ran on Saturday? Or the ride up Mill Mountain and to Floyd and back today that did it? But for the fact I did neither of those things this weekend, I think the cause really might be lack of encouragement. You know - after years of mild use I now expect great things from these muscles and yet I have not been as kind or encouraging as I should be.

The websites I found however, say nothing about encouraging words and hamstring pain.

This one website I came across says
Here are a number of factors that can lead to a hamstring tear.
  • Previous hamstring injury
  • Lack of hamstring flexibility
  • Lack of hamstring strength
  • Imbalance between hamstrings and quadriceps
  • Imbalance between the left and right hamstrings
  • Anterior pelvic tilt
  • Hypomobile lumbar spine
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte depletion
Wow. I don't even know what most of those words mean and I am pretty sure my pelvis is not titled, so there must be a more basic reason. I really think I need to give my hammies some r&r, say nice things and they will be back in business.

So I googled "encouraging your hamstrings." No seriously.

And all I found were websites trying to sell me stuff like gel and freezy packs and ultrasound stuff. So I kept looking. One smart looking website says my hammie pain could be related to overuse or "pushing beyond your limits."

OMG. How did the website know that?

Amazing how the Internet has developed into an all knowing enterprise. I did push myself beyond my limits this week and now need to be a wee bit more careful.

Today is a rest day, but tomorrow I will be back on the saddle, or speedo, or something. Until then I am saying nice things to my leg muscles, encouraging and positive words and words of thanks. "Doing great guys - keep it up. You can do it."

I'll keep you posted but so far I think the nice words are going far.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

WHAT A PAIN

I'll admit it. I am a wuss. I don't like pain, discomfort or any activity that tends to cause pain and/or discomfort. I like easy runs, swimming and really want to replace my bike saddle with a twin size pillow top mattress. That might alleviate the occasionally "seat" pain that happens post bike ride.

So yesterday, in keeping with my I feel good swimming routine, I went to the pool. I actually had the entire outdoor pool all to myself for almost 20 minutes - swam 3 500's in a row when all of a sudden

DEAR MARY, MOTHER OF GOD - my left calf muscle is on fire. Yes, I know that is impossible as it is submerged in 7 feet of chlorinated water, but it burns, and hurts, and won't flex and WOWZERS that hurts.

I can't kick.
I can't bend my foot or leg.
My calf is throbbing, burning firelike pain.

I want to scream under water. I want to rip my leg off to make the burning stop.

I hop to the side of the pool, holding my leg like a gimpy puppy.  I massage it. Pain continues. I pray to myself "DEAR JESUS HELP ME" (Much like the scene in Taledega Nights where Ricky Bobby runs around - enjoy it again) 

I got out of the pool, walked around - limping, embarrassed I have not finished my swim... and the pain stops. My foot, calf and ankle relax, and I am fine.

WOW. That was odd I thought. What in tarnation caused that little episode?

According to the interwebs, "Sudden pains that show up during physical activity, such as walking, are usually a sign of what doctors call arterial insufficiency...is usually seen in the form of intermittent claudication. In this condition the painful cramping quickly comes and goes. It's always preceded by exercise, when the muscle demands more blood, and it's completely relieved within five to ten minutes of stopping the exertion that produced the pain."

Well - yes, so what does that mean Dr. Internet?

"Think of claudication as a heart attack of the lower leg," explains Joseph M. Giordano, M.D., professor and chief of surgery at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. "If blood flow is obstructed, the increased needs of the muscle aren't being met, and the attack occurs. With immediate rest, the muscle's blood demands return to normal, and the pain goes away."

A HEART ATTACK OF THE LOWER LEG. MAN  - I should have taken today off.

Dr. Internet continues: "Intermittent claudication is a relatively benign and manageable condition... At its worst, the condition can produce painful, slow-healing ulcers or even gangrene."

GANGRENE. Yum.

So what can I do about it to prevent this burning fire like pain from returning?
Go Home? Put my feet up? Eat potato ships for salt and carbs?

"Hoof it till it hurts. Though walking brings on intermittent claudication, a walking program is the first step in treating it. "You should walk until you reach your level of pain tolerance," says Dr. Giordano. "When you reach the point where you can't stand the pain anymore, stop. Push yourself a little more each day, keep increasing the distance, and gradually the condition will become less prevalent."

Great. Just what I wanted to hear.  The only way to get over this painful thing, is with more exercise. What a pain.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

MOVE OVER PHELPS, GET OUT OF MY WAY SANDERS

Many many years ago when the US Olympic Swim Team was training for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, I went to a few of their practices like a little dorky groupie. I cheered, whistled hooted and hollered. I may have even followed a few of the male team members out to the bus and asked for autographs. One particular male swimmer remains in my memory  - Hans Dersch - ahh, Hans. Hope you are well.

While this was not the proudest moment in my life, I have moved on. Now, rather than chasing the athletes like an awkward puppy, I can kick their butts in the pool.

OK, slight exaggeration I will admit. I doubt I can kick the anything off of any past Olympian, but I feel like I can which is the real victory here.

I have reached a point in the water again, after many years, where I feel at home. As my arms work in union and my legs kick to the steady beat in my head, I feel strong, proud, almost good. Well, I feel good and am no longer embarrassed to say I used to swim. I can say, with some pride, that I still do swim.


So Ms. Summer Sanders, 1992 Gold medalist and Mr. Michael Phelps, fastest swimmer of all times - next time you are in Roanoke, call me. You can borrow my new kick board and I will even let you use my new YMCA cap if you forgot one.

We can swim a few thousand, have a cocktail of ice water on the rocks, and I promise I won't ask for your autographs. We can just enjoy the cold clean water and the way it makes you feel as you push off the wall. We can kick, paddle and breathe in mutual silence, enjoying our favorite sport together.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

WHY AQUA JOGGING WITH ATTICUS IS NOT FOR WIMPS

I have been a little lazy this week. Not really sure why, but perhaps it has something to do with the fact I am generally lazy when it comes to exercise. That is why I decided to do the whole triathlon thing in the first place - lacking structure needing motivation.

Anyway, last night, in my laziness, I took the pups (seen here looking adorable like always last spring) for a long walk around the hood. We returned home hot, tired, slightly winded and gross. The solution? Take a dip.

We are blessed to have a concrete pond in the back yard that has lovely chlorinated water. On a warm evening, it is just the ticket to cool off. Only problem is that the pooches do not share the pool well.

They will run and jump on your head, chase things, like you, and if they get close enough, accidentally claw whatever bits of skin they can reach. They don't mean to hurt you, but when they have to keep doggy paddling to stay afloat, the nails inevitably make contact and cause humans, like me, pain.

So last night, I invented a great new workout - aqua jogging with Atticus.

This is how it works:

1. Stand in shallow end with large orange floating ball.
2. Throw ball toward middle of pool.
3. Watch two large dogs hurl bodies into air, toward ball, knocking heads and faces as they hit the water.
4. As dogs hit water - you swim toward deep end, away from dogs.
5. As Gracie steals orange ball, Atticus loses interest and starts toward you - he thinks you are his new orange ball.
6. You swim, kick and do whatever is necessary to avoid his reach while staying in the water reaching shallow end unscathed.
7. Gracie exits pool with ball - ready to play again.
8. Throw ball again and repeat.

The good news is, this little game gave us all a work out.

The bad news is, I think my neighbors may have called Animal Control when they heard me screaming and frantically swimming away from the large black dog, and or they called the psych. unit at our neighboring hospital to complain of the ill woman next door.

 If I want to do well in September during the swim leg of the triathlon, I may need Atticus to come along. He tends to make me swim faster. We may play again tonight - so bring your ball, and come on by.

Monday, May 31, 2010

LESSONS LEARNED

Even at thirty years old, I am learning new things. This weekend, with an extra day away from the office, I had time to run and bike and rest over the long weekend.

Saturday Morning I ran the Appalachian Power 5k in downtown Roanoke. I learned some wonderfully important lessons during and after the race that I feel I should share with others who are trying to be more athletic, sporty, or just do stuff outside like walk/run a 5k.

1. If you leave the part of your chip with the actual timing device on your kitchen counter, and strap the instructions to your shoe instead of the chip, the timing people will not pick up your time. I know, who knew right?

2. If you eat alot the night before, and/or you drink too much prior to attempting a strenuous athletic activity like running a 5k,  you might throw up. Thankfully, this was not me or the gals who let me tag along during the race. The pukers were strangers to me but apparently many in Roanoke did not know full stomach + run = puke. Perhaps this post will spare others in the future from this unfortunate fate, so please pass along.

3. If you wear an IronMan hat to hold your gross uncombed hair back during the 5k, and then run like a Grandmother, people are not impressed. No really, they expect you not to suck so much when you wear the words Ironman.. apparently.

So the run went well, overall. My time? No idea. Probably not under 30 minutes but close. The good news is I felt like I could run more, which is a new and rare feeling. Not an athlete yet I suppose, but on my way.

So what else did I learn this weekend, you may be wondering? Other than how to make vegan berry cobbler (yum) and how to block out my black dog's whiny whimper as we drive to the Dog Park (gratuitous dog park shout out intended) hubby took me for a bike ride.... and I learned more stuff during the bike ride then I even did during the 5k Saturday morning.

1. If you stick your foot / boot between your peddle and tire, while your bike is moving, you might lose your balance and face plant.

2. Should you find your foot is wedged between your tire and peddle and the bike is moving, slow down, try not to hit a car and maybe you can stop before the face plant - yes. Glad to have learned that earlier today.

3. When someone suggests you gear down as relevant advice before climbing a hill, it would be helpful to know (a) what gear down means and (b) how one goes about gearing down.

4. Just because you can pull your bike shorts up to your chin, does not mean that is how they are suppose to be worn. Although I remain unclear as to why there is so much extra fabric, apparently it does not double as a built in sports bra. Sorry for the visual.



And last but not least, I learned the following about bike riding: It's hard. Just cause you get to stop and drink beer, does not make it any easier.

Perhaps I should have gone for a stroll in the spandex on my 2 wheels before this whole triathlon thing started... Perhaps I should learn how to use my pedals and gears and wear my shorts correctly before my next bike adventure.  The good news is I still have over 3 months and plenty of time to learn these important skills, and if I don't land on my face, it might even be fun.

Friday, May 28, 2010

AM I AN ATHELETE or AN ATHLETE?

Which am I? A soft core wussy 30 year old trying to do a triathlon as a soft core ATHELETE? or am I a 30 year old soft core Athlete?

According to Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, I am both. I am an Athelete here and an Athlete here.


Tomorrow I am going to run a 5k with this guy (the one on the right). He looks fast, doesn't he? He is fast, trust me. He was even fast at the end of a bike and swim when this photo was taken by yours truly.



If I can finish this 5k tomorrow morning in 30 minutes, I might consider myself an athlete.

If I beat this guy (husband) I will consider myself a superstar.

If neither happens, and I just finish - we will stick with athelete.


Enjoy your weekend everyone. Be safe, and I will see you soon, or soone. I think adding an extra e wherever possible is a good idea and I might try to follow suit, suite.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

Coffee with coconut milk (yum) - Spring mornings - My new baby niece Ginny - sappy movies - good books- Home-cooked meals - exploring new places - Asheville, NC - Fat Earl and Emma - The list goes on. 

Although I am not a shopper by any means, there is a store here in Roanoke that I would also count as one of my favorite things: Fleet Feet on Franklin Road. Locally owned and operated by a husband and wife team, they will take care of all your running gear needs.

A few years ago, my friend Christa and I took a running class through Fleet Feet, and essentially learned to love running.

We trained to run a 5k and have been running (aka, talking and jogging slowly) ever since.

My love for Fleet Feet however, does not end at their great class or the wonderful people who work there.

Yesterday, with large bulky heals and an ill-fitting suit on my person, I stumbled into the store complaining of hip pain from a recent run. "Maybe new socks or shoes would help," I shared with the store owner, Robin. 

Within minutes, Robin found the perfect pair of shoes. While I would normally run around the store or outside to ensure a perfect fit, my skirt suit did not lend itself to much running, or activity of any kind other than sitting at a table. Although I passed on the run, Robin did make sure the shoes were the right size, width, etc. 

We talked about sports bras, and socks, triathlons and running - and woosh, I was out the door with these babies: 

Sweet kicks, eh?

I will start counting how many miles they get. I hope they will not last the summer - which would mean I was training as I should be. These sweet silver and hot pink Asics hug my boney feet with confidence, making each clumsy step feel strong and solid.

I love these shoes. They are at the top of my favorite thing list and as I keep running this summer - I am confident our love will grow. Don't you think Julie Andrews would have been singing about these if she could have shed the clogs and slipped them on...

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens (see above kittens)... Girls in new Asics with sweet silver laces, These are a few of my favorite things..."

Friday, May 21, 2010

GOGGLE DEATH

I have typically referred to "goggle death" as the event wherein one's goggles pop off, leak or do not work  during a swim race, competition etc. For years I would watch team mates dive in, and squirm as their protective eye wear would move to their chin, mouth or fall off all together. It is not fun, and I would guess, most swimmers have known the panic associated with mid race goggle death.

The phrase however has new meaning for me as my favorite goggles literally disintegrated, broke, snapped and fell apart on my face while swimming last evening.

For years I have been singing the praises of TYR's socket rockets - sleek, light weight and oh so cozy on one's eyeballs, the socket rockets have long held my affection and praise.

This morning, upon realizing that I live in a small town where socket rockets may not be readily available, I logged onto http://www.tyr.com/ to purchase a few pairs of the world's best goggles.

14 pairs on the website - new sleek colors with metallic faces to shade your eyes from the bright summer sun.
Out of the 14 pairs on the website, TYR is OUT OF STOCK of 13 pairs. The only pair available for purchase is light pink with white straps.

Do I look like an 11 year old girl to you? (Rhetorical question, don't answer that please). PINK goggles. No self respecting athlete or pretend athlete would wear those, which is clearly the case since TYR can't sell them.

So Goggle death now has new meaning. Goggle death is what happens when your favorite goggles that have survived years of chlorine and neglect, die a terrible and traumatic death, and you are unable to replace them.

I can hear taps playing as I log onto another website in search of sleek swim eye wear.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

LET'S DO THE NUMBERS - WEEK 1

Don't you just love NPR? I do. Do you know the show MarketPlace, a great show on economics from American Public Media? Before they give you the good or bad news on the day's various markets, they warn you by saying, "Let's Do the Numbers."

Well, here are my scary numbers.

Swim so far this week: 45 minutes
Still need to swim: 15 minutes

Run so far this week: 2.62 + 2.98  = 5.6 miles
Still need to run: 3.4 miles by Sat. Night
(and no, I sadly don't think my fun walk on Sat. morning to benefit RAM HOUSE in Roanoke counts - although I do encourage your attendance, for a great cause, and your online registration at http://www.roanokeareaministries.org/)

Bike so far this week: 0 miles.

No really, I haven't even found my helmet yet... That will hopefully occur Sunday - which means no biking on week 1.

So why do I share all this?
Because the numbers say alot . They say I need to exercise today and tomorrow and Saturday. They say "get your tail in gear Ellerman - less typing, more running."
They say I need to focus on what matters - a 2 hour race in September.
They also say, don't do the numbers any more, they seem too scary.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I FOUND MY BFF - IN THE NY TIMES

Do you recall the awful fad of the early 1990's where men or women would wear matching necklaces, often in heart the shape of 1/2 heart? The words "Best Friends" or "True Love" would be cut down the middle signifying that someone else very dear to you received this title and the other half of the second necklace.

Well, for those of you familiar with the trend, and trying to forget about it, I apologize for rehashing a painful memory. As I did not participate in the necklace exchange ritual, I have often wondered to myself, who would I give the other half of my metaphorical necklace to?

Until this week, that enduring question had gone unanswered, and then I met Scott. My friend Susan who is a nutrition and exercise superstar and also has two small girls (and shockingly a ton of free time because she reads the New York Times) sent me the following link. Read it, and then come back to me.

So having read about Scott, you can totally see why we should be bff's right? We have so much in common.

For example, Scott runs ultra marathons.
     I run 5k's.

Scott runs with his new friend who writes for the NY Times.
    I run with my friend Christa who writes a blog about retail stuff.

Scott's Mom and my Mom have MS (ok, a sad commonality I will admit)

Scott is Vegan
    I am vegan.

People all over the world are blown away by Scott's strength and odd diet choice. In fact, while I may be the only blogger wanting to send this married man friendship jewelery, I am not the only person writing about him.



Although the NYT article does not state it out right, it is inferred Scott's diet choice is somewhat related to his Mom's health. Well again, Scott, I'm with ya.

Why train, write and focus on a race? Because I see what MS can do to you, what it could potentially do to me if I am unlucky enough to inherit my Mom's genes.  For now, I am so grateful to be able to run bike and swim - to push my body - build muscle - and exercise.

So while I will not likely be training for an ultra marathon at any time, I do respect my new friend who can - and does, while eating well, and remembering what a terrible disease can do to your body.

It is also great to meet a new friend who has created a life where he can thrive and work doing something he loves, running,  while creating a lifestyle that he is proud of.

Good luck Scott.  I know you are busy running a 24 hour race in France right now, so I won't call or bug you this week.  I will however call you next time I am in Washington State and maybe if we don't swap cheap gold necklaces, we can swap recipes or tofu tips.

Monday, May 17, 2010

MAP MY FUN RUN

After the "I told you so" incident with my husband over the weekend, I decided I needed a triathlon plan. (read the Mule post if you were not unaware of my stubborn issues).

Why do I need a plan?

Because even lolly gaggers need to do the miles.... There I said it. I can't do this triathlon thing without training my body to swim, bike and run.

For now, I have set my training plan to be pretty general:
1 hour in the pool a week
10 miles running a week
20 miles on the bike (yes, a week)

Tonight I went for another fun run. I refuse to call it a run because statistically speaking, I wasn't running. According to Mapmyrun.com (which by the way is a great website) I ran 2.73 miles. According to my Mother's stove, I was out for 30 minutes.

That's not very fast, thus the fun run title.

Again, my attempt to do math is pretty awful: 2.73 / 30 = 1/n .... So N, means I was running almost 11 min. miles. Wow. That might be a new speed record for slowest run of all times. I am pretty sure there were nursing home patients in the ER I passed walking faster. I saw at least one woman who was probably 8 months pregnant, pushing 2 kids in a stroller, jogging at a better pace that I was.

So while I felt good about my attempt at running 3 miles, and proud that I did not need to stop or ask to borrow the 2L of O2 the nursing home patient in the ER was pulling behind him, I have a room for improvement.

I also need to run 7.23 more miles this week... and walk my Dogs, bike 20 miles, clean my house, argue stuff for clients, wear a suit to work, swim for another 20 minutes and clean the hair out of my bathroom drain.

It could be a busy week. If my hip and knee get their way, I may also be going to buy new running shoes. Ok, I meant fun run shoes.

Until then, I may email that pregnant lady and ask if she wants to race. I could maybe take her if she goes into labor.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

WHAT ME STUBBORN? YOU HAVE THE WRONG MULE.

It's true. I am stubborn, about many things. Oh, and I don't like being told what to do. These facts will come as no surprise to those who know me well.

So when my beloved husband suggested I look into a triathlon training schedule, and even offered to design one for me, I said "Thank you."

Please note, I did not agree to a training schedule. I did not agree that I even needed one. I actually avoided the subject all together and politely changed the subject.

"Thank you," was my way of saying, "butt out," or "didn't you read my article Whit? I am not intense like you and don't want to do this your way. I want to lolly gag my way into a sprint triathlon."

Apparently my husband knew what my thank you meant when hours later he graciously said "I know you don't want to make this event a bid deal, but its not like a fun run (ok, so he didn't say fun run) you will need to do some planning on your workouts."

He may know what he is talking about as he has finished 2 triathlons in the last 4 months - 1 sprint and 1 Olympic distance. And, even if he wasn't speaking from experience, I am pretty sure he is right.

I haven't admitted that fact to him yet, but I can't just lolly gag my way into a 20 mile race. I may have to do some planning.

Ok, so here is the plan.

Swim for 1 hour each week. This can be divided into 2 30 minute swims, or 1 1 hr. swim. Yesterday I swam for 45 minutes, so this week I need to get back to the pool at least once more.

And I need to run no less than 10 miles a week. For me that means 3-4 runs.

Oh, and biking. When my mechanic finishes my bike, I need to commit to 20 miles a week on the bike.

Perhaps my plan is too general. I may need to be more specific, but like most mules, I am unwilling to go all the way until I know there is a purpose.

So dearest husband, I admit you were right. I need a plan. "Thank you."

Love, Lauren

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

GROSS GENERALIZATION CONCERNING VW OWNERS

I would like to share a gross generalization about men and women who drive Volkswagens.

VW Drivers are the nicest people in the world. 

They are probably more likely to brake for animals, be kind to small children, and pray for world peace. I would venture to say they have less sadness in their lives, and more of them were named "Nicest person in the class" in High School.

I have no actual statistics to support these conclusions, simply my personal experience this morning.

While trying to jog (and move beyond my terrible Fun Run experience of last week) around my neighborhood, I was passed by a VW golf. The car was light grey, no stickers, nondescript.

As I huffed and puffed up an incline a few blocks from home, I saw the VW driver extend his left thumb out of the driver side window.

"Thumbs up. Great job, well done," his thumb was saying. "Don't stop now - you are almost there, keep jogging. You can do it."

See, I told you VW owners were the nicest people in the world. I saw friends and acquaintances pass my pathetic form all morning, and they made no attempt at encouragement. I am quite sure they either did not recognize me, or did and were too embarrassed to admit it.

But my new friend, the left thumb on the white guy driving the grey VW golf, to you, I say thank you.

I ran for 23 minutes straight this morning, and right around the time you showed up, I was tempted to stop and walk.

I hope to hit the road on Thursday morning. Are you free? Perhaps you could drive along near by with an encouraging wave or a simple extended thumb.

Friday, May 7, 2010

29 MINUTE MORNING "FUN RUN"

When a race advertises itself as a "fun run," it generally means that runners are welcome, but most folks will be walking, or jogging and walking. It is basically code for "serious runners may not want to participate."

I know this because I have participated in many a fun run. I like fun runs because people jog, stop, snack, chat, walk and jog some more. Dogs and babies are welcome. People chat and exchange pleasantries. That's my kind of cardio, the kind where snacking and talking are welcome.

This morning however, it was my plan to start triathlon training in my running shoes with a bang. Ok, so bang is a strong word. It was my goal to at least JOG for 30 minutes straight.

Allow me to share how my morning exercise went instead.

7:32 am    
Said goodbye to cute droopy ear dogs and headed out front door, ipod in hand, cute blue running outfit ready to go.

7:32 am   
I pod shuffle started Stop and Stare - One Republic. 3 minutes and 42 seconds of soft music with  a decent beat. I felt pretty good - running down hill, across parking lots of numerous churches, toward the Roanoke River Greenway.

7:37 am   

Thursday, May 6, 2010

WHICH KIND OF SWIM CAP IS BETTER?

Since we are starting at the beginning, with swimming, I think it appropriate to speak about swim gear.

Thankfully, swimming normally requires minimal gear. I am thankful for this because I lose stuff with frequency. I will spend at least 3 hours this weekend looking through drawers, closets and chests for my bike shoes, gloves, etc...When I have found them, it will take me another 30 minutes to find my keys, sunglasses and I will worry I have locked a cat in one of the drawers, chests or closets and will reopen all to ensure cat safety.

At least with swimming, you need very little and can keep it in one place.

So what is required? Suit, goggles and maybe a cap. Now I say maybe knowing full well that caps are required in most triathlons. Notwithstanding, if you happen upon a local pool this summer where folks are swimming laps, you will see that swimmers disagree as to cap preference and usage.

As I see it, there are really only three options when it comes to head gear in swimming:
1. No cap
2. Latex
3. Silicone

Option 1. No cap.
For women or men with Fabio length hair, option one is not great. For starters, holding back long hair underwater while trying to swim in a straight line is tough. Try it and let me know how it goes.

In addition, you will find that frequent pool swimming can cause green hair and significant hair damage. This is not a joke. By September most years as a child, my hair was often light green despite frequent washes with expensive shampoo called Ultra Swim. At the very least, caps will minimize chlorine damage and save you money on special shampoos and conditioners.

While a man or someone with short hair may be able to pull off no-cap training, I can't and won't start now.

So the question then remains, do I go latex or silicone for the next 4 month of training?

Option 2. Latex.
Latex caps are usually cheaper, thinner, and more likely to need frequent replacement. They come in many sizes and colors, and generally are easy to put on.

I heart latex caps. Their uses in and outside of the pool are really endless. You can fling them at people who are not looking. You can shoot them like rubber bands at the manatee floating in your lane and then apologize when he looks up, realizing for the first time you want to pass him.  You can also order custom ones that have American flags and your name so the folks at the local pool are tricked into thinking you are one bad (bad as in good) swimmer.

I know a cute 7 year old boy who wears his Phelps caps to practice, meets and sometimes to the dinner table when company comes over. I think his family and teammates are most impressed.

I therefore conclude that latex caps come with amazing benefits other than just keeping your hair out of your face and I recommend them without hesitation.

In fact, here are a few latex caps I recommend you buy, own, and wear proudly today:

For $3.95 at Swimoutlet.com, you can purchase the following vanity cap that speaks volumes to your teammates and or lane mates.


Want a cap with a very personal message? Team name, or mantra? You can actually custom order them at lovely websites like pureblueswim.com

In High School, we would pride ourselves on stealing other team's caps so that during the race, coaches and teammates would be most confused as to why the blue suit was wearing the Bolles cap, etc.

So there we have it. I support the use of Latex caps. They get the job done and allow a little creativity at the same time.

3. Silicone.
Now, on to silicone. When you think silicone, another image comes to mind. Something light weight, maybe even buoyant. There are folks out there who really like silicone caps. I am just not one of them. 

Frankly, I have a small head and they don't fit me well. In addition, they always make me think of the scene in the original parent trap where Sharon, pretending to be Susan, floats around in their California pool/ lake thing. She wears a cap that looks like this fine cap available on Speedo's website.  

So while I understand there are many who support the daily use of Silicone caps (they do last longer and keep your hair dry), I will stick with my cheaper latex cap.

Maybe just maybe, with enough flings of the cap, my lane mates will learn not to hog the middle.



Tuesday, May 4, 2010

IN THE BEGINNING

Apparently the first part of a triathlon is the swim. I support this decision by the inventors of the triathlon for many reasons, the first of which is that swimming is the only one of the three sports that I don't totally suck at.


So, if one is going to compete in an event that combines three sports together in a certain order with a beginning middle and end, perhaps it would behoove me to start training at the beginning as well. 


And so I went swimming tonight.


Now, in the last 2 months, I can say I have strapped the TYR suit, latex cap (more on caps later) and goggles on to swim a few laps on maybe 4 occasions... clearly this means I am not a frequent swimmer. Rather, I am resting on my laurels, or my years and years of competitive swimming which as an aside, ended a long long time ago. 


So what does years of competitive swimming get you? Big shoulders, and little else, except that I am comfortable swimming and still have some basic rhythm and cadence when my pale white body enters the water.


The triathlon I hope to compete in begins with a 750 meter open water swim. How long is 750 meters? Well, its 30 laps in a pool - or less than 1/2 mile. The longest race I ever did in High school was the 500 - which is considered distance over sprint.


So in practical terms, 750 is not that far, but it is not to be completed with a few kicks and pulls. Its far enough where you need to work. 


My 750 in the pool this evening took 13 minutes and 21 seconds according to a borrowed Timex watch.
How slow am I? Well, the rough math is this - 100 / 750 = n / 13.35 (no judging on my algebra please). This means I was swimming 100 meters at an average of 1 minute 46 seconds.


Wow. That's slow. Even my cat can swim 100 meters in 1 minute 40...well, no. That's not true. My cat is obese and doesn't swim but the point remains the same. There is room for improvement here at the swim start. 


Good to know as I start at the beginning, swimming. 


It's early May. The race is in mid-September. 14 weeks to get my swimming skills back to a reasonable place. Goal. 1min 30 sec 100's for 750 meters. Ok, more reasonable goal? Suck less in September than I do now. 


Until then, I will blame the borrowed watch and say it was broken, or slow, or both.