If I had 9 lives, I'm now down to 7

I still have sweat dripping off the back of my hair after what had started to be a fantastic 6 mile tempo run and ended bad. I suppose it could have ended much worse. My HR has slowed some, but I am furious and shaken up. This is now the second time in a week that I was almost hit by an expensive SUV while out training.

Last Monday on my 46 mile ride, I was cruising downhill on Lea Blvd on my way out of town. I was in the middle of an open stretch with no intersections, just smaller side street so I was down in my aero bars. I had the right of way over any traffic that might come from the side streets. A Lexus made a left turn into my lane. If there hadn't been a 3-foot paved shoulder, I would have met the rear quarter panel of the SUV for sure. I was cruising about 25 mph and couldn't reach my breaks from my riding position. I actually passed the SUV in the shoulder while trying to keep my balance and reach my brakes. By the time she saw me, I was 10 feet ahead. I was wearing my bright yellow riding jacket at the time and obeying all traffic laws.

Tonight was an even closer call. I was a little over a mile from home, finishing a good tempo run and crossing from Mission Hills back into Prairie Village when I came to a busy intersection. The traffic I was running parallel to had a green light, so I didn't slow down at the intersection. A teenage guy in a SUV was approaching perpendicular to me, but had a red light. I was at the cross walk and figured in the time it would take for him to stop, I would be out of his lane and halfway through the intersection. Except he never actually came to a stop or bothered to look in my direction. My left hand was on the hood of his car when I jumped towards the middle of the intersection to avoid being hit. My heart was in my throat by the time I reached the sidewalk on the other side. He had just started to accelerate when he saw me.

I shook out my hands and walked for a while, fully aware all of the cars still sitting at the light were staring at me. My heart was beating at a mile a minute pace and my chest was tight. I wasn't sure if I should have been scared or mad. Maybe both. I wasn't darting in and out of traffic, the sun was still up, and he had a red light.

I usually try to make eye contact with drivers before I cross. Tonight I was hitting a good pace, close to home, at a traffic light with the right-of-way, and just made a bad assumption that a driver would come to a full stop before turning. I just wish I could tell drivers to always look for walkers and runners and that cyclists are travelling much faster than think. It's a good reminder to always be defensive when you're the little guy out on the road.



Little Miss Sami sat on her fanny, riding her bike in the wind.
Out popped a spider and rode right beside her, creeping her out to no end!

This is a close up of the spider the appeared halfway through a 46 mile ride on Monday. He was perched perfectly atop my bike computer, making it impossible to check anything other than speed and distance. He moved around a little, but stayed between my computer and aero bottle for over 20 miles. I had the "Little Miss Muffet" nursery rhyme in my head the entire ride back. Here's a picture I found that shows how scary this spider actually was.

I thought about trying to flick him off, but with the position he was in, I figured if I tried to do that, he would end up on my leg. Every time I felt something on my legs, I jumped, thinking the spider flew off and was going to bite me.
And yes, I'm certain it was male because I refuse to believe anything that creepy could be a female. I noticed that he wouldn't move around if I was going over 17 mph or if the road was bumpy, so that became extra incentive to ride fast and get home. I was pretty lucky with the traffic lights for the last 30 blocks.
Back at home, I used the leftover contents from my aero bottle and a stick to dislodge the little guy. If you're a creature-lover, don't worry: I didn't smush him, I let him go. I figure we need all the help controlling the insect population we can get. I did some research online and I found out this is a spotted jumping spider or daring jumping spider. They can jump up to two feet! They don't catch they food in webs, they stalk insects and (duh) jump on them. Hence the very scary eyes. Better to see you with, my pretty!
Oh yeah, the ride went well. For those KC natives, I went from 75th and Roe to 215th and Metcalf. It's a nice ride with some decent hills for 46 miles on the head. The back 20mi were into the wind (and with a spider) so they were much harder than the front half. Once I got home, John and I left for an easy 5 mile run. I was feeling pretty good, just a little sluggish on the up hills. I'm really looking forward to having fresh legs one of these days. Less than 3 weeks and counting...


How to Not Spend a Rest Day

The worst thing about waiting until the last month to train for a HIM is that I really can't take any extra rest or time off. 3000m in the pool is an easy workout. So far, I've been feeling good. Better than I had expected, even. Thursday we had a large group and I was chomping at the bit to pick up the pace. Part of it was a bad day, but part was just being in better shape than I have been.

Fridays are my scheduled rest days. A typical Friday night is sitting on our neighbor's patio or watching a movie on the couch. This Friday, we had tickets to Buzz Under the Stars, an outdoor concert, so instead of lounging around, I spent the night on my feet outside. Before Offspring even took the stage, my feet were swollen and starting to ache. (Sidebar: To add insult to injury, the concert was one of the worst-miked concerts I have ever been to. Seriously, $45 a ticket and we either get feedback or no lead vocalist. I hope some sound guy was fired.)

We slept in so we could get at least 8 hours and around 9, we headed out for a run at Wyco. Before we even started, my feet felt tired. I'm used to feeling tired. I won't have fresh legs until the day before Boise, so I'm used to the feeling. Usually, after a few miles I can get into a groove and the deadness disappears.

The first 10 miles were fine. It was a little rough, but what do you expect after a few Miller Lites the night before? I felt significantly better after and potty stop around mile 8. We came back to car, filled up on food and water and debated cutting the run down to 16 miles. John said his feet felt like hamburger and I was starting to feel the same.

The bridal trails on the second lap were brutal. Every downhill was more difficult than the last. All of my stabilizing muscles and tendons from the knees down were shot. Temps and humidity were rising. John started walking. We were both stumbling like we were drunk or 35 miles into a run (your coordination is about the same, either way). My feet felt mushy. This run was going downhill, fast.

We made the decision to hike the last 2 miles back. I couldn't believe how much my feet hurt. With my current training, a 16 mile run should have been a piece of cake. We did 15 last week and we were hung over. The last mile back, I really felt like I had bit off more than I could chew.

Clearly, standing outside in the sun for 4+ hours and having a couple beers the night before was not the best way to spend my only rest day this week. On the bright side, a 16 mile run is still an accomplishment and those last 4 miles don't hurt my training at all.

I showered, ice my knees and elevated my legs. The rest of the day, we took it pretty easy. Tomorrow afternoon I have a ride planned, but with a good nights sleep and no alcohol, I should be ready to roll. The next few weeks I have to behave and take my rest as seriously as my workouts. Just one more thing to add to the "Don't" list.


Count down

25 days and counting.

That is a scary thought. I planned out my next 25 days and I wish I had another week. I wish I had been training better months ago. I wish for a lot of things. But I can't change anything now, so I'll have to make due with where I am.

Time for a status check.

Swimming: Poor. The Roeland park pool is now closed to me (non-resident in the summer season). I found another pool, but wasn't able to swim much due to lightning last week. I'm swimming tomorrow inside. The PV pool opens this weekend, so then I'll be able to get laps in the outdoor pool closer to home.

Biking: Big improvements here. I put in 80+ miles last week. I did 20 last night in 20 mph wind (still averaged 18 mph) and I'm doing a brick tonight. This weekend I have a 35 mile ride one day and a long brick with 45 miles on another. I'm taking advantage of the holiday. Right now, my legs feel strong. It's my back, neck, and buns that are the limiting factors. I have time to get (2)- 56 mile rides in before the race. That will have to do. Thank god I take to the bike easily. I need to check out the terrain for Boise, but if I remember correctly, it is less hilly than the Lawrence course. Go figure. I'm good in the hills, so I'm not too worried about it.

Running: I'm just maintaining now. I need to get some moderate distance in on the pavement so I don't shock my legs on race day. I have 2 bricks a week scheduled for the next 3 weeks, one short and one long. I'm also doing a long trail run on the weekends to keep my base mileage up for Psummer Psycho. I'm not worried about the run, but I can't let my mileage get too low if I want to race Psycho.

While I'm not where I could be, I think I'll be OK on the 13th. I need to swim, for confidence more than anything else. I need my long rides, which I have told John WILL happen, come hell or high water. I need to maintain my runs and re-acclimate to the pavement.

I've made some other adjustments as well, like getting to bed early, eating better, and drinking less. We have so much work to do on the house, I have to be up early to get my workouts in and still get something done on the house. I've cut back to one or two drinks per night on the weekends and none during the week. That also helps the sleep and energy issues.

I have 25 days to focus and improve as much as I can. The really scary thing is that I am basically doing a 70.3 race on less than 6 weeks of training. Granted, I had an excellent running base going in, but my preparation last year was much more balanced.

The one thing I have going for me is my running base is so much better. With that running base has come the "gut it out" factor, and better nutrition and salt management. I am interested to see how this race will compare with last year's race, course differences aside. Which race will I have been best prepared? Last year's race, with more balanced tri-training, or this year's with inadequate training, but better overall endurance and nutrition.

Only time will tell.


Hill Haiku

Two legs, two wheels. Climb.

Up and up, where earth meets sky.

Downhill goes too fast.


Tired Buns and Sore Abs

It's amazing how the human body is able to adapt. Over the last two weeks, I have noticed a few things.
  1. If my HR is low (<150)>
  2. If my HR is high (>165) I tire quickly and am more likely to be sore.
  3. No matter how many trainer miles I put in, the first long ride on a rough paved road will always make me saddle sore. Ditto for a sore neck from aero bars.

The hard effort tempo runs and interval bike rides have been kicking my butt. In a good way. It's obvious that I have been focusing on long and slow distance and the hard efforts are quite a change. This weekend is my first ride over 30 miles, which should result in more tired buns.

One of the reasons I like racing, running or triathlons, is that I'm constantly learning things about my body, nutrition, strategy, etc. My latest revelation came on the bike.

I've always been hesitant on downhills where my speed get over 35 mph. It's fun but scary, especially in the aero position while having to turn at the bottom of the hill. The fastest I've ever hit was 42.5 mph. Once I hit 42 while coasting, I got up out of aero and waited until I was back into the low 30s before pedaling again. I have been in the habit of coasting at speeds over 38 mph because I wasn't comfortable pushing hard the whole down hill.

Well, I realized the other day that if I tighten my abs on the downhills and rely on my core for stability instead of my aero bars, I am much more stable. Duh. It makes sense, I just had never thought about it or focused on it. My entire ride I focused on core stability and I was able to get more speed on the downhills, which translates to more momentum on the uphills. It's the little things that make a difference. I'm ashamed to admit that my impromptu core work resulted in a little soreness today.

Other than that, training is going well. We had an awesome run last night. It was a good group - me, Bad Ben, Dan, Kelly, her dog Mika, and a first-timer named Trevor. My swim was cancelled due to lightning, so I'm hoping to make it up this weekend. I also have a 10 mile run and 35 mile ride planned. Looks like a tough weekend, but I'm looking forward to it.


Frolicking in the Woods

After a late and beer-fueled Friday evening, John and I still managed to drag our tired behinds out to WyCo for a run with Mr. Heatmiser Saturday morning. I was in much better spirits than John, but that could be due to the fact I switched to water after 4 beers and he switched to water after 20 beers or so.

We did a loop around the lake, checking out the newest addition to the trails we cleared last week and taking our sweet time romping through the woods. We talked about new trails, maintaining old ones, and even stopped to explore the charred remains of what we believe was an old boy scout camp. We looked for paw paw samplings, discussed the up coming trail maintenance day, and counted the deer we scared up. The sun was up, the humidity was down, and the mud was nominal. We covered about 12 miles not paying any attention to the time or our pace.

It was an absolutely perfect day to be running in the woods and I realized this is what the non-runners don't get and don't seem to understand. I believe trail running is good for the soul. Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, I miss being close to nature and trail running lets me feel like I'm back in the wilderness. Even with a slight headache, there was nothing else I would have rather been doing at 8 am on a Saturday morning. That isn't something easily explained to critics.

But to those who have to ask "Why?" I am convinced you will find the answer out on a trail in the early morning when there are more animals moving around than people. And if you still have to ask why, then you clearly don't understand and I'm afraid you never will.

To quote Aldo Leopold:

In wilderness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.


Lump (in my throat)

I just came home from a much-needed 2500m swim. A few days ago, John made the comment "You have to swim 1.2 miles next month" which prompted my hands to shake, my head to pound, and panic to swell up in my throat. I'm not prone to panic attacks (I can't say that I've ever had one) so that should indicate how nervous I am about my training. Tonight's swim helped to shrink the lump of panic down to a size I can at least swallow. While it was obvious that I haven't been swimming consistently, my cardio fitness is great. At a HR of 140 and with controlled breathing, I feel like I could go on for hours. Then again, last week I did.

My training has been far from perfect. At Free State last week, Bad Ben and I were talking about being over-raced and under-trained, which is something most recreational athletes can relate to. Last night I realized I am in need of some tempo runs or speed work. I ran with the Nerds at SMP. I tried in vain to keep up with Caleb for the first few miles, but in typical fashion, I was dropped before Mile 2. That was the highest my HR has been in a long time, and while it was awesome to be moving FAST again, it reminded me I don't move fast that often. I ran with Shelly and we average just under 10 min miles, which is a decent time on the trails but by no means a tempo run.

So that brings me to a harsh reality: I am no where close to where I thought I would be for Boise. My cardio endurance is good, so I'm hoping on can rack up meters and miles without breaking down. I know I can add bike miles quickly, which is why I'm not worried about the bike, but I have abandoned all time goals. I will once again be racing to finish.

Here's what I think I need to do over the course of the next 6 weeks so I don't have to be helped off the course in Boise:

Swimming: Tuesday nights will be my weekday swim and I'll shoot for Sunday afternoons, too. 2500-3000m per workout.

Biking: Short bricks on Monday and Wednesday, long ride on Sunday. No point in riding without a little run afterwards. Heavy on the hills but I'm still in need of a 50 mile ride. I'm not interested in 12 laps around SMP.

Running: Thursday night trails will have to be my tempo run. If you're coming out Thursdays, be ready for a good run. OK, so not Caleb-speed, but fast-Sam-speed. Long runs on Saturdays with John, typically 10 or 20 miles.

Swimming seems to have the same effect on me as yoga. Afterwards, I feel calm and relaxed and better able to focus. Since I am in that relaxed state, I can admit I've have been overwhelmed lately and I feel like I have been struggling. I dropped all of the races off my calendar between now and Boise and I haven't signed up for a single thing afterwards. Over-raced, under-trained, over-worked, and under-rested. I need just one thing to focus on instead of dozens and I'm hoping clearing my schedule will renew my energy. I'm still learning to balance here in the real world. The problem is that once I find a comfortable spot to lean against, the world keeps shifting.