Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day II of Tucson Camp

Before I get into the lowdown on DAY TWO let me just say that today I spent $300 at the grocery store. I usually spend $200, but $300 is extreme--maybe even a record--and I'm still in shock. Part of it is that the Easter Bunny is coming to visit on Sunday, and so I stocked up on those stupid plastic eggs that split in half so you can fill them with candy, and the candy to fill them, and then treats for the kids like coloring books and magic markers and tape. (They love tape.)

Also I felt the need to get a personal organizer book.  This was likely a huge waste of money, since despite all of my best efforts I have never, ever successfully kept one.  If it's not in the old noggin, it ain't going to happen, whether it's written in a book or not. Nevertheless, to give up hope on myself and my ability to record what needs to be done instead of storing it solely in my head would be sad, so I will try yet again.

I also got the kids flashlights, because they we were with me and wanted a treat--and I am a sucker for such pleading. They each wanted their VERY OWN flashlight. Well, okay. I can see why that would be cool.

Anyway. I realize there is no point whatsoever in writing about my lack of frugality, or lack of organizational ability, or inability to write down important things like when I next need to see my shrink, or take the kids to the dentist, or get a sitter so I can take Jordan to the end of season Swim Banquet.
Needed to be confessional for a bit.

Onto Tucson!

On day two we got up and went for a swim. The pool was outside, and it was cold outside in the morning. Really cold. Like 45 degrees. That is simply too cold to be wearing a bathing suit and I was briefly very unahappy.The pool, however, was blessedly warm.

Jen put me with the fast kids.
I am no fool and I know that I am truly not a fast kid. I know this because I have spent my life with best friends who are the real deal fast kids. I am a good swimmer. But I am not a fast kid swimmer. ANYWAY. I was still flattered and glad to be with Ange, Jen and Cheryl (aka--the fast kids)  because they are good to watch in terms of technique, and because, of course, I just like them.

At one point Jen stopped me and told me she was going to look at my stroke, because I was doing something funny. Of course I was... when is one's stroke ever perfecto? However, I have been working hard on being perfecto, so it was a little sad that she immediately identified that I needed help ASAP. Turns out I enter from my recovery too wide. Who does that? I am like the only swimmer alive, I think, who enters too wide. Because I enter wide my catch moves first horizontally, and then vertically, which is not good, of course. The horizontal little piece is a waste of catch energy. Okay, so I need to correct that and also a little scissor in my kick when I breathe. As you know, fixing these things is easier said than done, but I am very, very, very x 2 billion thrilled to be able to work on something that has the potential for making me faster. I thought I might be tapped out in terms of how fast I can go. Thank you for your feedback, Jen!

I am happy to say that I was only lapped by Cheryl and Ange ONCE. This is, of course, because the bulk of the workout consisted of 150s and shorter, so they didn't have time to lap me. Once we got to a 500, though, I was toast, and I got lapped at the 300.

Here are some silly pictures that Kate took. I look truly amphibian. Ange, Cheryl and Jen look cute, though!
Ange and me

Kate and Jen.

After the swim we went to get coffee. I also ordered a full meal of eggs, toast, a banana and coffee, because, well, I am an eater, and also we had a two hour run on the schedule. 

We then went to Sabino Canyon National Park to run.
We were told to do the Phone Line trail by Jen.  It started out all rocks and scrub and UP. I quickly moved into zone 100--breathing audibly enough for ALL to hear. I tried to stay up with Jerome, Kari and Mel, but that only last about 15 minutes before I knew I was toast and would soon suffer a massive heart attack if I didn't slow down. I slowed, and Ange and Julia kindly slowed with me. Then we hit the open air--the tree line. The path stopped going up, and now was just circling the mountain. It was gorgeous, and also SCARY.

Ange and I slowed up a ton and Julia decided it was too scary, and turned around (only to return later!) Ange and I walked some when the trail got too thin and the edge too close. Andy and I have done a fair amount of hiking, and even done some good trail running. But it's been awhile, and my inner chicken definitely came squawking out on this run! Jen, Jon and Tracey caught up to us and Ange and I had to stop our chit chat and walk/running and get moving. We trotted along. The air was cool and fresh. We turned around at an hour, meeting Mel on her return. The descent was quick and easy compared to the climb.

At the foot of the mountain there was a very cold stream that had flooded over the sidewalk. We took off our shoes and gave ourselves a little leg ice bath.

It was an amazing run. Thanks for taking us there, Jen.

Back at the condo we laid at the condo pool and chatted. It was warm and I felt lazy enough to skip the optional bike ride in favor of lounging and chatting. A little while later we went out to a large Tucson pub/restaurant and I had a very, very large turkey burger and a beer. By the end of the night I was already sad that Saturday would be my last day at camp, and I'd have to say goodbye to the new friends I had made.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

That's why they call me Slim Shady

I'm Back I'm Back I'm Back


Good things about returning home from Tucson:

1. Plane ride. I read A Reliable Wife (It's good, Jen. A literary bodice ripper. Have you read it for your group yet?)
2. I had a nice lunch with Mel in Dallas while we waited for our connecting flight.
3. I was reunited with my man, my bambinos and my old, stinky dog.
(That earns major points. Major. Way better than jewelry or flowers. Not better than carbon or a power meter, though.)

Alas, that's the end of the good upon coming home.
There is a cold, steady rain that's been relentless for the last 36 hours. In Tucson it was dry, sunny and 70's every day we were there.

Where to begin.....

Traveling with a bike is--- a challenge. I'm too little to deal with those huge-ass bike boxes. But Mel and I got our bikes checked in and then checked out, somehow managed to haul them to the rental car, and somehow managed to make it to our condo which was 40 minutes away. (Thank God for the iPhone with a GPS.) I don't have a great sense of direction. Actually, I'm down right developmentally delayed when it comes to direction. But we got there! After arriving we clumsily put our bikes together--but again, WE DID IT. I'm starting to thinking that disassembling and assembling my bike is... gasp... easy. We met a bunch of other campers who all seemed very nice and looked super athletic.

Then Jen and Jerome showed up. I was a little start struck. (Not by you, Jerome. Sorry:) I have worked with Jen for about a year and a half now, but we've never met and it was funny to actually be there--with her. She is very pretty--and it's not that she is not pretty in her pictures on her website, it's just that she is striking in person. Also, I think it's strange to have a voice, a personality, and a picture merge and come to life in front of you. I couldn't help but wonder if I appeared different in real life than I do on my blog. I got distracted by that thought and had a bit of trouble communicating like a normal person for awhile.

Then Ange showed up, and I was brought back to my self. It's hard to feel weird when you are with a person you've known since you were eight. We put Ange bike together, and then went to bed early so we could.....

Climb Mt. Lemmon the next morning!
I admit--I kinda like climbing. I was looking forward to seeing how it felt to go up for 26 miles. We had a short jaunt to Lemmon, but.... right after we started I knew something was wrong. Everyone sailed ahead of me and I was breathing like I was in zone 100. Every gear felt like my hardest gear. Was it altitude? Was it my bike? Was it ME???? Did I just plain suck? OMG! I DID SUCK!

We arrived at the base of Lemmon. Melissa patiently rode with me and asked, Are you okay? You're looking a little spent....I couldn't even talk I was breathing so hard.

I got off my bike, spun my front wheel. Fine. Spun my back wheel. No movement. Tried again. No movement. Finally, I got it to budge. The brake was locked on my wheel in a grip so tight it was almost impossible to move the wheel.

There was a reason.

Jon, a fellow camper, helped me move the brake so it wasn't against the wheel. We had to leave my brake release open to do this. (scary). Still, I was incredibly relieved when I started riding again. I could ride! I could go! That was the hardest 20 minutes of the entire weekend--both physically and psychologically.

The trip up the mountain was a piece of cake after that. Any time it got a little hard I just thought, Not as hard as riding with your rear brake locked on your wheel...I zipped up to where Ange was, and spent the rest of the day climbing with her, Cheryl, Jen and Rich. The landscape was stunning: all rock and sand and cacti; all browns and yellows and pale, olive green. NOTHING like the northeast. I felt like I was in a movie set. It just didn't seem real.

This is the whole crew at WINDY (not shady) Point.
This is me, Ange and Jen at Windy Point.

View from near the top of Lemmon
Why did Mary take this picture? Yes, that is the correct answer.

This is Jerome (Jen's husband) at the top of Lemon.

When we get back we went for a t-run. Here I learned (for the a billionth time) that I am unable to slow down when I think I may be holding people back. I ran with Jen and Ange, and we just kept picking up the pace. It was hot. I was feeling like crap. But STILL I would not slow down. Lesson here.  Anyway!

That night Jen and Jerome took us to Blanco. I love Mexican, and I was psyched for a big ass burrito and a beer after the hard day of climbing!
That is Jerome on the left (not Jon, sorry about that...)  and Ange, and me with a chip in my mouth (oink) and then Julia and then Jen.

I ate way too much and had to be rolled to the car. But it was still very fun. I began to really get to know the other campers, and I was psyched for the next day--a swim, and then a long run in the mountains.

end of Part 1! This post is getting too long, and I still have so much I want to report and say! Stay tuned mis amigos. Gracias.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm Going to Tucson!

I have Paul Simon's Graceland in my head, only the line is, I'm Going to Tucson! Tucson!

Tomorrow. Early. Melissa and Kathy are picking me up and off we go to the Logan Airport. Yippee! Thanks for driving us, Kathy! I'm going to triathlon camp with Melissa and Ange. We are all coached by Jen, and we get to meet her for the first time. VERY exciting. We are also going to meet a few blogger friends! The only downside is that I am quite concerned that I am going to get my ass seriously kicked. A climb up Mt. Lemmon is planned, plus a century on a different day--with transitions runs following each, of course, and then a few swims (in an outdoor pool OMG!) and a long run....

God help me.

Okay. SOOOO. In prep for the trip, Melissa made us an appointment at Landry's to receive a lesson in how to break down and pack our bikes. Aaron was assigned to help us. He had no idea what was to come....

We first broke down Mel's Cervelo. Her bike is clean and new-- and as I watched Aaron break it down I thought-- yes. I can do that. I can certainly do that. First the pedals, then the wheels, then the rear derailleur, the handlebars, the seat post. NO PROBLEM.

Then we started on my little black Felt.
Mrs. Z.
She is not clean. She is not new.  But she is still very cute. (This is what we have in common, methinks?)

In fact, another Aaron at the store (a different one--there are two) asked me, How old it this bike? To which I replied--Almost brand new! I got her in 2008.  (Almost brand new! Born in '70!)
Oh. He paused. Well, she is not very new then, Mary. She is looking rather---. Not new.


So we start to take her apart. Yes, I just rode her this morning for 4 hours and it was rainy out and NO I didn't really have time to clean her. Just a little sand! crunch crunch crunch.

I clumsily take off her pedals.
They are looking worn. And old.
I take off and deflate the wheels. phsssttttt. deflate.
The derailluer. Crunch. crunch. Eww. Guess it's pretty nasty under there, huh?   I insist on doing it myself. As Aaron looks on he says, Okay, now make sure you don't allow your hand to jerk into the teeth as you loosen it.
No. problem.

Exhibit A:

I guess I don't listen well?

I bled for awhile, and then Aaron had mercy on me and passed me the band-aids.

Then I picked up a towel, and Aaaron handed me the spray, and I began to try to clean the bike. Or--maybe not clean it. I simply tried to get some of the grit off. I have ridden over 400 miles in the last week and half (that's right, Jen!) and all of it outside. And it's March in New England.... Need I say more?

Aaron helps me take off the handlebars.
Then we move onto the seat post.

Melissa's seatpost had just slid right out of the frame. All clean and new and lubed.... (I'm not really being lewd here. Not really.)
ummmmmm. Not Mrs. Z. (Okay. We are not alike. Hear me? NOT!) I jest.....

That seat post was stuck in there so tight--NOTHING was going to get it loose. As we women customers looked on, Aaron pushed and heaved and .... nothing. He got his co-worker (is his name Russ? ) to help. No go. He brought in Pat. No luck. Mrs. Z was being stripped and she didn't like it. She would not let them take her seat post out and off.

I was told it was corrosion. She has corrosion all over the place, apparently, but the seat post was most grim. What is the cause? I asked.
Sweat. Drink. The Elements.

Piss. Melissa pipes in.
Thanks, Mel.

Finally, Aaron began to hammer the seat out. I kid you not. He had to put a piece of wood underneath the seat and hammer up.  It took.... an hour?  I don't know.  Mel and I left before he finished.

Exhibit B:

Aaron is smiling here. He is smiling, but I'd like you to look carefully at his hand.
Yep. I think that's how he really felt. That finger is aimed right at .... me.

Poor me. Poor Mrs. Z. I put some miles on her. I've aged her. I've pissed and sweat on her enough so that her seat post is frozen in place.

I picked up my bike this morning.... Aaron spent hours lubing every part of her up. I'm trying to think of what to get him for a present for a thank you. ?

Hopefully, I will be able to put her back together again! See you in a few!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hey! That's MY FRIEND!!!

I had a great little swim last Saturday.

But do you see what I have to compare myself to???

Alina was ranked top 10 in the 50 Free by FINA in the fucking WORLD!

How sick is that????
Congrats Girlfriend! I'm so amazed and proud of you!

[35-39]50m Freestyle Women Short Course
RankFull NameCountryTime
1CRAY ZoeGBR26.37
2ABERG HelenaSWE27.06
3SCHUBERT ManuelaGER27.16
5BRAUN ErikaUSA27.28
6PEREZ MariaESP27.29
7FORNI MaddalenaITA27.33
8VERGANI ValeriaITA27.39
9IWASHITA MidoriJPN27.42

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The 1650

I've never done one--until now. I feel complete.

Actually, that's a lie. I don't feel complete, (really, who ever does???) but I'm glad I got a one mile TT under mile belt! The first half of the Masters Short Course Yards Championship was held at Blodgett Pool at Harvard University this weekend.

I have to confess. I almost missed the whole thing because of a brain fart.

I had it in my mind that check in for my event was at 12:39. It wasn't. That was when the event was to START. Check in was at 11:39.
I realized my error at 11:06. I was still in Westwood, more than a 1/2 hour away.

I'm not a speeder, but yesterday I was. I dodged in it out of cars like I was racing the Indy 500. (Actually, do cars dodge in and out in the Indy 500? Uncle Nick?) Anyway. I did close to 80 the whole way (relax, mostly highway) and then I tapped my foot and pulled my hair when I got into town and hit a few lights.

Half way there I realized I had brought my swim bag, but not my purse.
Purse = money.
You can't park unless you have money. Damn!

I looked through the change drawer of Andy's car (which I was driving) and to my dismay realized he only had about 4 bucks in change. He usually has so much more than that, but I had cleaned him out just a few weeks before when I forgot my purse when out with Jordan, and decided we needed to get burritos. Double Damn!  I would have to park on the street.

Luckily for me, I know that area well because my good friend's husband went to the B-School at Harvard many years ago. I attended many a party there, and I know places to park on the street for free.  Unfortunately, none of these places are right in front of the pool building. None. Further, the closest parking spaces to the pool were naturally already taken by other swimmers. Triple Damn!

I found a place on Western Ave, which is one block over from the pool. I leaped out of my car. It was 12:38. I had on flip-flops and was carrying a huge swim bag. Time for some bare-foot running! I tore off my flip-flops and began to run on the pebbly pavement. I wove through parking lots, hit barbed wires fences, turned around, ran more. Finally I made it to the entrance. I was sweating like a hog. It was 12:42. I dashed into the building, ran down to the deck, and with sweat pouring off my brow I gasped, Am I too late?

As I stood there I heard the announcer over the microphone, "Last call to sign in for the Women's 1650."  Sigh of relief.
I found my name on the list and checked it off, and then I limped off to the locker room, dripping with sweat, but very relieved.

I didn't have to swim for another few hours, of course. That's the way swim meets work. The men's 1000 was finishing up, and I was in the third heat of eight for the 1650. Each of the first heats of the 1650 would take a minimum 24 minutes, so I had a while before I even had to warm up. (The later heats take less time, because at meets, unlike triathlon, they seed according to time, not age, from slowest to fastest swimmers.)

I was excited to wear my new X-Terra skin suit. It's designed for the open water, and so it's slightly thicker than a regular skin suit and only extends to just above the knee. Still, it's skin tight (hard to zip those suckers, I must say) and there is NO DOUBT it helps with speed. That would be why they are being made illegal, of course.....

After changing I found my Maine peeps (reminder: I am in denial of the fact that I live in Boston, and hence I swim for Maine Masters.)  I also found my friend Sheryl, who had counted for Melissa who did the 1000 in the morning. She let me know that Melissa had done awesomely well and had conquered her first foray into the world of Masters swimming.

I warmed up with my friend Katie, and then sat to watch the rest of the men and the first heats of the women. My friend Kristi (the most enthusiastic Masters swimmer I have ever known) agreed to count for me. She was a SUPERSTAR counter--placing the numbers just to my right so I could both see and flip (I flip to my right) and also screaming into my ear as I turned. She was awesome.

I admit I was concerned about diving from the blocks. Because I hadn't been there for the early morning warm-up, I wasn't able to test the blocks at this pool to make sure my goggles were all perfect and tight and not going to flip off my face as I entered the water. My method of dealing with this was to make them super tight. I had goggle marks on my face into the night....

My friend Son sat with me before I swam, keeping my calm and peppering me with questions so I wouldn't freak out. And then I was on the blocks, and then I was plunging into the shock of the cold water. And then I was swimming!

Jen and I have been battling about data (and my reliance on it). She is VERY into getting me to learn my body so that I can train and race by feel rather than having the numbers dictate how I feel about a given session. Well, she certainly got her way with this! There is NO way to gauge how fast or slow you are swimming except by feel in the 1650. You can't exactly start your watch when diving off the blocks, and even if you could, you wouldn't want to break your streamline off the wall in order to CHECK the watch (though I do do this when I train). You just swim.

Here is what is amazing.
Check out my splits: 

Holt-Wilson, Mary         39 Maine Masters-NE     22:05.74   13  
34.39               1:13.50 (39.11)     1:54.04 (40.54)     2:35.84 (41.80)
        3:16.84 (41.00)     3:57.73 (40.89)     4:38.66 (40.93)     5:19.53 (40.87)
        6:00.26 (40.73)     6:40.94 (40.68)     7:21.34 (40.40)     8:01.97 (40.63)
        8:42.41 (40.44)     9:23.12 (40.71)    10:03.47 (40.35)    10:43.90 (40.43)
       11:24.51 (40.61)    12:04.93 (40.42)    12:45.23 (40.30)    13:25.49 (40.26)
       14:05.95 (40.46)    14:46.16 (40.21)    15:26.19 (40.03)    16:06.26 (40.07)
       16:46.20 (39.94)    17:26.26 (40.06)    18:06.56 (40.30)    18:46.60 (40.04)
       19:27.03 (40.43)    20:06.81 (39.78)    20:46.88 (40.07)    21:27.21 (40.33)
       22:05.74 (38.53)

It appears it took me about 300 yards to get my pace down, but once I did it is amazing how even I was. What's funny is that MOST swimmers (including Melissa, I will add) had the same pattern. About 300 yards, and then BAM, locked into a particular pace. Could it be that we hit a pace that our bodies intuitively know we can hold indefinitely--a very hard, but doable pace? And why isn't it this way in running? Well, actually, I know that for running we are victim to the terrain and the elements, and that affects pace. But I wonder if our EFFORT becomes sustained? That we automatically slow and speed up according to a pace our body knows it will be able to hold for the distance we've asked it to complete?

I felt super for the first.... 400 yards. It flew by. I couldn't believe when I looked up and saw 17 on the counting board. Really? Already? Unfortunately, by about 39 lengths I was freaking TIRED! I kept trying to translate lengths to yards in my head... okay... 39 lengths --that's almost 40, that's almost 1000.... It was like my brain wouldn't really work. I had a hard time figuring it out! Meanwhile, Kristi was screaming, I was taking a breath every stroke...
The 1650 ain't short. I'll say that.

There was one girl ahead of me in my heat. She had bounded off those blocks and within about 200 yards she had almost lapped me. My goal became to keep her in the exact same spot--to NOT let her ever lap me. And I did it! The others in my heat must have been much slower than their seed times because I lapped most of them several times.

And then I heard the loud bell signaling that the first swimmer had only 50 to go. Sweet! Only 75 for me! I started really kicking... I was so close!

And then I was slamming the pads. I was stunned to see the clock. I had seeded myself at 23:30, thinking it would be great if I could hold 1:25 100s. I had held 1:20s! Wow!

On the way back to the car I was sort of stunned at how far I had apparently run in my bare-feet. It took me four minutes to get from my car to the pool deck on the way in. It took me 15 minutes to get back to my car after the meet. As I walked to the car I thought about how funny it is that sometimes improvement sneaks up on us when we least expect it. I've been very focused on improving my bike. I've been grumpy about it, and frustrated about it... and overall just obsessed with it in an annoying way. (Just ask Jen.) I haven't thought a bit about my swim or run in months. And then BAM! I improve in my swimming! Just last spring I swam a 400 all out in the beginning of a sprint tri, and I averaged 1:20 100s--and then yesterday I managed to swim 16 and 1/2 100s on 1:20.

Funny how that is. I'm pretty sure there is a lesson in it.... ;)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

First, I think I forgot to post here that I was quoted as Elizabeth Weil's run coach in the March issue of Vogue. How cool is that? I'm just letting you all know so you can run out and buy the March issue before the April issue takes over the stores. haha! It's a great little article. I'm super proud, and also flattered to be included. Liz, you may remember, wrote the Dara Torres biography. She also recently wrote a really incredible article on marriage for the New York Times Magazine.

She is a great writer. And thinker. And person.

On the training front:
I've gotten outside on the bike three times in the last week or so, and today will be the fourth.  I've done some longish rides (for me) -- one of 75 and one of 81 miles. They were both good, but slow. On Tuesday I had a little spill, though. After our big hurricane-like storm over the weekend, the roads were flooded all over the place--even on Tuesday, after the storm had passed. I had to go through a puddle that covered the span of the road. I hit a rock, or a pothole, or something, and I went down. I didn't get hurt. I wasn't going fast, and I was able to catch myself a bit with my right leg which I got unclipped. But I got WET. I was only 1.5 hours into an 80 mile ride, and I was so so so so bummed. My feet never dried and were totally numb within minutes of the fall.

Ah well.
It's still better than the trainer.

Sometimes the kids steal my Iphone and take pictures. I just downloaded a bunch and some of them are -- interesting. Snapshots of nothing that capture daily life somehow.Or maybe they just capture something of MY life--which may or may not be of great interest to those of you out there!

We had gray weather for a very long time in the early part of March. This is the Oak in our front yard, complete with a squirrel nest.  Not sure who took these. Probably Lara, because she steals the Iphone the most of out of my kids.

 And here is shot of the front yard in March. God... so ugly and swamp green.

This is a self portrait of Lara. You can see how when she looks inward, as she is doing in order to take the picture, her eyes begin to cross.
 Here is another portrait of Lara, probably taken by Noah.(Jordan is a little better with the camera.)

These are shots that Noah took when I took the kids candlepin bowling last week. Lara is getting ready to bowl, and then Jordan and Lara watch as the ball slowly, slowly makes its way down the alley.

 Linus, the old man, sleeping.  At nearly 14 years old, this is basically what he does all day and night.
Not sure who took this one, either.

And this is Linus after being let out to wander the yard, probably in February at some point. You can see that whoever took the picture was taking it through the window--you can see the screen.
And this is me, going to get Linus who is wandering around the yard. Where is my coat?  There was a series of like 20 pictures on the phone of this. Riveting....

This was taken by Lara last week at the playground. We took John, Noah's neighbor and one of his best friends. John's in the cap. They are 3 days apart in age and look like brothers, even though Andy and I look nothing like his parents. I love this picture, because men don't hug like that--just boys. I think John is actually pretending to strangle Noah.

There are about 1000 more pictures taken by them. Many of them are just blurred snapshots of the floor, or of a foot, or of the mailbox.
I think the top two--of the Oak stenciled against the gray sky, really speaks to the mood of this month. Judi mentioned to me at the beginning of the week that I have been so serious lately.
I think it's the gray.

I ache for the daffodils and a few tufts of green.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Fritter: (fri-tr) (v) to waste time. to accomplish little of consequence. to fuck around.

That, unfortunately, is what I've been doing of late.

On Friday afternoon I convinced Andy to get home from work early so I could run away to Maine for the night. I wanted to visit with my friend Alina. Also, there was a party being given by a few of my tri friends in Maine, and I wanted to go.
Miss my BF + party = reason enough to hike it north.

I'm listening to the book American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld in the car, and this was yet another reason I wanted to go. I'm a huge (and I mean huge) book on tape person. I'm a reader, but even more than reading I love to be read to. Anyway.  American Wife is a fictionalized account of the life of Laura Bush. I've no idea if there is a particle of truth in any of it, but it certainly is engrossing. I couldn't wait to get in the car, get comfy, crank the heat and listen....ahhhhh.....

I went straight to Alina's to pick her up, and then straight to the party, which was in Freeport, a good 40 minutes from where my parents live. We were late. Getting out of Boston is tricky business on any night of the week, and my journey was definitely not traffic free. Annoying. Luckily, I had my book, which was a big part of why I wanted to travel in the first place, so I wasn't too upset.

I should've taken pictures at the party.
But I didn't.

It was fun to see everyone drinking beer in normal attire as opposed to drinking from water bottles post-race, dressed in little kits that reveal way too much. Alina and I chatted furiously for an hour or so before the party split up. Then we headed upstairs with our friends Mike and Christine and ate. Well, actually-- I ate. They just talked to me while I ate, and Alina, sportingly, had a few ribs.

It was fun.

I drove Alina home and we gossiped, and I was very glad I had come up.

One of my favorite parts of going to Maine is visiting with my folks and experiencing the total quiet of a home SANS little people. My parents have pets, but this hardly counts in the noise department. I stayed up even later talking with my mom, and then even later reading because I was alone and didn't have to turn out the light so Andy could sleep. (I am a night hawk reader left to my own devices.)
t.o.t.a.l. bliss.

The next morning I got up and lazily chit-chatted with my mom, then frantically signed up for the Beach to Beacon 10K, a race that happens in AUGUST in my hometown, but one which sells out in under a 1/2 hour. Then I went for a nice run in the salty, cold, wind of Cape Elizabeth.
And then I drove home--listening to my book.

What a great 18 or so hours.

On the way home the monsoon began. Here in New England we are experiencing an apocalyptic rain that threatens to submerge the entire northeast completely.  It has alrady sumberged my basement. It's more than a lake down there--it's like one of the Great Lakes. I can't even look. The TWO pumps we have were sort of controlling it, but then (I kid you not) the pressure of the rising water table put a deep crack into the foundation of the house--just by the bulkhead-- and a torrent of water began to pour into the basement. Andy did his best to patch it up with concrete (which um didn't really work since you can't cure concrete in the WET).  And then one of our pumps burned out. Losing battle, my friends, losing battle.

Ho hum.
Other than water, there is not much else making headway here in the casa de Wilson.
Here are a smattering of tidbits: 

I got new bike shoes. Men's bike shoes to be exact. They are wide wide wide and hopefully will allow my poor little bunions and Morton's toe some room to spread out and be their ugly selves.

I had Andy change my cassette from its 12/23 to the 12/27 so when I go to Tucson next week and try to climb Lemmon I won't tip over on Mrs Z.

Tomorrow Jen has me doing 4300 yards in the pool. Oh mama.

I am reading a book on POWER so I can be the all powerful queen of the world.
The book is by a man named Skiba, who is a D.O. and not an M.D., which reminds me I need to find out the difference between those post-nominals. The book was recommended to me by Kurt. It's a good one. This dude Skiba also wrote Scientific Training for Triathletes, which I also just read, and which is also a good one.  So far I've learned that the terms lactate threshold and critical power are used incorrectly by most of we simple triathletes. Good to know.

Jordan is convinced she needs a racing bike. She is also looking to join a USS swim team that trains more than a half hour away. She wants to swim and compete year round.
I know I deserve it.
Don't say it.

I have been on a bread binge. In fact, the term frittering at first made me think of fritters. I love fritters. Anyway. I was doing very well for a very long time, and then I had a motivational slip and began partaking of all things bread. I love bread. I dream of bread. Toast with butter is possibly the greatest food combination of all time.  Give me toast, butter and coffee with milk and sugar and I will basically orgasm.

And on that note.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How To Get Fast--at least if you are Mary.

I should qualify this whole post by admitting that what follows are things I believe have made me faster. One thing I've learned in the last six months since I started working with athletes is that each individual is remarkably different, and what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. I think I always believed every athlete was different, but I underestimated just how much. Each athlete has such a different set of qualities in terms of experience, physiology, psychology--the mix can be tough to figure out and it makes posts like How To Get Fast seems sort of arbitrary and pointless.

Still, I feel like writing this post.

There are some things we always look to and believe will make us fast. The track would be a great example. When we think of getting fast, we think of the track. Speed work. right? Well, yes, the track is definitely a speed lover's tool. In this post, though, I want to focus less on actual workouts and more on aspects of learning to be fast that are separate from specific ways of training--like training the aerobic system to the nth degree for 10 of the 12 months of the year, or doing ten trillion 800s on the track year round (both of which seem to work if done correctly, strangely enough).

I also want to say that there are different types of fast. I'm talking about getting faster when racing. It may seem stupid to point that out, but one can get faster when training and still not be faster when racing. Also, getting faster at IM is much different than getting faster at the 5K. Still, they have some things in common, and I'm going to talk about a few things that have made me faster at all distances.

1. Race Experience
I think this may be the number one thing that has made me faster over the years. The reasons are many--but really it comes down to this: the more you race, the better you get at racing. It's such a simple truth. People can talk to you up the wazoo about pacing, pain, nutrition while you race, but the truth is that you won't really figure that shit out unless you actually race--and not just a few times a year. This is easy with things like road racing. You can squeeze a ton of little road races throughout the year if you want. Each distance has its own little rules that you must figure out for you. It's harder with triathlon. Unless you do strictly sprints,  you can't race every single weekend all summer. And if you want to succeed at IM, you can't just do 10 of them in a row to get it right. (Although I actually know some people who are somehow able to do this!)  It took me two half iron-man races to sort of understand how to race one--and it wasn't until my fourth that I really nailed the race. With Ironman I totally DO NOT have it figured out yet. I've only done one, and my inexperience definitely got me on my first.

When athletes spend all of their time training and very little time actually racing I think they are at a speed disadvantage come race day. Experience  = greater speed. At least this has been true for me.

2. Psychology.
I know sport psych is talked about a lot in our sport. You need to replace negative thoughts with positive and affirming thoughts--when racing, when training, when just hanging around. I think this is especially tough for women. We are socialized to self-deprecate. Self deprecation puts those around us at ease; it lets others know we are tactful, graceful and modest.
Unfortunately, however, if you deprecate in life, you will deprecate in your head. And if you deprecate in your head, you will bring yourself down.And if you bring yourself down, if you believe your own deprecation, you won't get faster.
It's not easy to be confident for many of us. A starting point, at least for me, has been to be arrogant on a humorous level. Playing the part has actually really helped me to believe that I am strong, attractive, and able to win (or at least place well :) Is it awkward and strange to announce --hey, I'm hot! Is it childish to shout I kicked her ass! Probably.
But really--who gives a shit--especially if in the end it makes you stronger and faster to believe it? If it makes you feel good to believe it?
We all want to be liked and to be seen as the epitome of grace and modesty (at least if we are female). In the end, though, I know I'd rather be strong than liked. I'd rather be fast than liked. I'd rather be full of vim, humor and abrasive crass-ness than liked. 
And you know what? I think I'm better liked as a result! Not by all... certainly not. But I'm a more interesting and colorful person when I am playing at being the brash, know-it-all, confident coach than when being the humble, simpering, sweet little girl of my youth. (I know that many of you who have known me forever will argue that I was never actually simpering or sweet. Leave me to my own historical fictions...;)

3.  Okay. I admit I sort of went off there. Anyway, the next thing that has made me faster is learning to deal with pain. This is sort of combination of one and two, actually. Racing has exposed me to pain and taught me to deal with it. Psychology has allowed me to welcome--sometimes even invite pain--into my workouts.  If you can't deal with pain--if you can't welcome it--then you just don't get faster. You have to believe it's okay to feel a lot of pain, and then you can start to push beyond it. One of the reasons I like to do a little hard work year round (harder aerobic efforts like tempo or fartlek stuff on the run or strength work on the bike) is because I am closer to pain than if I maintain just zone 1/2 work for much of the winter months. I find that if I go three or four workouts in a row without experiencing real pain, then it shocks me when I do experience it. That shock slows me down because it frightens me.  If I don't feel pain for months, I get positively stopped by it when I do experience it.

4. Taking Risks. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. In the end, I believe taking risks in my training and in my racing has made me faster. Sometimes you just have to test limits to see if the limit is really there or not. If it is? Okay. If it's not? Damn good thing I checked, huh?

5. Fueling. I need to eat. I need to eat frequently and quite a bit--especially for a little person. I also need to fuel well when I'm training. This is just something I've learned about myself over the years. When I'm training I sometimes try to stretch out what I need so that my body can better learn to use its available fuel  in the form of fat). (I do this frequently when doing strictly aerobic training.) Most of the time, though, I try to give my body the fuel it needs to perform well. I believe the cumulative effect of this has gotten me faster.

6. Form.
For me this is true especially when swimming, but also when running. If I am focused on my form, I just go faster. If I focus on going faster, I go more slowly.

7.  Weight. I think I have a magic range at which I am my fastest. I used to believe the lighter the better. I dont' think so now. It took me years to find the right place. It's also taken me years to alter my body compostion for the better. Both of these things have helped me to go faster.

I'm interested in what you think has made you go faster.
Tell me.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stu's: The Race Report

Mary reaches for Annie Sullivan's hand and then signs the word for "water?"

Ahh, Stu's 30K. 
It's a nice little race. With a few long-ass hills. And a few long-ass downhills. And also, it is just long. 

The perennial question here in the New England running scene is this: Which is more of a bitch? The Derry 16 Miler or Stu's 30K?
Most people vote for Derry. It's got an elevation profile that is definitely--hard. It climbs (according to the Garmin, which for elevation is totally inaccurate, but whatever) 2400 ft, whereas Stu's only climbs a measly 1340 ft. (again, according to the inaccurate Garmin). However, Derry is shorter course, and that does count for something. Stu's also ends with its steepest hills, whereas Derry has its steepest hills about 2/3's the way through, and then you are blessed with a few downhill miles at the end. I've always felt that Stu's was slightly harder, but that's likely because I seem to always run more slowly at Stu's. 

And today was no exception. I ran more slowly (by a lot) today than I did at Derry. I think I looked cuter today than I did at Derry, though, and that is something. When the race began my friend David looked over and said, "Mary, you're looking hot today." I blushed. (not really.) He then told me he just said it so I'd mention it in the blog. Thanks, David!
I did look cute, though. I had on these adorable little shorts from LuLuLemon. You can't tell in this picture but I also have on really cool socks with cows on them.  I was styling. 

But enough on that. 

I ran most of the race with my club-mates Maria and Rose. I am training them each for Boston (very proudly coaching them, I will add) and their plan was to take out the first 10 miles steady but not hard, and then to go for marathon pace until the end of the race. My plan was to accompany them to mile 10, and then stay steady while they plowed ahead. 

It was really nice to run with people. 
But it was really, really hard to hold back. 

I had to keep checking my watch to make sure I wasn't picking up the pace. The crowd surged ahead of us and we just had to let them go. I will add here that many, many of these people should NOT have been surging ahead of us. We weren't being slow-pokes! We were running 7:55-8:05 pace! We gradually picked up the pace so that we were averaging just under 8:00s by mile 10.  We steadily passed people. I'm not sure anyone at any point passed us. It felt way too easy--but sure enough--at mile 10 my legs started to feel that very special achy feeling. By mile 12 my legs were like, Um, Mary? Usually we stop around now? We are at mile 12? Ummm, what is up here? I began to realize it was a damn good thing I had taken it out slowly! 18.6 miles is a wee bit longer than I've run since... ummm. my marathon last October.

Maria and Rose went ahead as planned. I was sad to let them go, but I was determined to no be stupid and try to go with them. I let myself go a little faster, but the achiness in my legs and ass kept me from letting me get too far ahead of myself. It was a gorgeous day, and I really focused on how NICE it was to have sun on my face. Then I got sick of that and decided it was time to pass people.

I waited until mile 15 to do this, and I'm proud of that. At that point, though, everyone was slowing down around me, and I could see whole clumps of women ahead of me just waiting to be passed. Oh! I had fun those last few miles. I made it hurt--but I did not kill myelf. I just made sure I passed a good chunk of people who had no business being ahead of me. 

Maria kicked my ass and finished ahead of me. Rose didn't feel great and slowed up a bit (though not much), and had a solid race. I was proud of them both for sticking it out and sticking with the plan, and giving it what they had. I'm proud of me for not being the dumbass jackrabbit I usually am when racing.

It was a good race and a good day. 

When I finished my calf cramped and then the cramp shot trough my hamstring and into my ass. OUCH! I limped around for quite a bit, but was able to massage it out a little in the car. I feel good right now--ready to begin again. That's a good thing, b/c I have a three hour ride scheduled for manana. 

Buenas Noches.  (That's me. The short one in the awesome shorts.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

mish mash

On Thursday morning I brought Mrs. Z into Landry's to get her spring tune-up. She is getting all ready to go outside--new bar tape and a new chain--and new-- not sure yet. They still have to call me to tell me the billions of things I need replaced or fixed. Pat, one of the guys who works on my bike, also looked at my shoes and laughed at me... I think you need some new cleats, Mary. Yeah, I kinda knew that. They are so worn they kind of slide in and out of the pedals when I ride. My seat has also seen better days. I have ridden/rubbed the seat about three layers down. Pretty soon I will hit its skeleton. Ek!

Pat and I got us talking about cleat placement on the shoe. I have been wanting to moving the cleats from the forefoot to the mid-foot, but I wasn't sure if this would be okay. If I did so would I be an injury waiting to happen? The thing is, I have metatarsal pain in my forefoot because of Morton's neuroma. Sometimes it just aches when I ride because the cleat is placed directly on top of where it hurts. I told Pat about this, and he said that people with my foot structure often move the cleat back on their shoes, and that sometimes this even clears up the whole neuroma problem! Ah!! That would be SO wonderful! He also recommend I get wider shoes. My Sidis are very narrow and don't accommodate my wide, bunioned feet/toes. This might also help with the pain. I'm excited. Of course this means I need new cleats, new shoes, and a new fitting--. It's always something. Hopefully this will be well-worth it, though.

What else?
Last week I had a depressive dip. They happen. I was an irritable b.i.t.c.h. all week. I wish I had some reason for it. Alas, it just came on--and man was it powerful. I felt like crap until Thursday, when it lifted. Now I feel great just because it finally DID lift. It could be hormonal... maybe even- g.a.s.p.- pre-menopausal. I don't want to think about that.

This week I found a venue at which I can do stroke analysis in the pool. I'm thrilled. I am going to be a personal trainer (of the aquatic variety) at the Vanderbilt Club in Norwood. What this means is that I can take clients to the pool and work with them on becoming more efficient with their stroke. If you are interested in this service, let me know!! Email me: I'm working with my first client next week. I will promise to be both funny, smart, and oh--I will also help you to improve your stroke. No offense here, but if you swim anything like the majority of people I swim with at open swim, you could use some careful, focused help. :) ha!

I also hope to teach some classes at Vanderbilt- of the Your First Triahtlon type. LuLuLemon Athletica has also asked me to do some teaching. I will be offering a seminar in their Dedham store in late April called Your First Triathlon. Should be fun! I'm pretty excited.

Tomorrow I head to the metropolis of Clinton, MA to run Stu's 30K. I'm driving down with a bunch of GNRCer's -- two of whom are athletes I'm training for Boston. They are both in ripping shape right now, and I fear I don't have a chance in hell of beating either of them. Oh well...
And BELIEVE IT OR NOT, I am not planning to race Stu's.
Boo! You all know I love to race. You also know I have an extremely hard time not racing when I'm in a race. But I will try this time. I will try.

I observed that although I had a great run at the Boston Prep 16 miler, and another great run at the Cape Classic 10 Miler, I had a hard time recovering from those races in a timely fashion. With the 10 miler I really went right back into training, and I think it may be that that ultimately caused me to get sick a few weeks back.  Basically, I can't let the happen again. I need to be able to go right back into my training, and I need to be able to do it without getting overtired, overstressed, and sick.

So. I need to NOT race it. I plan to take it out conservatively until about mile 10. At mile 10 I will pick it up a bit, and I will try to work the final 4 or 5 miles of the race pretty hard. That will be a solid effort--but not one that will put me out for a week. You know? I debated not running it, because I truly do not like to run a race if I can't race it, but I want to see my peeps, and I want to run with a group. So there you have it.

Sorry for the dull nature of this post. I will be sure to write a super sexy race report after Stu's. Happy Training, people.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Me and Mrs. Z.-- BFF

Mrs Z. and I have spent quality time together lately.  I love her, but she is a tough one to love.  If we could get outside together our relationship might be strengthened. But we spend all of our time together sitting in the same place--having the same conversations--covering the same ground day in and day out day in and day out.

Yesterday Ange and I were chatting about our relationship to biking. We've both been runners and swimmers forever, and maybe it is for this reason alone that we so easily "just do it" when it comes to those disciplines. I never miss a swim or run workout. Never. I also never leave a swim or run workout feeling it was a failure. Sometimes I don't hit my goal--or the goal that was set for me by Jen--but I nearly always feel good about my swims and run regardless. 

No so with biking. I rarely miss a bike workout either, but I have been known to cut one short, or make a set easier than is called for, or to space out entirely and not focus on what I am doing. This is in part simply b/c the bike workout is always longer than the swim or run, and so sustaining focus is that much harder. But it's also because I don't have a history with biking--at least not one longer than the last four years since I took up triathlon. As a kid I did ride a lot, but it was a three-speed bike and I usually didn't go farther than down the street to visit a friend, or up the street to school, or through the Coops (a swamp land with ponds) to look for frogs.

I expect the run and swim to hurt, but I get despondent and sometimes even angry when I hurt on the bike. I expect to hit the goal pace for the swim or run, but I often doubt my capability of hitting the goal wattage Jen sets for me when I'm astride Mrs. Z.

This. needs. to. stop.

I need to embrace my inner biker chick persona.
I need to because in every triathlon--every. single. one.--the bike leg is the longest in duration and distance, and in my opinion is also the key to the whole damn race.

There are many keys to the damn race, of course. You need to nail nutrition, you need to have efficient transitions, you need to have the right mindset, you need to stick to your pacing plan on the swim/bike and run. etc. etc. etc.

But the bike....

You need to go hard on the bike so you don't lose the race there, but you can't go so hard (at least in 70.3 or longer) that you destroy yourself and the possibility of running well. 

I find finding this balance very, very challenging-- and I think it's because of my lack of a lifetime experience on the bike.
With the swim I can just feel where I need to be. I'm not saying I've achieved perfection here, but I believe I can beat most people out of the water, I know how to be smart in the swim, and I'm confident that I will NOT be disappointed in my performance. For the run I trust myself to take it as far as humanly possible to pull out the race I need to have. I'm not saying I always nail the run--. In fact, I often have to fight very hard on the run b/c I have  not set myself up perfectly on the bike to have a great run. But I trust myself anyway. I know I will do everything in my power to get it done.

But my bike? I think it's that I don't trust myself yet TO KNOW. I use heart rate as a guide (although it's a flawed guide, especially when racing), and when on my computrainer I can use wattage, but my intuition--t e.g. this is JUST right--or no, you need to push more here--or no, you need to hold back now-- That intution is not fully developed for me yet. I can't trust myself to know just how to race that leg. I can talk about it with Jen, I can practice practice practice in training, but I simply don't trust myself completely to get it done right.

I write all this why?
Because this is my goal this season. My goal is to get beyond where I am right now--to get to a place where I JUST DO IT, and I am confident that I will get it done right. I will get there by doing the following things:

  • Loving the bike and not allowing negative shit to creep into my love for the bike.
  • Going to a parking lot 1x a week all season to practice cornering, balancing on the bike, going no- handed on he bike, and getting on and off my bike in a smooth, confident fashion.
  • Getting a power meter and learning to use it well
  • Learning to take apart my bike and put it back together again, learning how to take care of it, and becoming confident that no matter what happens on a ride from a mechanical standpoint, I can fix it. 
  • Being vigilant about nailing my bike workouts, and never cutting them short, mixing them up, or spacing out during them.

You think if I write it I'll do it?
Any other suggestions for me all you uber bikers out there?
On that note, I need to get on Mrs. Z. We have a two hour ride to get done--and I can't wait.

(It's not working yet. )