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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Super Proud

It's been a big week in the Super household.  On Saturday, my oldest son graduated from high school. 

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Check out the hardware
The medals are for Thespian Society, Silver Medallion (top 8% of class), and I think the last one is top 10% of class.  The cords are for Spanish Honor Society, and apparently I refused to spend $20 for the blue National Honor Society stole he is therefore not wearing. 

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I am a proud mama
This kid is everything I wasn't in high school (and, um...am not now): motivated, organized, really has things together.  Look out, world.

And today, my 16 year old's high school team played the sectional championship match against a Chicago-area team.  HUGE game.  Huge.  Boys volleyball has been big in that part of Illinois for quite a while.  We, on the other hand, are in our third year of boys volleyball.  Our first year we went 2-15.

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Champs
They won.  Won. We are headed to the State championships.  Which means, among other things, that Kovas will have yet another chance to blow off the opportunity to run with me.  But I'm way too happy right now to sink into depression over that, and I'm quite hopeful that I'll have my voice back in time to cheer them on in their next match.

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Proud brother
It's a pretty sweet week to be their mom.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Highland Memorial Day Biathlon

Usually, our Memorial Day weekends are all about volleyball, but this year a friend talked me into doing the Highland Biathlon.

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"Talked me into" as in mentioned it once.  He even offered me a road bike to use, but then I got my own.  I was pretty excited about the race and curious to see how I'd do.  I wasn't excited enough about it, though, to skip volleyball yesterday, so here's what my "taper" looked like:

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This was the first volleyball we've played since a tournament in January, and we were out there playing for about 5 hours.  I must've pulled or tweaked something in my shoulder, because it was pretty sore last night and the pain woke me up at about 2:30 a.m.  I never really got solid sleep after that, which wasn't much fun but did make it really easy to get up early.

It's a good thing I got up and left plenty early, too, because the Google maps directions sent me to a dead end street.  Awesome.  Then I looked at the little map and found a street that looked like it went to the park.  Another dead end.  Possibly a little cursing, too, but no one else was in the car to confirm that.  Finally I decided to just ask for help.  Thanks to the two guys whose clear directions got me there!

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First time racking a bike for a race
When I walked my bike over to the racks, I saw my friend Robin, who pointed out where she and Maureen had their bikes.  I got mine set up near theirs and then got my number and shirt.  Lots of Team Godzilla members were there, some I knew and a lot I didn't. Since biathlon participants had to pin their numbers on their backs, I asked a couple of the club guys for a hand.  Jeff offered me his extra race belt.  It was really warm out, but I wasn't all gross and sweaty yet, so he must've just been being nice.  Of course, putting on the belt seems to highlight all the chub around my middle, but I doubt there are any pictures of that; since I didn't wear any team gear for the race, the club photographer probably didn't see me go by.

Wade and I took a quick warm-up lap around the block, and that felt ok.  Today was my first time running since Conquer Castlewood.  Now that school is out and the crazy busy-ness is winding down, I don't have any more excuses for skipping runs.  No more slacking.

We lined up, and I tried to make sure I wasn't too close to the front.  I didn't want to go out too fast like I did at Conquer Castlewood.  I ran into Dianna from Quivering Quads and said hi.  It's neat to see other bloggers in real life.  I couldn't hear anything of the pre-race announcements except where the post-race snacks would be (you can see that I was tuned in for the really important parts), and then finally we got to start.

It was in the mid-70's when we started, and my run never felt good.  It's really frustrating that I can run 26 miles (well, run 20 and then run/walk the next 6.2) and then come out and suck so badly in a 5 mile run.  When we got to the one mile mark, a man was calling out the times.  I hit that spot at about 8:20...ah, no wonder I'm breathing so hard!  I made an effort to slow down to a more manageable pace, but really it was an effort not to just start walking.  Man, that heat took a lot out of me.  I was passed a lot on the run.

It was also pretty windy, but a headwind doesn't bother me nearly as much on a run as on the bike.  It was at least a little relief from the heat.  And God bless the little girl around mile 3.5-4 who was standing in front of her house with a garden hose.  Maybe if there had been a couple more like her I'd have done a little better on the run.  About halfway through, my stomach started giving me some trouble.  I actually remembered not to eat salad last night at dinner, but I didn't think about the potential effects of Chinese cole slaw at lunch.  Remembering my marathon Tour de Porta-Potty, I groaned inwardly.  Luckily, I made it to the end of the run and then made a quick stop.  My 5 mile run leg took me 49:30.  Booo.

With my bathroom visit and getting to my bike and geared up, I'd guess my transition time around 2 minutes.  I'm sure it wasn't any faster.  I had a Gu Rocktane that I'd gotten as a free sample at the LaCrosse marathon expo.  Yuck.  I'm not a fan of the fruity flavors, I guess, but I do think it helped.  I saw Mike, one of the tri club guys, pull out of transition right ahead of me, and I passed him right after the first hill.  That hill felt great.  It didn't seem like any effort at all.  I buckled down and started passing a few people, and then Mike passed me on the next hill.  I tucked in behind him and rode his rear wheel for a while, but I lost him on the corners.  I really need to work on my turns.  That was the wimpiest part of my ride today.  I lose a ton of speed because I'm such a chicken on those 90 degree corners.  I just need practice. 

I loved riding the new bike.  I passed quite a few people and some passed me, but none of them were women and not all of them were on mountain bikes or hybrids.  (Of course, when you're running 10 minute miles, most of the fast people are long gone by the time you hit transition.) The wind was a lot more of an issue on the bike than on the run, though, and there never seemed to be someone going the right speed for me to draft behind them.  Oh, well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?

About 3.5 miles from the finish I saw Robin cheering people on.  I thought, Man, she's fast!  She finished and she's already back here!  Turns out she'd flatted right around there after being on her way to winning her age group.  Instead of getting all mad about it, though, she stayed out there and motivated other people.  Pretty soon after that, Keith came crusing down the road looking for club member still out and rode in with me.  He coached me some on the corners, which was a big help. 

Coming down the last hill, there was a 90 degree right turn and then a straight shot about .5 mile or so into the finish.  I had to slow down on the turn (of course), but then I really poured it on.  I passed several people on that stretch, and one of them passed me back not far from the finish.  At least it was a guy, turned out it was a kid under 18 who ended up placing in his age group. 

My finishing time was 1:45:34
159/237 overall
5/20 age group

Honestly, I'm kind of disappointed.  I didn't really know what to expect on the bike, but I'm frustrated with the run time.  Of course, why is it slow?  1) Lack of training lately overall, 2) when I was training faithfully it was for a marathon and distance-focused rather than speed-focused, 3) lack of training in the heat, 4) and did I mention lack of training overall?  I can't expect to log a decent run if I'm not running regularly.  And I think that today has convinced me that I'm not going to train for another marathon this year.  I want to work on getting faster, and then I'll start training for another marathon next year.  On the bike, I need to work on cornering and hills.  I forgot to think about making circles with my toes as I pedaled.  When I was riding last week and focused on that, it seemed like I was going faster. 

Kudos to the Lions Club for putting on a great race.  It was well-organized, well-marked, and well-staffed.  I had a great time, and I'll definitely be back next year.  And, hopefully, faster.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Marathon #2

Without training or planning or much forethought, I've embarked upon my second marathon.  But Kate, you haven't been running, I hear you say.  Never fear...it's a cleaning marathon, and I haven't been doing much of that lately, either.

My oldest son, who was starting kindergarten just yesterday, is graduating from high school tomorrow.

Daniel (on the left) with Nathan.  Possibly the last time they willingly stood this close to each other.
Graduating.  From high school.  Tomorrow.  This is insane for two reasons.  First, that my child is old enough to graduate from high school.  Second, that I am old enough to have a child old enough to graduate from high school.    What???? I'm not even 40!

But wait, enough about me.  We were talking about cleaning.

More specifically, we were talking about not cleaning.  Which is what I've done for the past few weeks.  Somehow I've managed to block out the fact that we're having 40ish guests over at our house tomorrow and I have to feed them and they are unlikely to eat food if it's served to them in a place that looks like the health department could condemn it at any time.  Granted, if they refuse to eat, it'll mean leftovers for us for a looooong time, but it also means that they might take off early and leave me to plot the death of entertain my former mother-in-law.

Left with the minor disaster that is my house, I had few options: 1) move; 2) rent a hall; 3) brave an outdoor party; or 4) burn the house down clean.  Since I didn't really start cleaning until Wednesday night, the cleaning has been something of a marathon effort.  Similar to a running a marathon, my lack of training has definitely impacted my pace.  I'm simply not in good cleaning shape.  Perhaps I should consider hiring a maid coach. Like an undertrained marathoner, I may not be happy with the results, and I could possibly incur an injury (or possibly inflict one, if the stress starts to get to me).

Thankfully, this marathon allows outside help in the form of my children and husband, who did a lot of cleaning while I was still at the gym after going to lunch after leaving work.  This take far longer than running 26.2 miles, so I might consider it an ultramarathon, instead.  And the only finisher's medal I'll receive is the dubious praise of family members who gush, "Wow, your house looks really.....nice?" and look outside to check and make sure they've arrived at the correct address. 

On the other hand, though it awards no bling to wear around me neck, I will win a house that's clean, comfortable, and something I can be proud of.  At least until the kids get up.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bliss

If you've been reading my blog for long, you know that I've been coveting a road bike for about two years now.  I had a good little savings built up, but then my brother and I decided to do the Berryman Adventure Race, which meant I had to get a mountain bike.  And I love my mountain bike.  Love it.  Even though it scares the heck out of me, it's the coolest thrill ride I've been on.

But.  I still want a road bike.  I'd like to place in the Tour de Donut without having to eat 11 donuts.  I'd like to finish a century in fewer than 9 hours.  I'd like to have the chance to see if I can ride as fast as people kept telling me I would if I had a road bike.

Well.  Look what followed me home on Saturday. =)

<big smile>my new bike<still smiling>
Please disregard our messy garage

After over a year of watching Craigslist, calling about bikes and never hearing back, kind of giving up because I wouldn't feel confident buying without someone who knew what they were talking about along and it seems like with CL you needed to be there right then with cash in hand, watching my brother get a sweet road bike last summer, drooling over the impossibly priced (for me) bikes in the local bike shop...I had the good luck to make a friend who had a road bike for sale and was looking for more female ride partners.

So I have much more bike than I could afford new, and I'm thrilled.  As soon as I could get away with it on Sunday, I took the bike out in our neighborhood.  Figuring out the shifting took me a little bit, but once I knew what to do it was super easy.  That little bitty seat had me pretty uncomfortable last night, but at least the areas that hurt are much smaller than with the big gel seat on the hybrid.  And the bike just floats down the road.

I had planned to ride last night with my friends Judy and Vanessa, but I wasn't taking any chances with the rainy forecast.  The weather has robbed me of way too many mountain bike rides already, I wasn't going to let it steal my first chance for a long ride on my new bike.  I had taken off the day to help out at my son's school (incidentally, WAY more work than being in my own classroom, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world), so I had time in the afternoon to go for a ride.

I took the bike out on the local bike paths.  They're flat and smooth and I figured they'd be a good, safe place to get used to the new positioning on the bike.  I rode 18 miles, mostly alone execept for a couple near the end with a guy who drafted off me til I noticed him and then pulled alongside to talk.  I guess now the topic is going to change from "you really need a road bike" to "you really need to get clipless pedals".  I'm sold...I'm convinced...I just need to have the money for the shoes now. :)  Always something.

As luck would have it (and I mean that sincerely), the weather held and I was able to ride with my friends after all.  The tri club has a regular Tuesday night ride, but we met a little later than that due to schedules and it was just the three of us.  That was fine for me.  You know how change makes me nervous, doing things with new people makes me nervous....and doing new things with a lot of new people makes me nervous.  Baby steps.  We rode the club route but never met up with anyone else. 

I did get to meet the Whiteside road hill, twice.  It's a longish hill that starts out ok and gets steeper near the top.  My first time up wasn't bad at all.  The second time I started in too high a gear and then bottomed out on gears way too early.  I never did get out of the saddle to climb, which maybe would have made it easier.  That'll be something to experiment with next time.  I must not have done too badly, though.

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We ended up riding 18 miles, which gave me a total of 36 miles for the day.  Not bad, considering my last double-digit ride was back in March.  I was definitely ready to get off the bike seat, and my lower back was uncomfortable at the end...I think just a case of adjusting to the new position.  Also, the compact double chainring is going to take some getting used to, but as I build up my leg strength and spend more time on hills and just spend more time on the bike in general, I think it'll be good.

Hopefully it's good; I have my first race on it in just a few days.  On Monday, I'm doing the Highland biathlon, a 5 mi run/15 mile bike.  Can't wait to see how it goes.  For now, I'm just basking in the glow of finally getting my new bike and having more people to ride with.  It's not only easier to ride in a group, it's a lot more fun.  And if crossing the road bike off my wish list made room at the bottom for a cross bike, we won't mention that yet to my husband.  He's got to get used to the idea of three bikes in the garage before I spring the thought of a fourth on him.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Conquer Castlewood 2011

Despite putting on a brave face, I was secretly really nervous about Conquer Castlewood.  I felt pretty comfortable about the run portion but not so much the canoe and mountain bike legs. The more I thought about them, the more I worried (so stop thinking about them...why didn't I think of that?).  This morning, when my alarm went off at 5:10, I was already lying there awake.  Jeff asked if I was excited about the race, and I told him, "I'm nervous about the mountain biking." 

Dramatization
"Me, too," he replied.  Thanks for the vote of confidence.

I met Jake, my partner for the race, when he picked me up.  He didn't have horns or anything, so that was good, and he only tried to leave my front wheel in the road once.  (Maybe he heard how slow I am on the bike and figured we'd do better if I just ran the whole thing?) It was nice to have the drive to chat, even though it wasn't like we'd be spending much time together on the course.  Partners canoe together, but the remainder of the race is "on your own" with individual times being added together for the team time.  He and his wife are both pretty impressive athletes; in fact, she just placed in her age group in a 5K...oh, and she's 7 months pregnant!

I was glad that Jake wanted to leave early.  I'm not at all a prompt person, unless it's for a race.  I'm almost always nervous before a race, and it's nice to be in control of at least one thing.  I was also glad I'd done my homework.  After registering, I had read my friend Robin's race report from last year, in which she mentioned being dive-bombed by ravenous mosquitos.  So, I was early, and I had my bug spray.  Both good things.

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The Tri Club...another good thing
I'll say again how happy I am that I joined the local tri club.  That's where I got my partner for the race, and it's so nice to have people who you know (or at least recognize!) at a race.  The club usually has a volunteer to photograph club members, and it gives you a built-in cheering section.  Robin and her partner passed us on the way, and I think there were at least 9 of us there.

Once we got there, we found out that the canoe leg had been cancelled due to the river being SUPER high.  Instead, we would start off with a short running leg, transition to bikes, and then finish up with a longer run.  I was a little relieved about not canoeing...I had visions of taking an early swim getting in.  We have a canoe, so I have no excuse for not getting out there and practicing, and that's something Jeff would enjoy doing, too.

Just a little high.  (Photo credit: Lori Vohsen)
After a brief warm-up, I put my bike in the transition area.  I didn't have much transition-ing to do; since I don't clip in, I didn't need to change shoes (that would've been a bit of a pain with two run-bike transitions), and I just wore my gloves on the first run.

The competitors were split into two waves; I think all of the tri club members were in the first wave.  As we all waited for the start, I noticed that a girl near me looked just how I felt and told her so.  Her husband said, "She's nervous about the bike."  "Me, too," I answered, "but at least we have a 30 minute head start over the second wave; even if we are the slowest, we should look like we are." I was kind of joking, but I really was thankful that I'd have people coming in after me (hopefully).

They finally started us off, and the pack took off full speed ahead.  I definitely overdid it trying to keep up in the beginning and paid for it for the rest of the first run.  I was huffing and puffing like a freight train.  For a while I was fairly close, but eventually I was pretty much on my own.  Even though we didn't get to canoe, we still got to run through the beach, since the river had kindly left a good portion of it all over the trail.  There were also quite a few muddy spots, but there was always somewhere you could step to miss the worst of it.

The first run was about a mile, maybe little more but not by much.  The clock showed 13 minutes when I came through...and then it was time for the bike.  [Edit: According to Robin's race report, the first run leg was 1.5 miles, which would mean that I ran an 8:40 pace.  That would be screaming fast for me even on the road and certainly explains why I couldn't breathe. I can't imagine that I ran that fast, so my guess is either the first leg was shorter or I looked at the clock wrong.] Kind of like being so sick of being pregnant by the time you reach 9 months that you're almost looking forward to labor, I was actually relieved to get to stop running and ride for a while.  We started off with a bang. 

Photo credit: http://bssatco.com/green_090802_4x3/slideshow2.html
Well, actually, we started off with a sploosh.  The first part of the bike leg was along the river, and due to all the wet weather we've had lately, there were some really muddy parts.  I just remembered my guru's words and tried to keep my momentum up.  It was a little nerve-wracking as my tires slid a little under me, but I made it through the mud with no problems. 

Trouble spots:
  • Early on, there was a smallish incline with some bigger roots across it like steps.  I couldn't really get up any speed (ok, we're talking about me... "speed") because there were a couple of people ahead of me slowly making their way up this section.  I ended up running right into the big root rather than going over it, and my tire bounced off it.  I think that was the first time I put my foot down, and I ended up walking that section.

  • I managed most of a steep climb until I had to shift into my easiest gear in the front.  I needed to be adding more weight to my front wheel on the climb and didn't, so my front wheel started lifting.  Foot down again, and it was steep enough that I couldn't really get going again and had to walk the rest of the hill.
Personal triumphs:
  • Any time my hands were off the brakes on the downhill
  • Any time I pedalled instead of coasting
  • Not falling

Like on the run, it was almost like just being out there for a ride on my own.  All of the fast and average people were long gone, and I guess all the super slow people were behind me a ways, because there were long stretches where I didn't see anyone.  I had to remind myself to push on flat areas where I could.  I really tried to focus on things my more skilled bike friends have taught me, in particular choosing a line and not looking at the things you don't want to run into.  There was one part where I was all proud of myself for navigating a fairly technical spot, and then I immediately ran into the largest rock--then stump--then root in the trail.  I started laughing to myself: That's exactly what Wendy told me NOT to do. 

Since this was the third race I've done at Castlewood, I'm starting to recognize different areas from past races, which is kind of cool.  As I came out of the woods, I realized, Oh, I'm coming up on the creek crossing.

Yes, another creek crossing.  Remember this?

Me in March
When I did The Deuce, it never even occurred to me to ride across the creek.  This time, though, I've got a couple small creek crossings behind me, and even though the guy in front of me walked though (and maybe a little because he did), I rode it.

Castlewood Cup--water crossing
This was back in February; I think it was higher this time around.

I made it through, and didn't fall.  Hopefully some day this won't qualify as news. :)

I passed the guy in front of me (the one who'd walked through the creek, which definitely helped me close in on him) as we cruised down the park road back to the transition area.  I think he was the one person I passed on the bike, so thank you for that, sir, whoever you are.  My friend Melissa and her husband Scott cheered as I came by, which was really nice.  When I got back to the transition area I wasn't sure what to do next.  There was a "run" sign, but it was for the same route we'd run before.  Guess I should've paid better attention when the race director was doing his thing, huh?

The other rider confirmed that we got back on the same trail.  I took off and never saw him again, so he must've fallen and broken his leg or something because I was running none too fast.  I had finally caught my breath once I hit the downhill portion of the bike, but then I'd pushed to pass that guy and was already panting when I started running.  It would've been so easy to walk, but I concentrated on just. keep. moving...even if I was moving slowly.

The second run was pretty unremarkable, except for the fact that I was REALLY regretting not bringing a handheld water bottle.  It was a beautiful day today, and WARM.  Once again, I was pretty much on my own.  Am I the last one?? No, I wasn't.  As I came out of the woods, the nervous girl's husband came up behind me.  I asked how she was doing, and he said she'd made it through the bike leg and was happy.  I guess she was behind me because I never saw her again until the end. 

We ran the park road til the foot of an ugly hill that just goes on FOREVER.  Thank goodness, there was a water stop there.  Oh, my gosh, that water tasted so good.  I ran part of the way up the hill and then walked the rest of it.

Castlewood Cup-1st big hill
Taken from near the top of the hill in February
Melissa's husband Scott passed me right after the worst part of the hill.  He was about the fourth 2nd wave guy to pass me, and we talked for a moment before he headed off to pick off the guy in front of him.  I think I was passed by one more person from my wave and two or three from the second one after that.  A couple guys passed me right before we were out on the park road again, and then I played leapfrog with one of them for the rest of the race.  He'd run, then walk til I almost caught up.  Run, then walk.  Finally I passed him as he was walking and said, "Come on, we're almost done, you've got this."

A minute or two later, he passed me running again and then started walking.  As I went by, he said, "I've got a faster pace but less endurance."  I guess that's what marathon training did for me: I can go forever, but slowly.  Oh, well...I ended up coming in ahead of him (I'm also pretty sure that he was in the second wave, so that was a pretty hollow "victory").

Keith and Robin came down the road on their bikes to run me in. That's the nice thing about being the slow person in a fast club...there's always someone to come back and run with you or at least to cheer for you as you (finally) cross the finish line.  I know that their motivation and cheering definitely made me finish stronger than I would have otherwise, so thank guys!

Catching my breath at the finish with one of my escorts to my right.

Jake finished in around 1:14, and I finished in 1:41:25.  I'm pretty sure I wasn't last, though it certainly felt like it for a while out there.  I was pleasantly surprised by how not scary the mountain biking was.  Not that I was fast at all...I was painfully slow, but I could do most of the riding necessary to ride the trails we were on, and I think speed will come as my skills improve.  As far as my goals for the race, well, as I told a reporter who wrote about the race, I just wanted to get out and have fun (check), get more mountain biking practice (check), and complete the course without need of medical attention (check!). All in all, I'd call today a success.

Individual place: 111/155
Team place: 9/17...strictly on the basis of my speedy partner

Kudos to Ballwin Parks and Recreation for putting on a great event.  I'll be back next year...and hopefully faster.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

New math: how a bunch of firsts may total last place

I  started really thinking about Conquer Castlewood--beyond hey, sounds cool! This'll be fun!!--last night and reality set it a little.  I wouldn't say I'm freaking out, but I'm definitely feeling intimidated. 

1. First time meeting my partner.



2. First time in a canoe (sober) since practically Girl Scout camp.

Lounge lizard
Chances of me not falling out of the canoe are definitely better this time around.

3. First time mountain biking at Castlewood.
4. First time running off the bike in a race.
5. First time riding a bike in a race (as opposed to a non-race) ever.

I had looked at the finishing times from last year.  The fastest person finished in 55:18, and the last place finisher came in a 2:16:17.  So I thought to myself, I should be pretty much in the middle.  I won't be the slowest, right? Surely not.

But last night I started doing the math (not my strongest subject, and I tend to do a lot of really ambitious estimating...one reason I'm ALWAYS late).  I have no idea how long the 1-2 mile canoe leg will take.  4-5 mile trail bike...between being slow up and scared down, I'm not too sure about that, either.  And 3-4 mile trail run...my best average pace at Castlewood was about 11:09...right there, a 4 mile run is over 44 minutes.  Yikes.  Oh, well...somebody has to be last, right?  It'll just give me something to beat next year. :)

Stay tuned...

Friday, May 20, 2011

At the bottom of a steep learning curve

I took a personal day Thursday to take care of really important things go preride the race course for Conquer Castlewood.  Seeing as I've never actually ridden out there, I thought it might be a good idea, and you know how last weekend's attempt went (granted, I was going to ride at a different park, but let's not get too hung up on the details).  The weather forecast through Friday had been full of sunshine, so I was excited to finally have a clear day to ride.

***Speaking of Conquer Castlewood, I was interviewed by a local newspaper about my hopes for the race.  You can read all about my grand ambitions in the Ballwin-Ellisville Patch.***

I woke up to a very overcast sky, but weather.com put the chances of precipitation at 10%.  I liked those odds.  After getting J to school, reading a few blogs, and doing some fighting with the new bike rack (first time putting it on my car...it'll get easier, right?), I headed towards Castlewood State Park. It's about an hour away, and forty minutes into the drive raindrops started hitting my windshield.  Really?? I stayed positive since it was just sprinkling and kept driving.

More rain.  I started to turn around a couple of times, but I was practically there.  And the roads weren't that wet. At the upper trails at Castlewood are a nice rocky mix.  With all the tree cover, surely it would be ok to ride there.  By the time I was closing in on the park, the rain was falling steadily.  I went back and forth about turning around. Maybe it'll stop.  Maybe it'll be ok. I'm practically there.  I decided to stop at Qdoba for lunch and re-evaluate the situation after eating.

After eating, it was pouring, so I headed back home, where that b*tch weather.com assured me the skies were still clear.  Some sprinkles of rain hit my windshield near the local university trails, but overall she was right.  I felt pretty safe going out to these trails because I knew a semi-local bike shop had hosted a Specialized demo the night before and the trails were supposed to be in good shape.

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Ummmmm???
Those are not my tire marks.  I'm new enough at all this that I don't know the different between OK-to-ride-in mud and you're-gonna-tear-up-the-trails mud, so I played it safe and walked around anything squishy.  There was a lot of trail that was nice and solid, but it was hard to really get going because then you'd come around a turn and have to hop off.  A lot of these spots were at the bottom of an incline, so I got a lot of practice at starting uphill from a dead stop.

I said it was hard to really get going because of the mud, but it was also hard to get going because I'm such a wimp.  It's frustrating.  OK, I haven't been riding very long, but I feel like I should be better--braver--than what I am.  Add to that the fact that my brakes were noisy (squealy...does that mean I need new pads?), so I constantly had the sound of chickensh*t ringing in my ears. 

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Overall, there were a few things that went well.  I was out riding, for one.  I managed the switchbacks OK, albeit slowly.  I hopped a couple small logs without incident, and I never once almost pitched myself over the handlebars because I squeezed the brakes too hard. 

On the other hand, I took a dip too slowly and then didn't pedal through it, so I lost momentum before I climbed all the way out.  My bike stopped, I didn't, and I think I've established now that my bike is male, because I have a nasty bruise that only my husband is going to see.

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Dirt, not bruise

I rode for about an hour and a half, didn't crash, got a little dirty, and made it out of the woods just as it started to sprinkle.  Not bad for a day's "work".

P.S.  Good luck to my friends Patrick and Jim, who are doing the Berryman 50 mile.  Have "fun", boys! :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday 13...the anniversary edition

1. One cool thing about the LaCrosse marathon was that the local camera club volunteers its time.  All of the pictures they took were posted online for us to copy and keep.  No spending $$$ for race photos (which is nice, since I had to buy two new tires that trip). Thanks, La Crosse Area Camera Club!

2. Here's one from early on in the race.

I believe I mentioned I was loud and obnoxious fun.
3.  Here we are coming in to the finish line.  I don't hate this picture as much as I hate most of my race pictures, and would you look at that smile? You can tell my brother is hurting (remember, his legs started cramping right at the end?)

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We did it!

4.  This month has been really stressful.  In between coming up with the money to buy plane tickets to California for N's volleyball tournament, money to pay the balance of his club volleyball costs, money for the assorted costs of college orientation for D, money for a graduation party for D...it'll be a miracle if I don't have an ulcer AND still have my bike fund in June.  Breathe in, breathe out...repeat.

5.  We all know I'm not mother of the year, but at least I don't have a report card to show it.  I found this picture on http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/.  Funny stuff.


6.  Yesterday was Jeff's and my anniversary.  Nine years ago, this is what we looked like:


7.  We had a beautiful wedding, a wonderful reception, and then spent a week in Mexico.


Tulum, Mexico
8.  This past weekend, while we were camping in that cold rain, I passed the area where the cub scouts were tent camping and thought to myself, "Boy, poor cub scouts...I bet they never expected it to be this cold and nasty in mid-May."  And then I remembered that it had been like that for our wedding (not rainy, but unseasonably chilly).  And then I realized that our anniversary was in three days.  Sooo thoughtful.  Yeah, bet you wish I was your wife.  lol. 

9.  Leaving the volleyball match on Tuesday evening, I asked Jeff, "Can we establish that we aren't buying each other anything for our anniversary? Just cards, right?" (see #4 above)  (Yes, I realize that this proves that I hadn't yet bought him anything on the night before our anniversary.  He agreed.

10.  Yesterday at school, I was called down to the office.  For these.

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I was shocked.  I think he's given me flowers twice: our wedding day and the day J was born.  And I flat out told him that I wanted flowers after giving birth.
The flowers caused some minor commotion in the classroom since the kids were all excited about them, so we turned it into a journal assignment: What should I give my husband for our anniversary?  Suggestions were a tie, a guitar (I'd love it if somebody played guitar...I have these daydreams of sitting around the campfire singing along to the guitar playing John Denver songs), and go bowling.

11.  You know what's fun? Schlepping a dozen roses home when you have a 40-minute commute.

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Luckily, I had a friend who helped hold them.
12. This year for our anniversary, we dined at Chez EHS...a very exclusive venue otherwise known as the local high school.  We were there for the volleyball banquet. 

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On the plus side, our $10 meals were FAR better than the $17.50 tuna casserole at the academic awards banquet.
13.  I haven't run since last Thursday.  I haven't been home one evening since then, and I've been to bed too late to get up early to run.  On one hand, I know running would help me deal a little with some of the stress; on the other hand, I get mean when I'm overtired.  We'll just call this a rest week. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Now hear read this!

Remember that little adventure (non)race I did back in March?  9 1/2 hours of biking, hiking, and pure fun?  My very favorite race ever? 

Let me refresh your memory...












OK, up to speed?

Well, now The Deuce is noteworthy for two reasons: first, because it was such an amazingly good experience, and second, because it spawned my very favorite race report (at least my favorite involving me).  Bob, of Team Virtus infamy fame, wrote a race report from the race director's perspective.  It's well worth reading, even if you aren't me, but I particularly love the me who shows up in that report. So thanks, Team Virtus...for hosting the non-race AND for making me sound so good in the recap.

(Seriously, you should read it.  Go read it now.  You'll be glad you did.  And if you aren't [you will be], I'll be glad you did...and really, isn't that what it's all about? =)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bust! (sort of)

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been looking forward to this weekend all week.  I'd been toying with doing a 3 hour mountain bike endurance race next Saturday after Conquer Castlewood, and my friend Chuck, who lives near the park where the second race will be held, offered to pre-ride the course with me.  Since I've been feeling guilty about the amount of time training takes away from my family, I suggested to Jeff that we go camping over in that direction.  Then, either he and J could come and hang out at the park while we rode, actually do some riding themselves, or at least have me back a little sooner than if I had to go all the way back home.

Brilliant, right?

And then Chuck emailed that it was pouring over there.  You know, over there, where we were going to camp and ride?  Awesome.  Now I was facing the prospect of a rainy camping trip and no ride if the trails were closed due to bad conditions.  Jeff and I briefly discussed not going, but the camper was loaded and hooked up, and J was already in his car seat.  He'd been so excited and helpful about going that, in the end, we couldn't let him down.  And, besides, it surely wouldn't rain all weekend.

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How could you say no to this face?
We drove a little over an hour to Cuivre River State Park, which was also the site of March's Quivering Quads half marathon.  Other than the race, I'd only been to the park once before, and it hadn't made a great impression.  It was the middle of July, ridiculously hot and humid, and other than a brief visit to the freakishly warm lake (which was populated by the most redneck of people ever), we spent the majority of the weekend in the respite of the air conditioned camper.

I'm glad we gave it another try.  It's a beautiful park with a very nice campground.  A very nice campground which, due to the rain that was indeed falling in the area, was only populated by a few other idiotic hardcore people like us.  And a cub scout group in tents.  Bet their adult company was loving life!

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Home sweet home
We only had a light rain as we set up, but it kept up all evening.  I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of rain pouring on the camper tent.  I knew already that the bike ride wasn't going to happen, but I tried to stay positive.  Sure enough, when I checked my email the next morning, the trails had indeed been closed.  I was ridiculously angry with the kids who had chanted for rain (if that doesn't make sense, read back a post).  And we had taken a weekend to camp. In the rain. For nothing.

Well...maybe not.

Jeff ended up getting up with J, and they hung out and watched a movie that morning (yeah, we're roughing it...but it was a 13" screen, if that makes you feel better :D), so I got to sleep in til 10:30.  We played numerous games of Skip-Bo Deluxe.

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No, he's not picking his nose.  More likely, he's about to give me the finger.  Bc I won.  Three times.  Not graciously. :)

J loved this game, despite the fact that we played it four or five times over the course of the weekend, and he didn't win once.  That's something, for my hyper-competitive child.

Unwilling to sit in the camper all day, rain or no rain, I convinced the boys to go for a hike.  "We'll jump over creeks!  It'll be fun!" Both were skeptical.  Every time another burst of raindrops pummelled the camper, I'd brightly reassure them, "It's not raining hard; that's just the water blowing off the trees!"  Eventually it occurred to me that we'd be subject to that same soaking as we hiked through the woods, so I shut up and hoped they wouldn't come to the same realization.

Desite my optimistic claims, J was so skeptical that we were about this close to beating him taking him back to the camper for a nap.  Eventually, however, he succumbed to my threats gentle reasoning and accepted his fate.  And his rain poncho.  Yes, poncho.  My husband is the boy scout to end all boy scouts.  He gave them the "be prepared" motto.  We have stuff for most any eventuality...including ponchos, in case it rains.  And in case he can convince his family to wear them. 

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Fashion orphans
I was sincerely regretting the wishful thinking that led me to leave my waterproof jacket at home.  You can see from the picture that J wasn't much happier than I was about the wardrobe requirements of this hike.  Normally, I'd just suck it up and get wet, but it was a cold rain.  I knew I'd regret it if it started pouring while we were hiking, and I further knew that my husband wasn't going to give up his poncho if I refused to wear one.  Plus, you know, who's going to see me wearing it? :)

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This picture cracks me up because it looks like some serious Photoshopping went on.
As resistant as he was to the whole idea of the hike, it took J all of about 2 minutes before he was cheerfully walking down the trail, noticing a creek in the distance, and talking up a storm.  Doing things with kids...much like running, if you can get through the rough going in the beginning, it's often much more enjoyable.

He was thrilled when we got to the first little creek crossing.

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It's a bird...it's a plane...
And it only got better from there.

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Yeah...jump over that puddle

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Don't want to get your feet wet!
The picture above cracks me up.  His feet were completely soaked, yet he was trying to pick his way across the rocks.
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Another awesome creek crossing
I had neglected to go to the bathroom before we'd left, and all these creek crossings were making me have to pee even worse.  It was then that I discovered an unexpected benefit to the hated poncho: it was like my own portable little bathroom.  No more climbing through poison ivy to get far off trail so that no one comes around a bend and sees your bare butt.  I could've been naked under that thing and no one would've known.
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You can see that the trails were in fantastic shape.
We hiked a two-mile loop in a constant drizzle and had a great time.  When we asked J what his favorite part of the weekend was, he listed the hike...and the games...and the being with his family...and the movies...yeah, pretty much all of it.  So while missing out on my bike ride was a big disappointment, the weekend overall was a joy.

And it didn't actually rain the entire time.  It stopped long enough for us to pack up the camper.

And then rained the whole way home.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Two-a-days, four-a-weeks, blonde moments, and monsoon season continues

Four-a-weeks: My marathon plan had me running 3 days a week. My 5k plan has me running four times a week. Go figure. Not being used to running two days in a row, I totally forgot about running last night and had to put in a quick two miles this morning. It was a beautiful morning to run...except for one little thing. Note to self: the words "just two miles" should never be followed by "SP I won't worry about wearing a good sports bra". I was uncomfortable from the first steps but didn't have time to go back and change.

Two-a-days: I picked J up from school Wednesday, but I had a little extra time, so I walked the mile to his school. I took his scooter so he could keep up with me while I ran back. After I carried it the whole way there, the little turkey barely rode it. We got about 2 blocks from our house, and he wanted to race. We raced scooter vs run for a while, then he decided to run, sticking me with the scooter. He kept calling time out when he got tired, so as we closed in on the house, I told him, "I'm not stopping again for anything!". As the words left my mouth, his scooter fell into two pieces. And I stopped. Beat again.

Later that evening, after sitting through two hours of Senior Awards Night, I hit the gym for my first speedwork workout in this month's 5k plan. The goal was 1 mi w/u, 3x800 @4:10 with 400 jogs, 1 mi c/d. Nailed it! I love those half mile intervals...the pain doesn't last so long. :) My actual pace--3:50, 3:44, 3:47. I had to pull back a little on that last one bc I was about to throw up. I have to say, it felt good to push like that and come through.

Speaking of speed...(blonde moment) , I keep reading about Run Less Run Faster. If you know me, you know this sounded great to me. Run less AND get faster?? SCORE! I ordered that book in a heartbeat. And then I read another blog about it and realized it was more a case of "you don't have to run as much, but you have to actually try run faster while you do it. No magic bullet, no magic book. Bummer.

Monsoon season continues: It has seemed like rain, rain, and more rain around here. That's made it darn near impossible to get my mountain bike out on the trails. And we've already established that I need lots of practice. Imagine my delight when a friend saw my musings about next Sunday's second race (a 3-hr endurance race that will doubtless kick my butt and embaress me...I can't wait :D) and offered to preride the course with me.

And then imagine my dismay when the weather report showed rain all week. Refusing to accept that grim forecast, I harnessed my super powers of positive thinking...and my first graders. I swear, these kids have some serious weather mojo on thir sides. Every time we've concentrated together and hoped for good weather, it's come through. All week long, I watched our area defy the weatherman and stay dry. This morning, we hoped together for good weekend weather one more time for good measure. Inexplicably, three of them started chanting for rain. What???

It was like that scene in Bedtime Stories. Adam Sandler has learned that the stories he tells with his niece and nephew come true. He has just successfully led them
Through imagining his workplace triumph when they add, "And then you were incineritated". And yes, it started raining on our way over here to camp. Chances are good that the trails will be closed tomorrow morning, that my "training" for the bike race will consist of nothing more than wishing I could ride, and that three of my first graders will spend their final two weeks in detention. :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Winner winner chicken dinner

The internet has been good to me this past year.  In blog giveaways, I've won
  • vegan brownies from Kovas
  • socks from Laima
  • an mp3 player from Tricia (good timing, but Neil is tired of hearing why :D)
I've also been given clipless bike pedals by Craig (haven't managed to get up the nerve yet, but I'll get there), and even before Amanda won Laima's 2Tom's Blister Shield giveaway, she took pity on my poor feet.

"Is that an angel?"
"No, it's Amanda."
All of this winning reminded me that I had yet to select a winner for my Running on Empty givewaway. 

Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America



So, random.org helped me out, and the winner is...


Robin, even though we live in the same town, send me your address and the company will send you a copy of the book.