Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Decision: Spring Run

You've got two options if you want run a marathon in Wisconsin: spring or fall. And if you'd spending your summer swimming and biking that means you do your marathon in the spring. Training starts now.

My friend Cathy, did
the half-marathon at
Rails to Trails. She also
was kind enough to do the
Running a marathon is no light venture, even if you do more walking than running--like me. I did the Rails to Trails marathon November 2009, on the Elroy-Sparta trail, a refurbished train track. The course was nearly flat. The setting was beautiful: wooded, a tunnel, a crispy day. I was mostly alone for long stretches. I felt good, kept to my goal pace, drank, snacked. But it was,... well, I was done in by the end. Couldn't find the spark to run more than a few dozen yards at a time during the last miles, I walked. Other walkers passed me. I walked some more.

Miles 20 to 26 took everything. I was tired. After the finish line I bent over and felt tears. I was done. I had nothing left. I'm slow, I averaged about 12:45 miles (that's about a 5:30 race) but even at that pace, there was nothing left in me.

That race included a hot meal. I ate it. I'm usually very-extremely reluctant to eat cooking other than my own - too much salt and dairy and sugar. That day my brain was empty with indecision, a sure sign of need of calories. I ate. Whatever they served I ate. I rested for an hour. And then I was fine.

My eyes now drift to the yard; it's got a foot or two of snow. The driveway is icy. The sky is grey -- greyness which can last for weeks between long nights -- it's not inviting. Hard to imagine the day in May when a marathon happens. Hard to imagine the hours of running in this weather to train. Hard to imagine 26.2 miles.

But to train up to it, now is the time to start. It's 16 weeks until a local half-marathon (Reedsburg VetFest). Twenty-three weeks until the close-by marathon I'm considering (Madison Marathon). So much can happen before May 29: injury, distraction, burn-out. And am I ready to commit to covering 26.2 miles, on foot, in under six hours?

There's a tri in June I'd like to do, and some open water swims to be ready for by mid-summer. Charity rides are all over by July and it takes time to get these legs hill-tolerant for biking. And I turn 50 this spring. A marathon may be a good way to celebrate. If I'm gonna do a marathon, now is the time.

Get out the Yak Traks, order a new pair of Brooks Glycerins, make an appointment to update my orthotics. I think it's time to start.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I fell in love again with this symphony. It's not like me. So I had to write.

Ralph Vaughan Williams' Tallis Fantasia surrounds the soul. The chord changes melt you like butter on toast. And just when you've latched on to a moment of fullness -- started to settle in -- the depth of strings dissolves into a single thread. Almost silence.

It's a feast, presented, served - then coaxed away. Offered again carefully to be tasted delicately, and finally craved "...as if increase of appetite had grown with what if fed on." The best is last: the peace is as precious as the harmony.

I'm not a musical person. I don't own an mp3. My radio pre-sets are on talk stations. But I love this symphony. It is dark days and quiet snowfalls, with bright gatherings and rich feasts.

This is a two-part version of the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Andrew Davis recorded in Gloucester Cathedral. Turn it up loud.
Part 1
Part 2

Here is an 18 minute version with Christiaan Crans and the Iu Ad Hoc Orchestra.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Hot Flush

A niacin flush? never heard of it. But now I certainly know how it feels.

After a hectic holiday week and missing most of my supplements, today I got back on track. Since I had missed days worth of vities, I added a mega-B vitamin -- a big capsule I don't usually take -- to my barebones regimen of multi, fish oil, calcium. Then prepared brekkies.

Halfway through my stirfry a painfully prickly rush blossomed from by neck to my cheeks and shoulders. It was not like that old friend, the hormonal hot flash. No sweat involved. More reminiscent of the beginnings of hives. A little nausea. I stepped outside into the 10-degree morning. I got nervous.

Exhibit 1

About 20 years ago I sat in a dentist chair inhaling nitrous oxide and moving from "I think I'm gonna pass out" to "I think I'm gonna die." This happened again a year later and a panic response was born. Next dental work, about eight years ago, I couldn't breath as I sat in the dental chair. They got out the oxygen mask. By the following crown (yep, childhood dentistry has been getting replaced over the years) I was fearful for days before the appointment and updated my will.

To reverse this response has taken the attention of a compassionate dental crew who were willing to collaborate on a plan (including minimal meds administered very slowly, and my husband sitting chairside to hold my hand.) I've had two dental procedures this year without panic; I won't say without anxiety.

Exhibit 2

In September, after a week of mega-cranberry and vitamin C supplements, I acknowledged that my UTI wasn't improving. I fearfully got a prescription. Another ten days of over-hydrating plus many bottles of cranberry later, I became desperate enough to take the nitrofurantoin. First, I called my mother-in-law. She's also very careful about what she puts in her body. She talked me down. But taking each pill for the entire week was an ordeal.

This is all to say, I get nervous about medications.

Today's flesh-burning feeling has subsided and is explained with a little googling. I now realize I've had vitamin B3 responses before. Yep, definitely a niacin flush -- purported by some web sites to be a healthy thing, but I don't believe it. I won't be going out of my way to have another.

Go to the section called "Toxicity" in Wikipedia for more info about a niacin flush.

You may find this study interesting: the affects of psychedelic drugs on religious experience used high doses of niacin for the placebo group because of its psychoactive qualities.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Three-bie Jeebies

Beware 3s. But enjoy BananaGram!
In one day: played Jumble, BananaGram, and Scrabble Slam.* In one week: replaced water heater, sump pump, and car's water pump. In one month: whacked knuckle, palm, and pinky. 

Something there is that does love a three:
  • Faith, hope, love
  • Body, mind, soul
  • Swim, swam, swum
  • I came, I saw, I conquered
  • Eat, drink, and be merry
  • Three stooges (if you don't count that new one)
  • Goldilocks and how many bears?
Thurber and me.
I've had two body parts removed (appendix and wisdom teeth). Two of our trio of apple trees are dead. I've slammed two bike helmets onto pavement (while wearing them). Two dogs ran after me last week. Our cat lost a leg and a tail. The power of threes has me--and my cat--worried.

I've eaten just two slices of Jim's glorious fresh bread and the day is young.

*Banana Split and Scrabble Slam are games akin to Scrabble. Scrabble has been a family favorite for decades, and at this year's Christmas gathering my sister brought these new games. Loved 'em.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How Much is Enough

Foggy camera
on a cold night
at the pool.
When you set a goal, then meet that goal, is it enough?

It's day twelve of my 14-day Wisconsin Water Warrior challenge. My goal?  38,750 yards (22 miles) - no where near last year's winning olympian swim of Melodee Nugent at 137,400 yards (78 miles). But better than my 2009 total of 31,715 (18 miles).

In the last twelve days I've done long swims and double-swims. Iced a shoulder now and then. Dealt with the mental challenge of repeated laps. Ate heeps of beets. Slept hard with wet hair and rose early for another plunge.

And now with three days of swimming ahead and only 3.5 miles to complete, the goal looks totally doable. So do I UP the challenge at this late date or revel in relaxed completion?

Can you tell
I was tired?
When do we say enough. (And, Melodee Nugent, how do you do it?!)

Wisconsin Water Warriors is a USMS-Wisconsin event that asks you to swim as far as you can in 14 consecutive days sometime in November or December 2010. http://www.swim-wimasters.org/

A little followup:
I got a really nice email from Melodee Nugent who said when she swam the Water Warriors challenge, she left home about 4:20 AM each day and spent about three hours at the pool. She likes her SwiMP3; one strategy for workouts was descending sets. After completing the two weeks she rested one day and was back at the pool for 5,500 yards. She's just 14 miles short of 1,000 miles for the year. Wow.

I finished my two weeks of swimming yesterday and decided to stick to my original goal of 22 miles even though that meant my last two days were unusually easy swims. I'll have room to grow next year, right?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

PR: Thanks

If you're a real runner and you read this, forgive me. I'm about to be thrilled about a barely sub-nine-minute pace.

I am a slow slogger, usually training at about a 10:15 pace, quick only at seeding myself in the rear of the pack at the start line. Today I ran the local Turkey Trot, a three-mile informal group run, and surprised myself.

The cold (28 degrees, 12-mph winds) and the early hour (8 AM on a holiday) didn't matter. There were 70 or more runners hopping, chatting, ready to run. I loved how informal it was: put something in the box for the food pantry and wait for the start. No numbers, no fees, no chips. A guy told us the route, thanked us for the food donations, and yelled "GO!"

The first mile of the course went from a subtle downhill to a flat and when I glimpsed my Garmin at about three-quarters of a mile I truly did a double-take. It said my pace was 8:27. I figured something was wrong with the GPS or that the downhill was really helping. My heartrate was where it should be so I kept the pace.

I passed a few people (younger than me, felt so good) and was waiting for runners to start passing me as the course went on. I decided I must have seeded myself in the right spot -- WAAAAY in the back -- 'cause no one did. (Well, no one except a skinny teenager in breezy shorts who added an extra mile or two to his route just for the fun of it. He passed me toward the finish. Informal route.)

Toward the middle of the second mile the route began a long, low climb that lasted almost a mile. The terrible climber that I am, I listened for footsteps of runners wanting to pass. But still, no one. I was working hard, no extra breath, focusing on my biggest muscles for the climb. My second mile came in at 9:16. For me, shockingly fast.

The last half of the third mile was the hardest, but that's as it should be, right? I was out of my comfort zone -- way out. But I was psyched! I did all I could to finish strong: third mile 9:13. Finish time: three miles 26:59. A personal record. Can I technically say I ran an eight-minute pace? Maybe not. But now I feel hope.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Big Breakfast

An orange at 5:30.
Just three days into the two-week distance-swim challenge put on by the US Masters Swimming-Wisconsin, and I'm caught off guard by my breakfast appetite. Morning laps was a 20-minute thing before yoga, easily handled by an orange before and a bowl of something after.

I've upped the time to an hour of laps each of these past three days; I'm a slow swimmer so that represents about 1.5 miles or 2,400 meters each day. The 60-calorie pre-swim orange isn't cutting it. With nine days to go I better get cooking. Now where are those beets?

(Last year's statewide Wisconsin Water Warriors results: http://www.swim-wimasters.org/2009+Water+Warriors+Results.pdf)

Calories Burned Calculator
Estimate the calories you burned swimming:

If this calculator is giving you trouble, try: http://www.everydayhealth.com/calories-burned-swimming.htm

Swimming can help with cardiovascular disease prevention.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hunting Miles

Can't ride it, so clean it.
Opening day of deer hunting season and the outdoors belongs the blaze team. I see orange spots in the grey horizon; I wince when I hear a shot and leave the bike at home.

But I still need 23 miles to get my November 100 outdoor bike miles.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I couldn't find a
photo of a mean
black lab, but
this guy looks
like he just took
a bite out of
Ever used pepper spray on a critter? 

A week ago I was knocked down by a big black lab. I was laboring (I'd call it running, but I'm more realistic) up a hill. Such an easy target. The bruise on my butt is witness to either teeth or claws. In the movie-moment of getting hit--or attacked?--I was aware only of something sharp and my own scream. I toppled like the statue of Saddam Hussein: straight body, landing hard on my crooked arms. Thought I broke an elbow. From me, as I lay on my back on the cold asphalt, "give me a minute, give me a minute." From the dog owner, "oh my god, oh-my-god, are you ok?" and "bad dog."
This run is in Baraboo,
Wisconsin on December 4, 2010.
See you there.

Well, I'm fine. Just a rainbow bruise on the butt  (only a few girls at the pool got to see the psychedelic buttocks) and a scratched up elbow (amazing what ice can do). And since then the dog owner--really a very kind person and a former mail delivery person who's bane has been out-of-control dogs--gave me a bottle of pepper spray with instructions to use it on her dog if needed.

I ran a different route this week.

Strangely, I've just designed a poster for a Sauk County Humane Society fundraiser run. Dogs and running--sometimes things just collide.