Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's a Beautiful Day

On Sunday, our legs were fried from the run the day before. We had already committed to doing trail work on the mountain bike trails, but we figured it would take us a couple of hours and we contemplated maybe doing a little ride or swim after we were done.

I love it that people put up weird masks and trolls along the trails. I don't always see them when I'm riding, because I'm trying hard to make sure I don't hit a root or a rock.

We thought we'd be picking up sticks and lopping off a few limbs and cutting down dreaded sticker bushes, but what we found were a lot of downed trees and I wished I had a machete, instead of just loppers to clear up all of the brush on the trails.

 I love this part of the trail. It's all pine trees and I can pretend like I'm in Colorado instead of Iowa.

With all of the downed trees and extra work, the two hours we thought we'd work, turned into closer to 4 hours. By the time we finally finished, I was starving and sore and tired. I had a little migraine on and off all day. It had been 3 weeks and two days since I had had one, so I couldn't really complain, they just make me more tired than usual.

 John thought we should leave this tree down. He thought it would make a nice barrier and he was sure he could ride it. Uh huh. Sure...We cut it out of the trail.

After we finished, John and one of the other guys and I headed to Big Grove. I told you I was hungry. Of course, we couldn't eat all of the food we ordered, but we did have wonderful leftovers for  our work lunches on Monday.

So, the trails are cleaned-up and ready to ride...As soon as they dry up. Whenever that will be.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Look Around Your World, Pretty Baby. Is it Everything You Hoped It'd Be?

Our Friday team party was just fine. I had to get up and speak and that makes me nervous, but since I'm on the board, I have to just accept it.

The above is a photo of all the women on my team who showed up. We have junior riders in grade school and high school on up to masters riders who are 55 years old. It's a nice spectrum.

When we got back from the party, John and I started watching X-Files on Netflix streaming. I never got to watch it when it first came on because my daughters were young and too scared. It seems a little dated now, but it's still fun so far.

On Saturday I woke up and read my book for about an hour or so, and then John and I got ready to run. This is the 4th year we've signed up for the 25K mostly trail running race and also the 4th year that we did a pre-run together.

The route is really beautiful. It starts on a crushed limestone trail in Solon, Iowa and wends its way through some farmland, some gigantic lakeside estates and then heads to the spillway and wooded trails, before you take the not-so-picturesque few miles back on the highway.

A photo by the glow of my obnoxiously orange jacket.
 I was worried my feet issues from my Wednesday run would plague me, so we parked one of our cars a little bit further than the halfway point and the other car at the start/finish, in case I needed to quit early. John brought me the smaller pads for my feet and I tried them out that day. They actually worked really well. My feet didn't hurt too badly the entire run. Of course, they were pretty numb after I got them all wet crossing the spillway and then running down a windy highway in 40'ish degree temperatures...

In this race, the weather conditions are everything. The first time I did the race, I had been training all Winter in 20 degree temperatures and then, on the day of the race, it warmed up to almost 90 degrees in the middle of the race. I got heat stroke and severely dehydrated, and couldn't finish the race. Two years ago, we had about 6 inches of snow on the ground and it takes so much effort to pick your legs up in those conditions. Last year, it was a little ice and snow mixed in with tons of slippery mud. My fastest time for this was 3:04:11. So, my goal for this year is 3 hours or less. On Saturday, the conditions were pretty good. Temps in the 40's and only a little mud here and there. We finished our pre-run in 3:00:20. Only 20 seconds off of my goal time. Now, I just have to hope it doesn't , rain, hail, tornado or blizzard and I might have a shot of reaching my goal time.

 John and I both felt pretty good after the run. According to MapMyRun, we burnt 2500 calories and according to my scale, I lost 5 lbs (I'm sure that was all water/sweat weight). A good person would look at that and think they should refrain from eating much, in order to get their weight down and help their future times. John and I looked at those numbers and said, "Woohoo! Let's get Mexican, with a side of guacamole...And, wait. It's two-for-one margaritas?! Sign us up!" Yeah. We're probably not the best at sacrificing for our races...

So, I'd call our pre-run a big success. My feet didn't hurt much, we each only had one blister to show for it, I am almost at my goal time, and best of all, we had guilt-free Mexican food and margaritas.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Let Me Tell You 'Bout the Birds and the Bees and the Flowers and the Trees...

Me: John, there are two birds having sex right outside our window.

John: that's okay. They should be done in about 5 seconds.

Me: No. They've already done it TWICE in 5 seconds.

Friday, March 27, 2015

And Everybody Tells Me That It's Cool to be a Cat.

Nothing is more meditative during yoga than some fresh cat butt in your face.
 It's Friday again, and that means a heapin', helpin' of cats. Shudder, shudder.

Yesterday evening I took John and Stinky and her boyfriend out for a fancy dinner for no real reason. I love doing that from time to time - going out for something fancy in the middle of the week for no reason.
Archie is adorable when he sleeps...

 Tonight we have our racing team party at the Hilltop. It will be nice to meet the new members and see some of the other members who rarely race.

We don't have any races again this week, which is good because the weather is supposed to just stay cold and then maybe rain. We are going to try and ride mountain bikes and get in a longer trail run. On Sunday we're going to go out and help clean up the mountain bike trails in our area. That way, if they ever dry out, we can ride on them without crashing over logs and other crap.

...Except for when he's clearly dreaming about killing us while we sleep.
So, far, this is how I've spent my tax refund:

1. Registration for TOMROV - a back to back 100'ish mile bike ride along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois.

2. 3 books - Akhil Sharma's "Family Life", Lily King's "Euphoria" and  Joshua Ferris' "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour"

3. A fancy family dinner in the middle of the week for no real reason.

I'd say that's 3 for 3 on awesome expenditures.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Peace of Mind? Piece of Cake!

My current favorite room in my house.

Yesterday was about as close to perfect as a day that you have to go to work can be. I only worked until 1:30, so I had more time, just not the WHOLE day. I had a nice bike commute to work and back and then putzed around a bit when I first got home. Then I got ready to run a longer route. I had wanted to run over 10 miles, but my feet have been really killing me lately. I've been trying different placement of my metatasalgia pads and will keep working on that and hope I get it dialed in before the 25K part trail race on April 11th.

Anyway, beside the foot pain, I felt pretty strong during my run and I loved being outside and moving for an hour and a half. Playing outside is always my favorite thing.

Heidi rubbing her scent on my book. I guess no one else can read it now.
On most Wednesday evenings, John goes to his mom's house. I love that he is so good to his mom and I know it means a lot to her that he spends that time with her. It also works out well for me.As I've mentioned several times, I looooooove my alone time. So, last night, after my run, I had the whole house to myself...Except the cats, that is. I made popcorn for dinner, I watched a couple of cheesy House Hunters shows that John can't stand and then I went upstairs to my beloved reading room and read my book, covered in cats. It was such a nice balance of indoor and outdoor and activity and inactivity. The only thing that would have made it better, was if I had time to draw out that one part of my painting.

This morning I was looking out at our screened-in-porch, thinking about how nice it would be to get to hang out there today and reflecting on how happy I am up in my reading room, and it made me really wish I had more time to spend at home.This little homebody sure loves my 1950 cottage.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

'Cause Tramps Like Us. Baby We Were Born to Run.

This is what I looked like when I was 10 years old in 1975 when I started running.

In honor of my 40th year of running, I'm going to do some dork-ass posts related to my anniversary. This one will be called: How it all started.

For those of you who know me or have been reading my blog for years, are aware that my mom died when I was 10 and we moved from Arizona to a suburb on the South side of Chicago, and my abusive aunt and uncle became my legal guardians. Basically, I was in hell and didn't know what to do to make things better.

I  had never been exposed to sports. My parents were Beatnik artists types who weren't into structure and I went to one of those "Free to be You and Me" schools that didn't believe in competition. People in Chicago were INSANE about sports and I had no idea how to play any of the sports. They all revolved around teams and playing well with others and there was all of that attention that had to be paid. It wasn't my thing. When track season came along, we ran. Just ran. I didn't have to pay attention to anything or anyone, but what my body was doing. FINALLY! Something I could do, and liked and was actually good at. Running is one of the best things that have happened to me in my life. I am so lucky to have found it at such a young age.

I also did the high jump, which we didn't have big mats, so we did a scissors kick over it, into a pit of sand. The first time I got my picture taken in the local newspaper for a track meet, I was giving a HUGE beav shot, legs all spread apart with my scissor kick over the bar and my hair was frizzy and standing straight up. The caption read: "Not a picture of grace and coordination, but Churlita gets the job done." I'd say that's been pretty applicable my entire life.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I'm a Racing Car. Passing By LIke Lady Godiva.

So, remember how I told you that John got a new to him mountain bike? Well, we were finally able to take it out for a spin on Sunday afternoon.

Earlier in the morning, I was feeling exhausted. It could be that I overdid it a bit with such a long run and ride the day before, but there was a pressure system moving through and it could have been that I was getting a slight migraine. Either way, I decided to skip running and I fell asleep watching the professional bike race in Italy that was on John's computer (some would say that falling asleep while watching a long bike race was only natural).

I perked-up a little and we had lunch and both worked on our respective mountain bikes. I replaced my clipless pedals for flat ones. Some people wonder how I can constantly forget to clip-out, and other people who have met me and know how spacy I am, just wonder why I ever thought I could remember to clip-out.

Our local mountain biking trails were closed because they were too muddy and riding them messes with tree roots and the trails and who wants to basically sh*t all over their favorite place? Not this girl. So, we headed to Beverly Park in Cedar Rapids where there aren't so many roots and it's more open and tends to dry out more easily. Neither of us had ever been there before and it was awesome. It isn't as big or as technical or scary as the trails on Sugar Bottom, but they have a lot of fun things, like berms and skinny bridges with no rails that came close to scaring the poop out of me when I rode over them.

I also liked riding with my flat pedals. When I wore clipless pedals, I was so afraid I wouldn't clip-out when I was going up a steep hill or trying to go up on a rooted section, that I would just ride on the tops of my pedals which gave me no dig and on rougher sections, my feet would bounce off the pedals, so it was nice to wear the BMX style of pedals that have little metal things that rubber of my shoes cling onto, but if I need to put a foot down, I don't have to think about it. For now, I think I'll stick with them for mountain biking and even try them for CX and see how they work.

After about an hour and a half of playing, my legs were ready to pack it in. We headed home, showered, ordered a pizza and drank cocktails while watching "Beetlejuice". I could get used to days like these.

Monday, March 23, 2015

We Are Young but Getting Old Before Our Time.

Running isn't pretty...At least when I do it, it isn't.

 There weren't any races this weekend, so we had to make our own fun, and man, did we. We haven't been getting much done around the house, now that the weather has been better. Sometimes I feel badly about it, but usually I think, "If I died tomorrow, would I worry that my house wasn't clean or would I be sad that I didn't go out and play enough, while I had the chance?" Playing always wins. So, I'm sure that means I'll live to be one hundred years old in a filthy house. I can live with that.

I took 3 days off of working out last week. Not in a row, but that's a lot of time off for me. I'm glad I did, because I was a little crispy fried, and I came back on Saturday with a vengeance. I did a longer run and 50 mile bike ride to Kalona and back. It was a perfect day. I keep saying this, but I really do love my life these days. Since my girls are grown, I can do whatever I want (that I can afford and if it's legal...In general) and I am lucky enough to have found a partner who loves to play outside as much as I do.

Saturday morning, I ran a route I've been running since 1983, when I first moved to Iowa City. Of course, back then I lived downtown, so it was only 5 or 6 miles long, and now I live a lot further from it, so it has turned into a 9.2 mile route.

The last time I ran it was on February 21st. It killed me and I wasn't even going very fast. I must have just been out of shape from the Winter, but I did worry that maybe I was just old and it would always feel like that. Thank jeebus that wasn't the case. I ran it on Saturday and kept reminding myself to slow down, so I didn't kill myself like last time, but I kept just naturally "speeding" up and by the end of it, I was still just fine. I checked my stats from last time, and I averaged a half mile a minute faster than I did last time. I'm feeling a little better about running that 25K half trail run on April 11th. I just need to get some trail running in now...

John ran a 10.5 mile route, while I was running mine. We both decided to take 20 minute naps after we had grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch.  Then at around 2:30, we headed to Kalona on our bikes.

We stopped briefly in Hills to say hi to some of our friends who were doing a different social ride and then continued on. We always take this great route that brings us through Amish country on dirt roads, where we see more horse and buggies than cars. The dirt roads never have any real gravel on them, so we are easily able to ride our road bikes on them...That was,  until now. We got caught in super heavy gravel, and the sad thing about those roads, is that there aren't enough cars to make a smoother lane. I just had to get into an easier gear and ride it slowly and remember not to brake and hope that I didn't pinch flat on a rock.

We got to the Brew pub a few minutes late, because of the gravel and the fact that my gears are screwy and need to be worked on, and my chain went off the tracks and we could barely pull it out of where it was stuck. Our friend Burn was waiting for us. He drove there and brought his bike so he could eat and drink with us and then ride part way back with us and turn around and at least get a little ride in. We ate and had a couple of beers and rode back on the wide shoulder of the highway instead of the gravel and got home just as the streetlights were coming on. We rode 50 miles there and back. It was a great way to play.

Friday, March 20, 2015

It's Friday, I'm in Love.

Guacamole salad!

I thought I'd shake things up and just talk about what's going on in my life these days, besides racing and training.

When we were in Des Moines last Saturday, we got to have lunch with Coadster and her boyfriend. It was great to see them.

In books: I'm still reading the first book of the Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy. So far, it's really good. I can see why she won the Nobel Prize for it. It's a little spicier than I thought it would too. Bonus! Before that, I read Murakami's, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running". I really liked that as well. It was nice to read what another aging athlete is thinking and doing and a lot of what he wrote about training for triathlons, I could really relate to. I plan on reading James McBride's "The Good Lord Bird" next. It won the National Book Award and looks really interesting.

In viewing: We watched "The Very Best Marigold Hotel" last night and it was very sweet. I love escapism. We also started watching "Futurama" from the beginning this week. I have seen a couple of episodes but it was a while into the series and I had no idea what was going on. Now, it's starting to all make sense...Kind of.

In music: I've been listening to Neko Case on Pandora radio. A nice mix of folky, blue grassy, indie singers. This weekend I cleaned my living room and made dinner to The Los Lobos Greatest hits collection and Ricki Lee Jones' "Flying Cowboys".

In food: I've made BBQ shrimp kabobs on the grill with brown rice, tamari, butter and nutritional yeast, served with honey sriracha brussel sprouts, I also made a black bean quinoa enchilada bake with guacamole salad and tonight we're having fish tacos with guacamole, black beans and spicy slaw.

In playing: John just bought a used mountain bike - a dual suspension, 26'er and we plan to go play on trails this weekend.

Since it's Friday, I had to put up a cat photo. I believe this is a fast moving, Heidi tail ( a very rare species).

I think we have fixed the problem of Archie waking us up all night. John said we should just put him in the laundry room and shut that door. His litter box is in there and he can go upstairs to the reading room and sleep in several places, but we can't hear him meow. We did that on Tuesday night, and he hasn't bothered us while we slept since then. We'll see how long that lasts...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I Move in Water. Shore to Shore. Nothing's More.

Here is a piece I wrote on my blog in 2011 about what it feels like to get up early and swim laps in the Winter in honor of me swimming laps this morning for the first time in almost 2 weeks:

At first it feels like drudgery waking up that early and it is dreary and cold and your bed is so, very warm. It's still dark outside and snowing when you drive your car at six am and you wonder why this seemed like such a good idea the night before.

Now, you've done it. You've put yourself into a swimsuit in the middle of January - and you're Irish and pasty for god's sake! The worst part comes next. You stand with your toes just hanging over the edge and contemplate jumping. It seems impossible. You know? To willingly immerse yourself in cool water, but it's not like you can turn around and walk back to the locker room...Or can you?

That's it. You do it. You take that flying leap and suddenly you are chilly and wet, but you're moving. You decide it feels pretty good, after all. You're on your back now and your arms are cutting through the lane. Your goggles are tainted by drops of water and make all the lights above you look like they are surrounded by colorful halos. You are fluid and slick and even though you can't see yourself, you think this must be what real beauty is. It's not that perfect skin you don't have, or those perfectly proportioned features you can't imagine. It's just this - this feeling of weightlessness and strength and fluidity.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I'm Down With OTB. (Yeah, You Know Me)

Thanks to Darian Nagle-Gamm for the photo.

Two days in a weekend - two races...Or how one old lady learns her limits.

Thanks to Brittany McConnell for the photo.

 Sunday I was what is known as, OTB or Off the Back from about the start of the race. I actually wasn't even going to do the race. My legs were shot after the 10K running race the day before and then my asshole cat kept me up half the night. I'm not sure what the hell his problem is, but he's been really bad lately. He wakes us up, so we lock him out of our room, then he stands by our door and whines and meows. I was lucky if I even got 3 hours of very interrupted sleep. Ugh!

Anyway, this race starts and ends on a big, steep hill. The kind that is never kind to me. I rode it once on the preride and barely got up it. Granted, I know old ladies need to warm-up more than the younger kids, so my legs would probably work better after more riding, but we also need more recovery time in between races, and I didn't give myself much of that. So, when I was standing at the start, I told the official that I was going to bow-out. I said something to some of the other women, and one in particular talked me back into it. She told me not to worry about my results and since I already paid to enter, I might as well ride my bike on roads with no traffic and have fun. She was right, so I threw my helmet back into the race.

Oh holy hell, but it felt good to cross that finish line.
 It was no surprise that I was off the back almost immediately. That was okay. All the Cat 5 men came up behind me and I just kept riding and after the first lap, my legs felt a little better. I came upon my team member who is in high school and hasn't ridden her bike for a few months. I told her to get on my wheel and she could draft me until we got to a big hill and I might not be able to help her.

She hopped on and we kept on riding. We chicked a few of the Cat 5 guys and then we got to the sweeping downhill, immediately before the longer uphill. I'm not too bad with those types of hills, because I get a lot of momentum going down first. I thought she was right on my wheel and the Cat 1 and 2 men were coming up on us, to lap us. I scooted way over to the right, and tried to go faster up the hill to stay out of their way. After they passed and I looked back, my teammate was way behind me. I thought about waiting, but then I figured I better just keep riding. I didn't want to give myself a reason to quit the race. Just keep swimming....

The owner of Geoff's Bike and Ski was nice enough to provide the after race libations. Also thanks to Mauro Heck for the photo.

I got lapped by all the fields, but I finished the race and I'm glad I did it and I had a lot of fun on the back sections of the course where there were more rolling hills, and everyone is really nice to me, even when I'm sucking.

So, yesterday I ran 4.5 miles and then did a slow, social ride with my friends and for the next two days, I plan to take off of everything, except bike commuting to work and back. My poor legs need a break. I'll let you know how it all feels on Thursday.

Monday, March 16, 2015

I'd Love to Stick Around, But I'm Running Behind.

Apparently, I feel compelled to imitate every caution sign I come across...

This weekend was lovely, lovely loverly. Friday night I came home and John and I got to sit outside on the porch with cocktails and watch the birds and squirrels and bunnies that live in our backyard and enjoy the 70 degree temps. Ahhhh.

I made salmon, baked potatoes and steamed asparagus for dinner. Then we watched the move, "St Vincent". It was really good.

We got up at 5 am on Sunday to head to Des Moines for the Leprechaun Chase. It was a 10K where the women go off first and the men start 5 minutes later, so they're able to "catch" us. It was a lot of fun and everyone wore green which gave me another excuse to wear my BEER socks.

Before the race, John and I did a little warm-up run along the river and, as you can see, took super dorky photos.

We met our friends, another couple before the race. The guy in the couple had never raced before in his life. He was nervous, but we told him he had trained enough and his time would be faster than he had ever run in his life. Indeed, it was.

My goal was just to be able to run an average 9 and a half minute mile pace. I hadn't been able to come even close in any of my training runs. I didn't care about place, I just didn't want to injure myself and I wanted to have fun.

We took off and everyone went  so fast, that I never knew if I was sucking, or if Iwas doing okay but everyone else wass amazing. My Map My Run read out my first mile time as an 8.5 minute mile. Sweet! But I wanted to slow that down, because I didn't want to die at the end of the race. I was pretty consistently running 9 - 9.5 minute miles the rest of the race. My heart and lungs felt great throughout the race, but my legs were soooo sore from running that 12.8 mile a run a couple of days before. Help me remember, when I tell myself I'm not going to worry about how I do in my race and I'm just going to run it and have fun, I'm lying. I always care how I do in the race when I'm running it and afterward when I get my time and place.

I finished in 55.53 minutes.  A little under 9 minute miles. I was pretty happy with that. Especially since my lungs and heart were great and the next race I do, I promise to taper. I got 13th in my age group. Since I'm the oldest in my category and next year I'll be the youngest, I checked out the 50-54 year olds. I would have been 5th in that group. Something to look forward to next year. John got 2nd in his category. Nice work!

Friday, March 13, 2015

...With Two Cats in the Yard. Life Used to be So Hard...

This was taken when Archie was half the cat he is now.
Oh, kids. It's Friday and lovely out. It might even get to 70 dang degrees today. I am taking the day off of any exercise except bike commuting, because I have a running race tomorrow and a bike race the next day.

The plan tonight is for cocktails out on the porch with annoying cats harassing us. Kitty cocktails! I hope your Friday ends just as well.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Life Ain't a Track Meet (No). It's a Marathon.

Nice hair!

Since it's been so nice here this week, I thought I'd write about a great run I had yesterday, instead of one from a long time ago.

Lovely winding creek.

I got off work early yesterday to do a 12'ish mile run. I have a 25K part trail/part road race coming up in exactly a month, so I need to get some longer runs in before that. About 3 weeks ago, I tried to do a 9 mile run and I thought it was going to kill me. Because of that, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to finish a run this long either. Of course, 3 more weeks of training and giving myself the day off from running the day before this and I had no problem finishing it. Granted, I went very slowly...

I obviously stopped to take photos along the way and waved to all of the cyclists I saw riding past me. It was a perfect day for a run. about 60 degrees and sunny with a light wind and almost no humidity.

As I got closer to the Resevoir, I saw more people. I ran past the Frisbee golfers and luckily didn't get grazed by a bad throw this time around.

This thing, made me look bad. I didn't realize a runner could trip the speed thingy, but just so you know, I was going up hill and I was tired...Okay, the speed thing doesn't lie. I was really that slow.

 I made it to the Spillway, ate my salted caramel Gu, drank some water, took some photos and turned around to head home.

This would look so much better without all of that ice in the lake. Soon...

I had some problems with my metatarsalgia after about the 9th mile. It feels like I am running on razor blades just under my toes. John got me some pads for it and they really help and make it so I can actually run longer than 5 miles at a time now. It does flair up, and this time I think it was because I needed to put in new pads. I did that last night, so we'll see if that helps.

I finished my run in a little over 2 hours. I listened to some good music, saw some cool things and best of all, I was able to run the whole thing. Now, all I have to do is add 3 more miles and some really big, muddy hills and I'll be ready for my race in April...