Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday run

10 miles with college friend J., who is running her first half-marathon in April...

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I am going to do another open-water swim race in September - the Governors Island swim. This is because I realize that for the Little Red Lighthouse swim later that month I will need a qualifying event - I really do not want to have to do a certified pool swim of 3 miles (4950 yards), in fact I think it would be logistically challenging even to arrange for it to be administered!

[ED. Ugh, I will need to do a pool certification for THIS one, too! Swim escalation!]

Saturday swim

Very enjoyable swim this morning - I now feel that my swimming is back to normal, such as it is! I was very tired this morning, it was a long week, but swimming was revivifying, including a nice brunch afterwards with a bunch of teammates.

1/2 hr. pilates exercises led by Coach Conrad first


Warmup: 200 free, 200 IM kick (there was then a freestyle pull bit, but we were out of time)

I missed a bunch of the first set, because I was going to get a couple of pull buoys and then there were lane congestion issues that meant that though I was not fatigued, it was more sensible to skip a 50 here and there than contribute to further snarling-up. Set was 6 x 150 pull on an interval I can't remember (3:20, maybe?) - I might have only done 600 pull total.

4 x 50 backstroke pull on 1:20 (I love that, it makes my backstroke feel GREAT to do it with a pull buoy - I could feel the benefits afterwards in terms of increased body rotation and powering from hips/core)

4 x 50 breast (I can't remember the intervals here at all - in fact there might have been another short bit in here that I'm forgetting)

8 x 25 hard stroke down, 25 easy free back: first four fly, second four back

4 x 50 choice on 1:10 (I did evens back odds free)

2000 yards total

Friday, March 27, 2009

Brief Friday exercise

Time is short! But I am glad I got out there (must now get a move on and get ready for the all-day conference that will keep me tied up from 10am till 10pm [no evening lane swim hours for me this week, ugh!]).

2 miles run (1 mile easy, 3/4 mile HARD, cooldown) plus 3 x 15 pushups

It is gradually dawning on me that a 2-3 mile run that's mostly hard effort really is the most economical way, time-wise, of having the higher-intensity cardio component that's so essential for both fitness and body composition efforts. I am really missing my workouts with M., but the finances suggest that there will be no more of those in the foreseeable future, so I must start doing some strength training again on my own - I find my concentration for it lapses after 30 or 40 minutes, but I have a few weights at home, I can do an hour-long workout that includes 20 minutes of hardish running and 40 of miscellaneous exercises. Will get the area set up for this over the weekend, I think.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday core/swim

1 hr. "core sculpt," then TNYA practice. The first class started and finished late, and it was pretty much ten past by the time I was standing on deck looking down with trepidation at the lane swimmers and thinking that really I did not want to be swimming at all!

It was not at all bad, though - I could tell as soon as I got in the water that my "feel" is finally pretty much back to normal.

(I am keenly aware of the usual technique issues, and definitely still slower than I was a month ago, but I had a pretty nice swim, not like the rather awful one I had the other day. It is partly the question of lane appropriateness - on speed, I was the middle swimmer out of five - 2 rather faster - 2 mostly rather slower - this is better than my slow finlessness left me feeling the other day!))

I missed the whole warmup, and was getting in just as they got started a set of 3 x 300 free, so I did most of that as a warmup with some bits of rest when the front fellow caught up to me on the first and second bits - 200, 250, 300

Then a set I HUGELY enjoyed:

3 x (150 IM no free - i.e. 50 fly, 50 back, 50 breast - on 3:40, then ditto but broken on 3:20 with sub-intervals for the 50s of - can't remember this exactly! - 1:05, 1:05, 1:10?), :30 set rest

(We had a bit more rest than that waiting for last swimmers to finish, but it is really a good set and I can just about swim that speed.)

Then 8 x 50 as four non-free on 1:10 (I did 2 breast, 2 back) and 4 free on 1:00

2050 yards total

NB I continue to believe that this "core sculpt" pilates-based class is the most beneficial possible cross-training for preventing running injuries, I categorize it as "strength" in the training log but there's a stretch component also, and yet I really do not like it one bit, it is a sinkhole of negative thoughts for me! Must get myself into a better frame of mind about it...


An interesting post by Matt Fitzgerald on the Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday run

Only time for a short run (in fact I must not blog copiously, I need to get cleaned up and get myself out of here in the very immediate future!), but I am trying to get out of the endurance mindset where it's not worth getting out for anything else than 6 miles/an hour!

So: 4 miles, 2 easy out and then some harder effort stretches on the way back. A beautiful day for a run - fifty degrees, sunny, not too much wind - brisk as you stand there on your way heading out waiting for a light to change, but very lovely as soon as you get going...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesday core/swim

Ugh, it only can be described as a workout where I needed a slow lane from the slow lane!

Quick assessment post-truncated warmup was that I was not going to be able to keep up with the guys in my usual lane (1:30 for the 75s of swim-kick-swim - it has been skewing FAST recently, not just because I am swimming slowly - population question...), and I switched into the slow lane.

Often there is not a real workout going on there, which makes it not suitable, but today there were four people all swimming the workout - only to my chagrin I soon realized that everyone was wearing fins except for me, so that though Coach Conrad told me to go to the front, I had to skulk at the back instead, and lose ever more ground during the copious kick bits where fins make a peculiarly evil difference!

I honestly can no longer remember exactly what we did - I was a length behind much of the time and wouldn't hear the next bit or intervals and would just be sort of horribly scrambling to keep up in some minimal sense - I am still swimming much worse than usual, it is not fitness, it is feel!

(I will swim the Thursday and Saturday TNYA workouts, but work obligations are incompatible with evening pool hours on Wednesday and Friday, which is a pity as an easy swim on my own with a lot of drills would be suiting me better right now!)

200 free warmup (truncated)

8 x 75 (2 of each stroke, IM order, as swim-kick-swim)

4 x 75 free (swim-kick-swim by 25)

4 x 150 free (swim-kick-swim by 50) (I missed 2 50s)

4 x 100 free on 2:00

5 x 50 free on 1:10 (hodgepodge!)

2250 yards total

Beforehand, "core sculpt" - core muscles quite sore from Sunday's workshop!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday run

6 miles easy. Slow but very nice indeed - I am relieved to say I still CAN run, that is good...

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Multi-hour "pilates for swimmers" workshop: talk and breaks a bit high in proportion to exercise, but very good, only I am (for once) too tired to write it up!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Polar swimming

At the FT, a nice piece by Margaret McCartney on polar swimming (site registration required). Here's an interesting bit:
In a paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2001 researchers reported on eight experienced Russian open-water swimmers taking part in a relay in Finland. The water temperature was below 11°C and after they had swum they entered a sauna to warm themselves. The swimmers decided how long they would swim for and when they felt they should stop. The researchers found that the participants were able to judge safely when it was time to return to the boat.

There is even good news for the more curvaceous among us. The studies are small, admittedly, but it appears that the more fat one has, the more insulated one is against the effects of cold water. I suspect, though, that the polar swimmer Lewis Pugh would not be impressed. Pugh, who was profiled in The Lancet in 2005, has trained in water cooled to 2°C in preparation for Arctic and Antarctic swims. The result is that he has apparently developed additional physiological resistance to extreme cold. While there is data on how wetsuits and swimsuits can help to protect one from the moderate cold, Pugh swims in nothing more than a pair of trunks.

JMD = 1; bicycle = 1

I was hoping to recount a resounding victory over my fear of the bicycle, but in fact I will have to call today's battle a draw. UGH! An honorable one, though, I think...

(Usually I prefer to have my psychodramas in PRIVATE rather than all over the internet, but in this case it seems to me it might be worthwhile chronicling - could be mildly useful for someone in a similar or related boat - also it will certainly make me feel much better to write a copious narrative!)

Longtime readers of this blog will already know that I basically have had what amounts to a phobia rather than ordinary anxiety about riding my bike. The backdrop, aside from the fact that NYC is a stressful place to ride a bike - that I had not ridden a bike since childhood - that I am just an anxious kind of person with no driver's license and no feel for traffic and no sense of direction - that I followed an ill-advised recommendation to use Look pedals and the cleat anxieties thoroughly exacerbated the regular ones - is a complicated one.

I guess, looking back, I'd say that three factors very unfortunately converged in my life during the winter of 2006-2007 to produce a perfect storm of anxiety disorderishness: (1) not being able to run for 3-4 months due to a stress fracture of the pelvic bone following my overenthusiastic initial embrace of distance running, with all the anxiety of injury and recovery; (2) the first deadline for submission of my tenure materials (the tenure case itself, from start to finish, basically took about a year and a half and is the main factor here, with all its attendant SERIOUS anxieties about life and work); (3) the violent death of my friend Helen.

So there I was in the summer of 2007 with an utter but as yet aspirational devotion to triathlon, a brand new bike and an unconquerable fear of riding it!

There have been ups and downs since then, but I put the bike aside after the New York City Triathlon last summer because it had become clear to me that I needed to deal with the underlying anxiety before there was any point worrying about the bike.

(Shortly before that I had taken a very sensible step and replaced the Look pedals with SPD pedals - there's a cleat on one side, and the shoes are much easier to clip in and out than the other ones, but the other side of the pedal is for regular shoes, and the whole system is much better suited to my needs.)

The weekend of riding I did last summer with the New York Cycle Club was most informative, not least because I learned about the club's C-SIG series, an 8-10-week training course they do every spring for novice riders.

I meant to have done some riding to get ready for it, but then I was in Antarctica, and of course I have this aversion to riding my bicycle in any case: the anxiety situation is thoroughly dispelled in my real life - as of about October of this fall I was feeling much more myself - but I was still in terror of bike-riding...

I spent a lot of hours last night trying to talk myself into the notion that I really shouldn't do the class this spring - too many other obligations - not ready - etc. etc. only of course it was awfully and horrifyingly clear to me that I had to do it, it would be an utter cop-out to skip out on it now - unlike running and swimming, cycling-related help is very thin on the ground, there are few organized structures the real novice can opt in on, so I could not afford to miss it.

Woke up again at 5am and proceeded to have several more hours of thoroughgoing attempts to cop out followed by queasy resolutions - I was genuinely afraid I was going to throw up, I was so nervous!

Finally I made a series of accommodations with myself that seemed fair enough. Really I knew I should ride over on STREETS, but I rode over through Riverside Park and then along the sidewalk of 84th St.; and I gave myself an out that if, after the indoor morning part of the workshop, I really could not face the group ride, I would bow out.

Well, the morning sessions were sort of soothingly dull in a useful way, and I explained myself to my fellow group members and confessed my anxiety in a misleadingly articulate way, and then we headed out for the group ride.

Here's where the draw part of it comes in.


We were heading from 84th and Columbus as a largish group (17-20?), first along 85th and then up Riverside Drive. There is something comforting in a large group, because it is obvious that cars have to take notice, but it's also impossible to get everyone through the lights together. And in fact I had a minor meltdown at 96th and Riverside, at which point I decided in consultation with the back-of-the-group leader that I was going to be better off dropping out for today.

So: I now have a clearer sense of what the problem is.

It is not riding the bike per se - now that I'm better sorted out in life in general, that seems fine, though I am sure I will always feel cautious and mildly terrified on downhills (just the kind of person I am).

It is the riding in traffic that I have a complete block on - and to confirm this, I will note (I did not mention it at the time!) that the only utter freakout I have had in the last six months (as opposed to feeling in constant every-minute utter-state-of-emergency for pretty much every hour of every day, including the ones where I was supposedly sleeping, for the 18 months before that!) was during an evening run in Grand Cayman. The last couple miles were after dark and on a shoulder with traffic coming from behind, and though it was in no realistic sense at all dangerous, I was in the fight-or-flight mode like you would not believe; by the end of it I was so discombobulated that I basically couldn't even cross at the street light when there were no cars in sight, I was paralyzed in front of the walk signal! And THAT was when I was on my own two feet...

SO though my intentions were very good, and though I screwed up my resolution to the sticking point, in fact after about 4-5 intersection stops and starts I was in such a state that I did not honestly think it safe to continue - the group leader and I were in agreement, it would have been fine if we were very near to New Jersey but in fact it was still 3-4 more miles of city biking and then the GW Bridge which is a harrowing feat in its own right. I was paralyzed at the intersection, I couldn't cross during the red when it was clear and everyone else passed me and then I couldn't seem to get started even when it was green...

The draw comes in by the fact that I went into the park (entrance right there) to ride the last mile home, but realized immediately that I was calmer once I was off the street and that I should do a ride on the Hudson bike path since I was actually out there. So I had a very nice ride (it was entirely enjoyable) down to Chambers St. and back - call it 15 miles. First ride I have had since July, so it is a step forward, at least...

I don't know quite what to do about this traffic business. There may be a really-the-most-beginners C-SIG group I can ride with (I got put in one of the middle ones - I did ask for the most beginner one, but my speeds suggest I should be with faster ones...). It may be that I need to do more acclimation on my own first - I'm kind of leaning this way, because in fact the problem with this riding structure is that it will ALWAYS involve a stop-and-go large group ride to the bridge which is exactly what I am least equipped to do - I will e-mail with the ride leaders this week and see what they think. I guess I probably have to try it again next week, but I may have to call it off after that, I am not sure it is going to work for me this year.

But though true cyclists will find this PITIFUL, I can definitely also work for now with what I've got. I think I must ban myself from the indoor trainer, because it is too much of a crutch. I have a very nice 15-mile round-trip bike path right at my doorstep; I should ride that often to continue working on the basic bike-riding fears. It is CRAZY, but I could just ride up and down there for longer rides (or go all the way up the west side path).

I can go at times when the streets are not busy - or ride on the sidewalk if I really cannot face particular stretches of street - and find quiet times to do multiples of the 6-mile loop in Central Park (or just do the little top loop for a hill workout).

I can do gym biking or a long trainer ride if I must.

The ridiculous thing is that I am doing the Florida half-iron triathlon in EIGHT WEEKS! I am going to be very undertrained for it again, but it is invaluable experience for me, it does not matter if I go very slowly.

Last year my only goal was to finish, and I did, though in an extremely slow time (I walked the whole run course because I was so hot and stressed out by that point - it was in the mid-90s and humid, it is not a good situation for me!). I would like to take a little time off each leg this year - I am sure I can do the swim faster and better (I never got into a groove, it was too crowded and I was very nervous about it being my first triathlon and the awful bicycle ride awaiting me afterwards), and whether or not I do the bike leg faster I can set the goal of doing it with more calmness and confidence and better hydration. I have a much better idea now of what the run will entail under those circumstances - I will set out at the slowest possible pace to begin with and see if I can jog 12-minute miles instead of walking 15-minute ones (though the fact is the 15-minute walk mile is much better bang for the buck! But let us see if I can get the run leg under 3 hours, that is a good goal...)

So there is your SCREED for the day...

15 bike miles (plus 2 each way to the workshop - I am going to cheat and call it 20 on my training log to give myself a MINOR morale boost on what has certainly been an EXHAUSTING DAY THUS FAR!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday swim

Slightly bowed down by demands of reentry into normal life! Day started off productively, then devolved into long nap and post-nap grogginess - I am still having self-reproach at not having gotten out for a run, but the combination of tiredness, inertia from not having run for many a day and continued mal de debarquement (tell me it is not going to take months or years to wear off!) meant I let the daylight hours run away from me...

Just had a quiet evening swim - I should have stayed in longer, I had the lane almost entirely to myself! But had not yet eaten, and was feeling distinctly underfueled. And lazy!

A good bit of drill work, and by the end I felt much more in command of my swimming again...

Along these lines, cannot now entirely remember (all VERY slow and loungey, but mindful!):

200 free
100 back
100 free
100 breast
100 free
100 flutter kick with board
100 back
3 x (2 x 50 drill-swim free) (fist; front scull; thumbs-and-salute)
50 back
50 free

1200 yards total

Thursday, March 19, 2009


(in fact taken by me, despite earlier protestations - and everyone was asked to put "best of trip" photos onto a computer on the ship, and we were each issued a disk, so I may pillage that for a few really striking shots of ice and wildlife that are more than I can manage - we certainly saw the most amazing things!)

The glacier on the run course - not, in fact, the most physically challenging part of the course, but the most mentally daunting, I think...

Post-race touring was significantly less stressful...

Thursday swim practice

Ah, I am back in the land of regular workouts and copious blogging!

I dithered about whether to go to swim practice, and got there a bit late (I forgot that the women's pool locker room is being renovated, it led to minor complication), but I was very glad I went - it was a very enjoyable swim - but also there was a sign up announcing that the pool would close at 8 this evening, so I would have been thwarted if I had gone later for a quiet one on my own. Slightly restricted hours over the weekend, as it is the end of spring break.

I missed pretty much the whole warm-up, and then found myself (though in my usual lane) swimming with 3 guys who range from somewhat to considerably faster than I, so I had to leave out a lot of 50s along the way! But it was just fine - there is no slower lane doing the real workout, so that is the way it has to be. Interestingly I find it is the technique that really suffers from a couple weeks out of the pool, not so much the fitness - I have been very worried about lost fitness (usually this couple weeks of relative downtime would not so much trouble me, only the couple weeks before I left were also fairly scanty on the exercise count), but really it should be OK. Coach gave me a good tip re: overly straight left arm without much of a catch - I skipped some 50s in aid of really paying attention to technique, and it definitely got better. I will do some drill bits on my own over the weekend to try and get back into the right feel for things.

So: (my modifications will make this look fairly pitiful! But I really did enjoy myself, which is perhaps the more important thing...) the notion was recovery IM bits in between distance freestyle sets.

50 warmup

8 x 25 IM order (2 times through) on :40

2 x 300 free on 5:00 (I did 2 x 250 - I skip the second-to-last 50 to let the faster folks overtake for their last 50)

8 x 25 IM order on :40

3 x 200 pull on 3:35 (I just did 1 x 150 and 2 x 100 for these - this was where the coach gave me the advice)

8 x 25 IM order on :40

3 x 100 descending on 2:00, 1:50, 1:40

50 easy

2 x 50 hypoxic (4 breaths - this I can manage - I should try it with only three, though, as that is more of a challenge) on 1:30

That is only 1950, much shorter than a usual workout (I lost too much time at the start), but it was perhaps suitable for easing me back in!

Hmmm, I need a long musing on the next couple months of training plan, but I think I will be well advised to eat some dinner first before digging in for a really copious post!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A morning Zodiac cruise in Foyn Harbour (not my video, but it was very much like that!) of such devastating and overwhelming beauty that I was (a) contemplating the fact of my usual preference (confirmed) for the thousand words over the picture and thinking that really there is nothing I can do with my little camera that is not rendered obsolete by better photographs taken by others because (b) the real thing is that it is almost impossible to imagine the sublimity of this physical environment! If Wordsworth had been resident on a whaling ship, but not had to look at the bloody business of whaling itself and only at the land and sea and animals. . .

We spent most of our time watching a pair of humpback whales, mother and calf, from an unbelievably close distance. They are creatures of extraordinary beauty and grace – charismatic megafauna! – quite lovely. And looking very closely at some ice – the zodiac pilot was an ice enthusiast, and talked with magical enthusiasm of bubble rills and crevasses.

A penitential barbecue for lunch on the open deck (it was snowing and hailing!) of the other ship (race participants divided among two ships) – we were all skulking in our lifejackets along the side deck well before anyone was really quite willing to take us back – it was very good to come back from the Ioffe to the Vavilov and hole up in the upstairs bar/observation lounge and watch as our ship moved through Wilhelmina Bay.

There is a color of ice so pale and chemical a blue that it is hard to believe it exists in nature. It is the best color, like a Windex meringue of the palest and most delicious hue...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday, March 11

6:30pm – Deception Island

Insane seal action on the beach (a huge leopard seal with the distinctive roaring jaw – hordes of other seals, and a lone penguin or two – skuas!), then the best plunge of one’s life – ANTARCTIC SWIMMING! It is pretty much as cold as it looks – not as cold as the hard-core polar-bear-clubbers, but air temps in the upper 30s and water temps though slightly volcanically warmed still pretty much the coldest I’ve ever taken a dip in – and I was always as a kid the person who was willing to swim even when everyone else deemed it unacceptably cold (these figures and seals were really barely twenty feet down the beach from where we were taking the plunge)...

Best swim of 2009 thus far! I did 2 full stroke cycles, I was determined to REALLY feel that I had swum in Antarctica!

(Pictures courtesy of Brent!)

Wednesday, March 11

9am – Half Moon Island

I am a terrible photographer – not skilled, not interested – so I will leave the close-up animal pictures to others. Suffice it to say – SEEING PENGUINS AND SEALS IN THEIR NATURAL HABITAT IS EXTRAORDINARILY EXCITING! Sort of like nothing else on earth...

When I first told her I was going to Antarctica, my friend Colleen asked whether I could possibly bring back a penguin feather for her little boy’s feather collection. In fact, the Antarctic Treaty strictly requires that visitors bring nothing to Antarctica and take nothing away with them, so the only feathers I could bring him back were virtual:

Tuesday, March 10


It was a most magical day, I must say. We crossed over in the Zodiacs – complex routine of donning waterproof outergear and rubber boots, elaborate safety measures which I am too lazy to reproduce for you here. Having been sick for the previous week and a half, I had significantly lowered my expectations – I had earlier thought of a 5:40-5:45 best-case-scenario finish time with full awareness that 6:00+ would be more likely (the race organizers suggested adding an hour or an hour and a half to one’s best marathon time for a ballpark figure, but it is an exceptionally demanding course, and really not much like anything I regularly train on). For me, this is a very good thing, as the factor most likely to spoil my enjoyment of otherwise highly satisfactory races is my own unreasonably stringent and self-critical standards. My only goal now was to finish with a smile on my face, as they say (it is a cliché, but it seems to me fairly apt, there is no better way of putting it that has yet occurred to me).

It is a 13.1-mile course, with two out-and-back bits (the first turnaround is at the glacier, the second at the Chinese base) and then you do the whole thing over again; they had a 3:20 limit for completing the first half, and a 7:00 limit for the full. I felt confident I could complete the course within those limits, and was no longer concerned with any thoughts of trying to go sub-6:00 (it soon became clear that due to the difficulty of the course this would be highly unlikely to happen in any case).

[I'm going to get some more pages off a CD we were given, with course map and elevation profiles, but don't have 'em here to hand...]

The landscape on King George Island is at once very beautiful and quite bleak in a bulldozed sort of way. The bases are mostly ugly prefab blocks scattered randomly through different areas, with just a few incongruously more attractive buildings here and there (most strikingly, the Russian church). It makes sense that this range of islands is called the South Shetlands – after some initial rock-clambering from the beach landing up to the start-finish site, I was strongly thinking that my Scottish rock-clambering heritage was going to be useful...

Beautiful day – there were some patches of windiness here and there, and the spot where we left our gear was quite exposed, but it was sunny almost all day and in the mid-thirties – indeed, I felt quite overheated around mile 5 and had to adjust gear. It had been decided that the two ships on which we traveled would start at two different locations, due to Zodiac landing issues, so there were probably less than a hundred of us starting at this particular spot.

List format will now be appropriate (read one race report, read ‘em all – I like ‘em, but I do not think it is an especially flexible genre):

1. Kendal Mint Cake and Sport Beans! Around mile 15 or so, Brent noticed that my attention was wandering and asked whether my caloric intake had been suitable – clearly it had NOT – I pounded mint cake and magic beans with near-miraculous effect, about two miles later I was absurdly sugar-cheerful again. JMD: “I feel pretty good now.” BB: “When you feel pretty good, that means it’s time to keep on eating and drinking.” It was educational as far as my endurance sport aspirations go, and I cannot but feel that this is a significant weakness of mine – I have spent an entire lifetime working on the assumption that one should ignore how awful one feels and plough forward with the job at hand!

2. Race of exceptional cheerfulness. Much runnerly camaraderie – I was in a blissfully cheerful mood for about 95% of the time. (The other 5% was just the slightly abstracted and unfocused pre-bonk state that Brent caught in good time and that I will self-monitor for more carefully in future.)

3. We had to provide all our own water and calories – we had ours stashed at the start-finish, and I always had a near-full bottle in my Camelback belt/bottle set-up. At the far turnaround, near the Chinese base, the base staff had set up a most lovely refreshment station – I have never had such a blissful cup of Coca-Cola in my life, handed to me by a delighted and delightful Chinese fellow who had run the half-marathon course first and then manned the station for the second half of the race. Brent also partook of cola – third musketeer J.K. had a beer!

(4. Really I am the third musketeer, since Brent and J.K. – also known as the Antarctic Instigator - have been friends since he was Brent’s professor at M.B.A. school in 1993.)

5. I had four bottles of water and one of Gatorade. Brent had eight bottles of Gatorade (very sensible too!). The race directors recommended bringing three bottles, with some advice about drop points, but I cannot imagine anyone other than a very fast runner indeed making it through on such a small quantity of fluids...

6. It was a most glorious day!

7. The glacier came quite early in our first loop, after a challenging sequence of rocks and then mud flats of quite extraordinary squelchiness and engulfing properties. The stretch of the course that was actually on the glacier had been significantly shortened this year in comparison to previous years, due to mudslides and other such-like developments (not sure about numbers, but let’s say just 300m up and 300m back down instead of 1K each way?). We had been told the night before that we might not need our YakTrax after all; I heeded this advice, and could not then really mentally readjust to the minutes-pre-start-line advice that we might want ‘em after all. I can only say that it was VERY slippery, and that the downhill was almost as bad as riding a bicycle over a bridge – I picked up the YakTrax at mile 13.1 and buckled ‘em around my belt for the second time round, only in fact by that time it had become warm enough that the surface was slushy rather than slick, and I did not put ‘em on...

8. Partly I did not put them on because by this point my shoes had become extraordinarily muddy! We were crossing one of the numerous mud-flat stretches, shortly before the second glacier ascent, and I was absurdly buoyant of spirits – I asked Brent if he had ever heard the Hippopotamus Song, he said he had not, and so I sang it for him (it is a very delightful song here is a link):

MUD! Mud! Glorious mud!
There’s nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.
So follow me, follow
Down to the hollow
And there let us wallow
In glorious mud!

A minute later my right shoe was actually SUCKED OFF MY FOOT (it is the fault of my lazy heel-striking tendencies!) into the quicksand – fortunately I was wearing my waterproof socks, so when my shoeless foot plunged ankle-deep into squelchy mud I was not as appalled as I might have been otherwise...

9. Brent and I ran the first loop together, though I am afraid I was rather holding him back (lungs not up to snuff, plus it really is a very difficult course – best preparation would be extensive trail-running on very uneven surfaces and with lots of very steep hills) – he was willing to trade speed for company, though, and it was quite lovely. J.K. had to get daughter T. through the half-marathon first (I suppose we finished our first half around 2:48, and they theirs fairly close to the 3:20 cut-off - 3:10 - she was the youngest finisher!) but caught up with us as he did the second out and we did the second back of the glacier loop. These were the miles where I became very slow due to fueling issues – but I perked up around the area of the Russian base and thereafter we did a steady ground-covering mix of jogging and walking (walk the uphills, jog the flats and downhills, walk anything really unorthodox of which there is a GREAT DEAL – probably only a few miles of the course are even such a thing as muddy non-paved road, a lot of it is pretty rocky or mud-and-rock combo or just extremely steep grade). (Elevation file TK...)

10. There was significant camaraderie and elation! We walked the last few miles without any admixture of running, due to a toenail situation Brent was experiencing which subsequently produced pictures of wonderful gruesomeness (I will link when he posts this bit!).

11. Finish time: 6:19:19. (J.K. was wise to keep his sunglasses on - Brent and I both look rather the worse for wear?!?)

12. A distant penguin was spotted on the course! Click for a closer view.

Monday, March 9

Educational seal lecture. Pre-race gear pondering of unusual (indeed, almost triathlon-related) complexity...

Sunday, March 8

Whale viewing! No pictures...

Easy crossing of Drake Passage. Mild seasickness, but not enough to make me regret the scopolamine patch I did not have time to obtain (prescription needed) before I left New York...

Beagle beer in the bar on the observation deck!

Saturday, March 7

Buenos Aires - Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego

3am wake-up call for 4:30am departure from Marriott Plaza. Slept not a wink – on board aircraft, relapse of lung ailment causes marathoning neighbors to look askance. Pleasant Argentine with similar ailment bestows cough drop.

Delicious lunch restores partial lung function. Desultory trinket-shopping.
Ushuaia harbor (picture courtesy of Brent):

On board ship - suite gear!

Heavenly Wednesday swim

in the 25-metre swimming pool at the lovely Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires. We're flying out later tonight, and just had this one very decadent night at the fancy hotel - which has a high-tech lighting system so perplexing that I ACTUALLY GOT A CHANCE TO USE THE CUTE LITTLE FLASHLIGHT I purchased as part of the New York gear spree but that since I am camping-averse did not seem likely to come in handy - but once we had waved our hands over panels and so forth and dark had descended on the room, it seemed virtually impossible to light one's way to the bathroom...

I have desperately missed swimming! I did have a VERY BRIEF and freezingly cold polar dip (account to follow), but the pool on the ship turned out to be a small square "plunge pool" (bars around the edges) associated with the sauna, which is not my cup of tea.

It was a lovely trip, but I had a cold the entire time (visited the ship's doc two days post-marathon, just in case it had become something bacterial that could be remedied; Doc [sympathetically]: "Viral bronchitis can last up to three weeks..."), then when it finally departed I had 2 days of mild seasickness as we passed back through the Drake Passage. Terribly insufficient exercise! It will be good to return to regular life.

In the meantime I have just had a delightful swim, I appreciated every METRE of it:

200 free
100 back
100 free
100 breast
100 free
100 fly drill
100 free
4 x 50 drill-swim in IM order

1000 yards total

More posts after lunch, at least if there is time before we leave for the airport - I wrote a LONG race post the day after the race, but it will take a little while to paste in the pictures in the appropriate spots...

Friday, March 6, 2009

The adventure begins

Ugh, I have been feeling very non-triaspirational - not NEARLY enough exercise - a bad cold - lots of junk food - last couple weeks much more bookish & teacherly (of necessity!) than training-oriented - I am a poor traveler because I am always slightly thinking I would be better off at home on a much more stringent program of one kind or another... - BUT we have had a lovely time in Buenos Aires, and tomorrow the adventure begins!

We're leaving the hotel at 4:30am for the flight to Ushuaia; we will board the ship in the early evening - the Antarctica marathon is on Tuesday, weather permitting - and (to my horror!) the fact of the matter is that I will have absolutely no internet access until March 17, when we will be back in Buenos Aires!

There is some vestigial possibility that news might wend its way to Wendy, but really you will just have to be in suspense in the meantime about whether we make it or not!

I am feeling mentally strong - honestly, even a pretty hard race is not quite as awful as trying to finish a book in mid-semester!

I am somewhat undertrained (there was no way around it, so I am reconciled to what I could do and what I could not), but I have a rather amazing amount of gear: trail gaiters, SealSkinz waterproof socks, YakTrax, tights and trail shoes and Kendal Mint Cake - not to mention the usual kit (Patagonia jacket and Oakley prescription sunglasses and various other things I am too lazy to find links for) - running need not be an expensive sport, but the expeditionary situation was out of control this time!

It has been a great pleasure training for the race, and my only goal is to finish feeling cheerful and strong - I will be very pleased if that's the way it goes, and satisfied with any kind of a finish, honestly! We will take what the day gives us, at any rate. And many, many thanks to Brent for inviting me to come on this most magical of all possible trips...

Today, various delicious things to eat - and the MALBA!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday bit

Just a couple miles easy - I really have a slightly awful cold, the dry air on the overnight plane flight was bad for the lungs!

On a happier note (though it was pleasant to break a sweat - I was under-exercised - I had a couple nice fast stretches, with legs feeling distinctly fresh and strong): La Recoleta Cemetery!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"There was mud, lots of mud"

A nice interview with John Hanc at Gelf Magazine - I previously blogged about Hanc's book on the Antarctica marathon here.

I will note, pursuant to his observation, that I myself was in correspondence one maniacal morning a few weeks ago when I actually should have been writing at least one or possibly two OTHER books, with a fellow at a specialist press, about whether I might pitch them a book on my Antarctica marathon experience.

The publishing fellow pointed out that at that particular press, they prefer their authors to be very fast or nearly dead - or, even better, very fast and THEN nearly dead!

I will also note that I am writing from the Marriott in Buenos Aires - the adventure has begun!

(Thanks to Carl Bialik for the link.)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fly heaven

Sometime lanemate Miriam posts a great swim workout!

Discretion = better part


I only did 6 instead of 10 - I was awake for a couple hours very early yesterday morning (fortunately went back to sleep in the end!), worrying a bit about raw-feeling lungs - felt v. low-energy yesterday afternoon, which was why I didn't run - and indeed it seems to me this morning I do have a very slight cold.

(Just tiny - raw/raspy lungs, some postnasal drip-type stuff - I am devoutly hoping the zinc lozenges plus staying calm about it will make it recede before I get on the plane Tuesday night...)

I pondered the running options, and felt that while I really needed to run for at least an hour, it was not clear that the benefits of going longer would outweigh potential costs. It's pretty raw and windy outside, too, with snow flurries presaging one more winter storm.

It wasn't a bad run, only very slow & with a constant sense that really I wouldn't mind walking instead of running, which is not usually what I feel when out for a run in non-insanely-hot weather! Now I am going to go and steam the lungs in a very hot shower!