Thursday, December 31, 2009


but lovely swim just now in Brent's condo pool, which is not the right shape for a real workout but which is WATER OF BLISSFULNESS for a swim-deprived person with a head incision!!!

At 9am I was sitting in a plane on a runway at JFK in the middle of a blizzard, wondering as they de-iced whether we really were even going to take off - now I am in tropical island paradise...

A length is a dog-leg of about 35 yards...

4L free, 2L breast, 2L fly drill, 2L fly, 2L breast, 2L catch-up, 2L free

Call it 600 yards!

Tomorrow I am going to swim in the sea...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Further side note

(Under the heading increasingly implausible minor medical woes, I fended off the lung ailment by sleeping almost all day yesterday - only to find myself around 6:30pm running through the lobby of the Met and just barely making it to a toilet stall before dramatically projectile vomiting stomach contents all over the toilet - it was truly awful, though it certainly would have been much worse if I had not made it to the bathroom. Skipped the concert, spent the evening in bed getting up periodically to be violently ill! By 1am or so the stomach had settled down - it was one of these virulent but short-lived viruses - but I am still feeling distinctly dodgy - have radically scaled back goals for things to accomplish before my departure. I guess my body really is telling me it has nothing left for exercise - I need some days of rest and recuperation.)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Side note

(I forgot to mention it at the time, because I was feeling so elated at having had a lovely run, but in fact my lungs were very wheezy and sore as I was running on Sunday, and when I woke up on Monday morning it was with GRIM RESIGNATION at the fact that clearly I was coming down with a LUNG AILMENT. Lungs now sound like a radio station c. 1940, and the ailment continues to progress - I am throwing up my hands and allowing as how December was JUST NOT MY MONTH FOR EXERCISE...)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Postscript on willpower

Jonah Lehrer has a good little piece at the WSJ (hat tip: Marginal Revolution) on willpower and nutrition:
In one experiment, led by Baba Shiv at Stanford University, several dozen undergraduates were divided into two groups. One group was given a two-digit number to remember, while the second group was given a seven-digit number. Then they were told to walk down the hall, where they were presented with two different snack options: a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad.

Here's where the results get weird. The students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. The reason, according to Prof. Shiv, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain—they were a "cognitive load"—making it that much harder to resist a decadent dessert. In other words, willpower is so weak, and the prefrontal cortex is so overtaxed, that all it takes is five extra bits of information before the brain starts to give in to temptation.

This helps explain why, after a long day at the office, we're more likely to indulge in a pint of ice cream, or eat one too many slices of leftover pizza. (In fact, one study by researchers at the University of Michigan found that just walking down a crowded city street was enough to reduce measures of self-control, as all the stimuli stressed out the cortex.) A tired brain, preoccupied with its problems, is going to struggle to resist what it wants, even when what it wants isn't what we need.
That said, it does seem to me that the only way I am going to write those letters of recommendation this evening will be if I can find a shop in the near vicinity that will sell me an individual slice of bûche de Noël or something similar...

Sunday run

All is now right again in the Triaspirational world, thank goodness - I had a lovely run just now, very good for the morale. A week's layoff from exercise persuades me, against all reason, that I will have lost every scrap of fitness the next time I try and do anything, and will have to start absolutely from scratch! Fortunately this is not the case.

I finally tracked down the surgeon and extracted a message that the full mummy head only needed to stay on for three days (with proviso that it remains a priority to keep the incision clean and dry), so I was very relieved to be able to remove it on Friday morning before going down to Philadelphia for Xmas.

I had hoped to run yesterday, but a combination of factors persuaded me it was not wise - I felt quite fatigued (have been battling some sort of low-level virus all week, I think, though it has not quite erupted into actual cold symptoms), and also it was lethally rainy. Like, DELUGE! I could not tell whether I was listening to my body or just listening to my LAZINESS, but I decided to leave it one more day.

I was right to wait, because it is the most beautifully sunny clear day - fifty degrees, believe it or not - and I had an absolutely gorgeous easy nine-mile run just now along the west side.

I have a lot of stuff to pack into the next three days:

- 60 final papers to read for my lecture class, and grades to submit - however, (a) I'm not writing comments on them and (b) I am counting on them being without exception wonderfully stimulating and interesting, so that is not too bad
- 2 more letters of recommendation to write and submit, 3 more to tweak already-drafted versions of and submit
- 2 doctor's appointments of miscellaneity
- 1 parental meal and trip to the Philharmonic
- 1 trip to post office to mail sundry belated holiday trinkets
- 1 training session at the Guggenheim for "This Progress"
- 1 iPod library to reconstruct by seeing if I can use software to transfer data from iPod Touch to computer - not sure about whether my skill set is really up to this, but will make a stab at it, as it is giving me low-level panic to have only existing version of library exclusively on the device itself...
- 1 author's note to write for forthcoming novel
- miscellaneous personal paperwork
- 1 long-overdue essay on Shakespeare adaptation in the eighteenth century to write and submit

I am leaving very early on the morning of the 31st for an idyll in tropical island paradise - in a worst-case scenario, I can bring a draft of the Shakespeare essay with me and finish it there, but it would be awfully nice to send it before I go. If I can do so, I am then in the enviable position of being ON SABBATICAL with nearly infinite amounts of time to spend exercising and a single brand-spanking-new shiny-shiny as-yet-unsullied book project that will involve delightful reading and thinking and drafting all in the lovely hack-out-new-bits-in-virgin-territory land of work, not the all-the-interesting-parts-are-done-but-I-am-still-only-60%-there land which is where one spends most of one's writing time...

9 miles easy

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The picture of abjection

Oh dear - the final weeks of 2009 are proving much more difficult than anticipated! On Saturday evening, I went down to Philadelphia for a family emergency whose practical difficulties were significantly exacerbated by the TWO FEET OF SNOW that fell that day. No chance to exercise.

I got home last night and turned up at St. Luke's Hospital this morning at 10 for the removal of a probable lipoma.

In the doctor's office two weeks ago, I had greeted with dismay the notion that I wouldn't be able to swim for a minimum of a week, but figured that at least I could do the other triathlon stuff. In the recovery room around 2, I waited impatiently for the nurse to unwrap the huge amount of gauze wrapped round my head - only to learn that I was expected to keep it all on for the next week! She pretty much laughed in my face when I asked about exercise, and told me that I could ask the doctor when I saw him on the 30th but that in the meantime I should not do anything at all.

(Why didn't someone tell me I was going to be bundled up like a mummy?!? I was picturing a square bandage about the size of a Kit-Kat! I am going to call the doctor's office again tomorrow morning and double-check that I really and truly need to stay mummified for a full week - it seems implausibly awful, it might be that the nurse misunderstood...)

Anyway, here is the picture of abjection - Triaspirational will be going dark until 2010, but I will set an optimistic goal of being able to write on Jan. 1 that I have just had a swim in the sea.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday run

Incipiently Antarctic conditions - the snow has only just begun falling in New York, but the winds are fierce - I was running directly into the wind on the way back, it was arduous, it was enjoyable...

5 miles

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday swim practice

It was a very enjoyable one, too, only despite precautionary Claritin I have been with streaming eyes and nose all evening, and much congestion (also, due to my own inability to follow the imperatives of etiquette and hygiene and carry small packs of tissues, I was blowing my nose on randomly acquired restaurant paper towels and have practically rubbed it raw by now!).

I had coffee beforehand with former student and lanemate Joe, who is back from his new job in Singapore for a brief New York visit (very nice indeed to see him!), and teammate Julian, who was kind enough to give me a copy of his new CD! Which I am dying to listen to - but first I have to solve my iPod problems (helpful work computer cleaner-upper, who sorted out new email and anti-virus and system updates for all three of my laptops, seems to have inadvertently deleted iTunes including library - music library only currently on iPod, I have purchased this software that promises to help me remedy the situation but am in the meantime treating the iPod touch as my most precious and delicatepossession, since it is only repository of the library!).

I wasn't swimming fast, I haven't had much time to swim in the last couple of weeks, but I felt very strong and competent in the water - the drill work is good, I will keep that up.

Warmup: 400 choice (I did 100 free, 100 IM drill, 100 back, 100 IM), 50 kick


6 x 100 on 1:55 (I find this hard to keep up, haven't been swimming enough recently - but I think it would be a good goal for 2010 to get to the place where I could do 10 or 12 x 100 on 1:55 with great comfort)

2 x 150 free on 2:55
2 x 100 IM on 2:20
2 x 200 free on 3:50
2 x 100 IM on 2:20
2 x 150 free on 2:55
2 x 100 IM on 2:20

We had a couple bits of inadvertent rest as we regrouped, but on the whole I would say I am quite comfortable swimming those intervals - really I enjoy the pace for 200 free in the middle of a set like that more than I like the 100s on 1:55, which I can now do with some rest because of the flip turns, but the turns themselves leave me much more oxygen-starved than I would be otherwise...

I think I might not be able to go to a TNYA practice again until the last week of January, but I hereby resolve to go a LOT in late January and February, it is good for my swimming to swim with others who are faster than I! I must also note that this was the best-organized and least chaotic lane grouping in recent memory - everyone was swimming at similar enough speeds, everyone was able to count - though it is possible that I was the only person still doing fly instead of freestyle on the last hundreds of IM...

2650 yards total

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I have some more serious ones, about which I may not choose to write much here!

(Like - seriously restrict internet time to combat time-wasting and more importantly insomnia...)

But this is the first year I've electronically logged workout data in a format where I can look at an easy year-end summary, and I think there are some very clear conclusions to be drawn (the numbers are pasted in from the sidebar - I have conflated biking and spinning, since I only started logging the latter separately this past week and am not sure it makes sense for now):

Workouts and total distances for 2009:

128 x run (814.43 Mi)
62 x bike (1231.35 Mi)
130 x swim (222609 Yd)
32 x strength (26:41:00)
12 x stretch (11:40:00)

Running and swimming are surprisingly evenly balanced in terms of frequency, and in fact the situation on that front can be summarized by noting that I strongly enjoy doing each of those activities at least three times a week whenever possible. I'd like to do more of each, but to some extent this is beyond my control (there are weeks of the year where for one reason or another it is genuinely difficult to maintain a regular exercise schedule), and I think they are both in a pretty steady train with some significant improvement happening this year as far as swimming went (lots more distance swimming, including races; introduction of flip turns for all pool freestyle; much improved butterfly).

So I will set baseline mileage goals for 2010 that should be meetable, since I am hoping it will be a very good year for exercise (I am on sabbatical and I am training for an Ironman!): 1000 miles run, 250,000 yards swim.

Nice round numbers!

I will do rather more than that if it is possible, especially as far as swimming goes, but I think that my modest Ironman goal time plus dislike for treadmill running (I will be Cayman-based for a significant chunk of the year) plus desire not to injure myself means that I shouldn't imagine I would do a ton of running this calendar year.

(But I am thinking I will make running a priority in 2011!)

The bike distance is woefully short in comparison to the other two triathlon disciplines, and in fact my outdoor bike miles will probably continue to be relatively meager in the coming year, but I am going to do a TON of Spinervals in 2010 and incentivize it by continuing to log road and spin miles, though perhaps I will keep the two categories segregated. In the year of my first Ironman, as Spokane Al might say, it is all about the bike!

It is also all about consistency on strength and stretch, though. I haven't categorized systematically on this count (is Pilates strength or stretch?!?), but I hereby set a goal of two times per week minimum (let's say I'm shooting for an annual total of 100) of either strength training or yoga, with emphasis on the first in the early part of the season and the second as I build training volume from May onwards.

There, that is a start...

Glorious midday run

I did not have enough time to do the longer one I was projecting, but I had a truly lovely 90-minute run in any case, one of the most enjoyable runs I have had all year. It is on the frigid side of beautiful (mid-30s, windy), but gloriously sunny and bright...

I am very lucky to have the flexibility with my work schedule to be able to run in the daytime like this during winter - we are definitely coming into the season where evening runs no longer seem sensible, enjoyable or even particularly safe. I avoid running by myself in either park (Riverside or Central) after dark in cold weather - Riverside in particular gets very deserted, and is not safe for a woman running alone, and drivers honestly just don't expect to see runners crossing at intersections on a cold winter's night.


9 miles

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Back on track

It has been an odd couple of weeks - I do not enjoy a stint like that with so little exercise, now that I am hooked on it it is distressing to me to lose the weekly routine!

I guess will need to retain an open mind about what can be fit in over the next couple of weeks - still juggling various work stuff, holiday needs, etc. I would like to exercise a TON but true indulgence in copious exercise may have to wait till January.

1hr. spinning class
1000 yards swim

4 x (100 free, 50 drill stroke, 50 swim stroke), in reverse IM order
2 x (50 flutter kick, 50 whip kick)

I'm going to try for a long run tomorrow - I feel I am right at the outer edge of the window in which I could retain long-run fitness, if I don't squeeze one in in the next day or two I will have to start again with only 6 or 8, which would be a pity.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday run

That's a relief - I have been in an absolute tailspin of low morale and high frazzle for the last week and a half, to the point of it seeming just logistically impossible to fit in any exercise, but morale will not increase with no exercise, so that is a poor way to proceed.

6 miles in the most beautiful running weather - 40 degrees, brisk and sunny (perhaps slightly windier than one might like!) - VERY GOOD. I have had a committee assignment this semester that has locked in a weekly meeting on Thursday mornings from 10-12 (it is difficult to explain to the non-academic why this should be so devastating, but it truly is!) - but the chief administrative liaison between our committee and the athletics staff (it is a subcommittee of the NCAA recertification group, with the special charge of monitoring gender and diversity equity and student-athlete well-being) was called for jury duty today, so we had a one-time-only reprieve!

I am flying later today to Florida to meet up with Brent for the weekend. Goal of rest and relaxation with a bit of fitness thrown in - there is an actual lap pool...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back in the saddle

OK, that's good, I feel much less out of sorts now. Between stress/fatigue/wanting to be at home with the cat, I barely made it out of the house except as strictly necessary this week, but I think I was having exercise withdrawal symptoms - a recovery week is a good idea in theory, but it is not much of a good thing when the stress chemicals are boiling in the veins!

I had a difficult time getting out of bed this morning, but I just about made it downtown in time for the beginning of the spin class at Chelsea Piers (as I biked down the west side path I had a surge of extreme enjoyment and relief as I reached the Boat Basin - definitely exercise withdrawal) - I had arranged to meet up there with Lauren, and we subsequently had a very nice brunch at the Half King.

(We solved the perennial sweet-or-savory brunch issue by ordering a spinach and cheese omelette and the "French toast waffle" plus two clean plates.)

Then I went back to the beautiful light-drenched cafe at Chelsea Piers and dug in for an hour and a half on the materials for this Shakespeare essay that I cannot find time to get done, had a short swim and rode home just as it was getting dark. Very good for the morale - basically I am picturing a lot of work time as well as exercise time there in the spring semester. I got a lot of work done yesterday, too - went all the way through the copy-edit on the manuscript of Invisible Things, wrote a number of letters of recommendation (only three more to go, unless I have miscalculated), did my reading for tomorrow's lecture - will now eat something and try and get another good chunk of work done this evening.

The next week remains slightly chaotic, but my last day of teaching is the 14th, and I am thinking that after that will be time to think about what my next block of training will look like. Some thoughts later this month on goals and plans for 2010...

50 mins. spinning

3 x (100 free, 50 stroke drill-swim [back, breast, fly])
3 x (50 free drill-swim [catch-up, thumbs-salute, 6-3-6], 50 free, 50 stroke [back, breast, fly])
300 kick with board (100 flutter, 50 dolphin, 100 flutter, 50 whip)

1200 yards total

10 miles RT bike

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday update

Ugh - it has been a very difficult couple of weeks for me. This time of the school year is always fairly (impossibly!) demanding, and I got a piece of bad news a couple of weeks ago about the health of my beloved cat Blackie, who has been my true and constant companion since 1993. The vet diagnosed him with a likely vaccine-induced fibrosarcoma - first they had to stabilize the cat's thyroid levels, which were too high, but the mass was surgically removed yesterday.

I am crossing my fingers that he will get a good additional stint of reasonable health out of it - I won't pursue further surgical intervention if the tumor recurs, it's too stressful for the poor little guy, but if we are lucky he'll have good recovery and be able to live out much of the rest of his natural lifespan. He is sixteen years old, that's the thing - it is an honorable old age for a cat, and I cannot expect him to be around forever.

Last night he was looking painfully bare and brutally incised:

This afternoon, he's sleepy but non-frazzled, except when I try and squirt medication down his throat with a syringe:

I feel that I owe Triaspirational readers a fuller account of last week's marathon, but have been unable to figure out how to write it, and in the end I decided that I will perhaps post the relevant bit of the email I wrote just now to Brent, as I feel I have achieved about as much (which is to say - not that much!) peace of mind about it as I am going to, and must just move on:
I am still in too strong a flood of self-criticism and negative feelings to write more on-blog about my marathon, but I have drawn some sensible conclusions in moments of clarity here and there! My realistic assessment is that my fitness this year was very similar to last year, and I achieved it on fewer miles/never felt this year as I did last constantly on verge of injury. In that sense I can still count the training a modest success, though I certainly should have consistently run 1x/more per week, even if it was just 4 miles. I would guess the 10 mins slower in race times [ED. 4:27 vs. 4:16], in other words, was mainly the price of the week's fatigue rather than huge difference in fitness - both times I started out at 4-hour pace, this time I fell off it c. mile 7 instead of mile 14 and rather more mentally uncomfortably, but not a radical difference. I am just not that fast a runner - not that there is any such thing as 'natural' marathon times, but my natural times with training will be still in the 4:10-4:30 range, if I want to get into the 3:50-4:10 I am going to have to work hard. I prioritized swimming and cycling this year, and that was correct for my triathlon development, but it was unrealistic to think I would continue to see some kind of steep improvement in run fitness without running significantly more and/or weighing significantly less (like 145 instead of 155). 2010 is YEAR OF IRONMAN, I will walk-run the marathon there and just do the NY marathon for fun (if I have good IM recovery, I might aim to beat my 4:16 Philadelphia time by a few minutes, but certainly nothing more ambitious than that, and maybe more like just run 4:30 for fun) - but it might be in 2011 I will really take running seriously, race some 10K and half-marathon stuff in the spring, back off a little over summer and then train for a fast marathon in Philadelphia in November 2011. Running the week before T-giving is wiser than the weekend after! I do want very much to run sub-4:00 and then make the 3:50 BQ time, and I believe that these are attainable goals, only difficult enough for someone of my ability level and size that they are not just going to fall in my lap while I concentrate on other things.
Finally, and on a brighter note - wish Wendy luck in her meet tomorrow - wish Brent a safe and happy Cayman half-marathon - and most of all, let's give a thought to Liz, who is swimming her first swim meet EVER this weekend! I wish I could have been there, but as I haven't swum for 2 weeks and am also on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown from stress and overwork, it was in fact the right decision not to register for it - but I will be there in spirit, and I look forward to a full report!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday swim/yoga

2 x (2 x 100 free/50 stroke [back, breast]), 2 x 100 fly drill-swim = 800 total
1.25hr. yoga