Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Iron lope!

A good run late this afternoon: 9.64 miles, 10:20 average pace (avg HR 142).

I was thinking a lot during the first few miles about this question of long slow runs. I feel I really benefited from the lowish-HR focus I had in September and October--it was nothing fancy, and I never really got it that low (it was more on the principle of "keep Jenny's HR in the 140s"--the park loop has a fair bit of elevation change, I find it very difficult to stay really slow enough to keep the HR at 140 unless it's quite flat; slowing down when I hit 150 is about as good as I can manage), but it was great. I've sped back up again over the last month or so, though, partly because I haven't had the concentration and willpower that are needed to do it properly and partly because of running with friends who are faster than I am and who are also mostly racing shorter distances.

The mental thing that made me able to enforce the slowness rule in September was that after reading everyone's August-September blog posts leading up to IM Kentucky and IM Wisconsin I was in a sheer frenzy of desire to do an Iron-distance race! A frenzy, I tell you!

(It is not that I am not still in thrall to the idea. I am. But it's going to be a while--two and a half years from now, I'm thinking, I want to do it well and I want not to get an injury--so there's no point getting all het up about it!)

So in September and October the thing that I'd hold in my mind--this is embarrassing!--was that what I was working on was the perfect sort of loping pace that I would have for my iron run several years from now, a smooth and easy and highly efficient gait that could basically be maintained for an almost infinitely long time. You know--what my ancestor did as she covered ground on the savannah taking a message to the neighboring nomadic tribe about an illness spreading among the animal herds, or whatever! The Iron lope!

And then if I do a lot of it over the next few years, it will be totally locked in to my body's memory so that when I have to run that marathon after having already insanely exerted myself I will just be able to go on autopilot and lope along...

Really when writers talk about runners loping they are talking about very fast runners, but the lope I'm thinking of is let's say 11:00 mile pace (on a not-too-hilly route). I can already more or less lope at 10:00 on a flat run when I haven't been doing something else, and I will hope to continue improving my comfortable speeds, but post-massive-amount-of-swimming-and-biking lope is a different story and 11:00 seems more prudent than 10:30...

Of course it's enjoyable to run quite fast for quite a long time (that's why half-marathons are such a satisfying distance to race), but the thing about loping is that it's really more oriented towards function than to feeling, it has to feel good but it's also about getting yourself somewhere with the most sensible apportioning of energy, and without making any demands beyond the minimum on your aerobic and fueling systems.

Once you think about it that way, it is hard to see what the appeal is in working on anything other than the lope!

This will be my last post for 2007--I am going to be off-line in South Carolina for two days, I might sneak in a run but there will be no blogging--so I will take this opportunity again to wish everyone a very happy and healthy year in 2008, but also a lot of loping. Loping on the road and in the pool, but also in life--cover a lot of ground, use your resources wisely, enjoy yourself...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Strange hotel mini-swimming

Half an hour, and it was rather lovely, I had the (miniature) pool completely to myself. It let me think about various aspects of those strokes, I must sign up for Teachers College pool membership again in the spring and have one evening a week where I go and just think about stuff and work on technique.

It seems to me if you get the "keyhole" shape right with the arms on the butterfly, it makes all sorts of other things (the undulation, but even and also the forward propulsion which generally strikes me as less counterintuitive) work right. I am starting to get a good feel for that backstroke catch, I love that stroke (I am just clearer on the horizontal-axis strokes for now than on the others). I lose the breaststroke timing easily through impatience, but if I stay calm it works a lot better. (Like life!)

I must work on bilateral breathing! Even on right-side breathing, I could use some serious form adjustment, I'm turning my head way too high up and bringing it out of the water--Wendy had some good tips on how to alter this bad habit, but I did not have time to work on it this morning. A project...

Friday, December 28, 2007


Best seven minutes of swimming I ever had in my life!

(Lifeguard clearly set on locking up for good at 10, not letting me swim till 10...)

Only a couple kids left, they were soon out and I had a precious four minutes or so of the magic rectangle all to myself. It will definitely be worth going tomorrow morning--the pool is too small to do freestyle or (particularly) backstroke, but no reason not to do half an hour of breast and butterfly, it will be very nice...

(It's like running after an injury, you are so glad just to run half a mile or a mile that you can hardly believe it!)

Really hotel swimming pools are properly for children, I suppose. We rarely stayed in a hotel or motel when I was a kid, only a handful of times (and not really enjoyable as all five of us crammed into one room for reasons of economy), but the motel pool is one of the great exciting phenomena of my childhood. We didn't get to swim often, but it was always my favorite thing--I can still picture one (somewhere vaguely southerly, Delaware or Virginia?) that struck me then as the height of luxuriousness, because it was lit at night underwater and you could swim there after dark!

Hmmm, I have not really revisited such things in adult life, but it does seem to me that swimming in an outside pool after dark is almost certainly one of the great pleasures in life. All of this maniacal swimming I have done this year has been in fairly grim basementish environs--of course it does not really matter...

In which I am thwarted!

Now I really am laughing at myself, the last few days have been rather a chapter of accidents and this is nothing in comparison...

You know, usually I think I am a fairly realistic person, I am not especially quixotic and I am rarely disappointed--partly because I try and keep expectations deliberately low--but my eyes were suddenly opened now to the extent to which the notion that I was going to swim in Chicago has been an enabling fantasy of really almost Walter Mittyish proportions!

(That picture is most deceptive!)

I put on my bathing suit and sweatpants and went downstairs just now, and fled in horror at the spectacle! Of course the pool is fairly small (smaller, I am speculating, even than the small 20-yard ones I am kind of used to--in retrospect I suppose it is suspicious that they did not mention the size on the website), but it is also thronged with small children and bisected by various lines that bear no resemblance to lane lines--more like a Mondrian painting! Oh dear....

So I went downstairs to get a hold-in-reserve second-dinner sandwich at the restaurant in the lobby, which closes at ten (my meals have been totally irregular today and it is the only way to preempt the otherwise inevitable middle-of-the-night vending-machine raid, I cannot be eating a meal out of vending-machine snacks!), and I have come back upstairs, and since I am in my bathing suit already I think I might just venture back down and see if it is slightly less child-thronged in the last fifteen minutes before closing. If I go first thing in the morning, I can probably have a quiet swim, but if it really is impossibly tiny it might be as well to figure that out tonight and just get the extra sleep...

(Hmmm, my brain is overactively contemplating workarounds like doing a ten-mile treadmill run tomorrow morning and then having my Sunday run slot for a Riverbank swim trip, but this is ridiculous, if the pool really seems no good I will sleep in tomorrow morning as long as I can, I will have a nice run on Sunday in Central Park and it will be good for the mental health, I will just have to survive this awful Xmas holiday swimming drought, it is not good for the soul but it is a trial of patience of some doubtless admirable sort, I guess I just have to suck it up! I do not know why we grow up and believe that it is somehow good for us not to have the things we most like, but there you go...)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thursday run

5.41 miles, 10:15 average pace.

(Forgot the HR strap, remembered just as the elevator reached the lobby but it was not worth losing precious minutes of so-called 'daylight' time to go back up for it.)

Thursday gym workout

A solid session with M. It has partly counteracted my sense of extreme psychological fragility due to stress and sleeplessness, but there is only so much that even exercise can do...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday run

Bit of a disaster area round here the last couple days--no exercise whatsoever, I had to switch into emergency end-of-semester grading mode, which is not a pretty sight! Submitted the last of 'em just before 2am last night, slept for not enough hours, then headed out first thing this morning for a short run. It was a beautiful morning for it, once the sun came up--I didn't even need gloves...

4 mi., 10:10 pace, avg HR 148. (Tiredness.) Then I did 3 x 15 pushups, and now I must hop into the shower and be out the door within fifteen minutes, or else I definitely will not have time to get coffee at the station before getting on the train to Philadelphia, and this would be a minor tragedy.

(Ran out of milk yesterday evening and sort of tactically/lazily didn't go out to replace it, mostly just because the cup of coffee and the morning run were clearly mutually exclusive time-wise, that was the cup of coffee that would have made me late!)

I am resolved to do more pushups in 2008, I only do them with M. at the gym but I like them so much, they are a terribly economical exercise in every sense of the word. I should do 15 mins. of pushups, planks and one or two other core things every time I do a bike trainer ride at home.

All right, now I really must tear myself away from the computer. Merry Xmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The hurt-pain-agony approach

Mostly what I write about at my other blog has nothing to do with triathlon, but I thought I'd link to something I wrote just now on two swimming books I've read recently.

(Hmmm, there is a picture that is slightly NSFW--consider yourself warned...)

Here's a taste, one of my favorite quotations from a book I have fallen absolutely in love with, Counsilman's The Science of Swimming (I have the first edition, in a rather dour library binding; I feel that the second edition cannot possibly be quite so delightful as the original):
It is extremely difficult for an intelligent, mature athlete to form an identification with a coach who sets himself up as a dictator, and whose authoritarian manner must be accepted unquestioningly. Athletes of low intellect, weak or unstable personality, or those who are lacking in maturity, may respond to a martinet, but if, in a free world, we do not look upon such tactics with favor in other aspects of human relationships, certainly we should not in athletics.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


The maniacal goals-for-2008 post...

It may sound mildly excessive, but it all fits together. I have a vision!

Seriously, though, the overriding goal for 2008 is to have a happy and healthy year of training, some enjoyable racing and to take better care of myself, particularly vis-a-vis sleep and rest more generally. This is more important than any of the specific things below, though there are a number of things on the list that I will be disappointed if I can't bring about...

In September 2005 I quit smoking for good and started exercising and losing weight. 2006 was the year I fell in love with running. 2007 was the year I fell in love with swimming, just head-over-heels in love too (I am hoping this sport is not as much of a heartbreaker as running, certainly it is less injury-producing, also I fully hope to be a faster swimmer when I am sixty years old than I am now...).

2008 is going to be the year of triathlon!

Running goals: do the NYRR Half-Marathon Grand Prix; do my first marathon in Philadelphia in November; continue to build mileage and start working more on speed, but not at expense of continued running health. I'd love it if in 2008 I could race a 4-mile race below 32:00, a 10K below 50:00, a half-marathon below 1:50 and the marathon sub-4:00. (If things go really well with training, I'm hoping to have a 3:56 marathon goal, which leaves a bit of wiggle room to stay sub-4:00. Too soon to know, though, whether this is in any sense realistic.) My goal over the next few years is to reach 8:00 race pace at the half-marathon distance, but I don't know that it's realistic to expect that to happen in 2008.

Swimming goals: continue to work on all four strokes; build speed on freestyle and get as much open-water swim experience as I can (I was cheered up the other day by an e-mail in which the Manhattan Island Foundation announced their swim series for 2008, I'll definitely do a few of these); start working seriously on flip turns and bilateral breathing, two things I have been putting off dealing with properly. Find a really good structure of weekly workouts (there are two different masters' swim groups I want to check out in January, I'm hoping one of them might suit).

Cycling goals: well, I have quite a few ideas (hmmm, it would be exciting if I turned out to have an unexpected talent for bike-riding, only I think I will have to settle for what I have in the other two sports, which is to say only a very modest talent but an excellent work ethic which makes up for many shortcomings on the athletic front, wish I had realized that sooner), but really everything can be summed up as "fall in love with the bike the way you have with running and swimming." I need to become a confident and road-worthy cyclist, that's the long and short of it. I think this means finding a good group to ride with, learning cycling the roadie way (paceline riding, etc.) and really taking it seriously, but we will see how it goes...

Triathlon: my goal race is the New York City Triathlon (Olympic distance) on July 20. (The day before my birthday, that's nice!) The cycling is currently a total unknown quantity, but it's a notoriously fast swim and I would think it's entirely possible I could do it in just about sub-3:00--however I will try not to exercise myself too much about times. I'll definitely do a couple shorter ones first to get some practice, but I hate to give up lovely training days for the sake of shortish races, I've got a lot of writing that needs to get done next summer and I'd also just like to keep things open and flexible (it is not enjoyable, I find, to lock oneself in on an excessive number of racing commitments), so I won't go crazy with the practice races (here's a fairly complete list of some more or less local options).

(After that's over, I'll switch to a run focus, but I'll keep on swimming a ton and doing some bike-riding also, I do not think it will be a problem--I'm going to do marathon training with Coach Mindy who takes a fairly low-mileage approach with cross-training built in.)

I've got to get back on the yoga thing (I've got a yoga date with training partner L. for Jan. 2), and obviously I'll keep up the strength training and core work. It would be good if I could get mildly more adventurous, this is related to the bike-riding goals, but perhaps I am just not very adventurous! But if interesting new opportunities come my way, I must not turn them down because of some inflexible plan I've locked myself in on. I will make every effort to keep an open mind...

Best wishes to everyone reading here for good health and training and racing success, whatever that means to you and your loved ones (an expression I can never take quite seriously but which seems more apt than any other), in 2008!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday run

Finally a real run! I see it actually has been a stupidly long time since I had a proper longer one--I was thwarted a few times by snow/slipperiness, and there was that 10K and the mild taper for it, so I think that in fact it may be that since the Philadelphia half a month ago I have perhaps only done one eight-mile run and a bunch of sixes, this is the first 10.

I was tired, it was not the best run ever and I did all the middle part at hard effort with C., he is just faster than I am! But it was really very enjoyable, I felt great as I was finishing (only my former stress fracture area felt very heavy the whole time, I must get back on a better stretching routine, I've been skimping on it and not doing yoga either. Not good!).

10.23 mi, avg HR 153, pace average 9:40.

I ran two miles over to meet C. at 86th St. in the park, then we did the six-mile loop together (the paces don't sound fast, but it's a pretty hilly run, I was working at high effort level for much of it), then he peeled off home and I ran the remaining two miles at a slower pace. I must think about how to structure the week's training so as not to do my long ones all too fast, I should do shorter ones with the fast guys and find a good slower-than-me companion for longer ones! But I do like running with these fellows, it keeps me up to the mark...

Mile splits: 9:48 (146), 9:38 (151), 9:26 (148), 9:26 (153), 9:40 (157), 9:11 (156), 9:10 (158), 8:59 (164--and the lap end HR was 172, I was really struggling, it was uphill & C.'s finish-line stretch but not mine! Walked a few blocks after that to bring HR back down, eat a gel and drink some water...), 10:12 (149), 10:24 (150).

10- and 12-mile runs are one of the great pleasures in life (high up there with novel-reading and good conversation), I must make sure not to go a whole month without one again unless absolutely forced to!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday swim and bike #20

Not quite at the ecstatic levels of yesterday morning's swim, but certainly very pleasant.

Warmup: 300 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull.

Main set: 4 x 125 IM with extra length of back; 10 x 25 non-free stroke, 1 kick - 2 drill - 4 fast - 2 drill - 1 kick; 4 x 125 free; 5 x 50 as finger-drag down and stroke-distance i.e. low stroke count back, 6-3-6 (kick 6 on side, three strokes, kick six on other side), fast, 6-3-6, finger-drag/stroke-distance.

Then I did 100 IM and 100 easy free and got out, only to realize that of course the last set of 50s was 10 x 50 rather than 5 x 50 (2 of each), only I spaced out on it. (Really the workout had two times the whole main set, only these "canned" workouts are for a longer time slot than we have, it is not because I am a slow swimmer that I only went through once. ED. To clarify, I am a slow swimmer, but that's not the main reason there's no time to do it twice!)

This is ludicrous, but the main thing I had become distracted by and that took my mind off the task at hand was wondering about the rationale for having 125s instead of 100s. Is it just to shake everyone out of their comfort with a standard rest interval? Or is there some other benefit I do not know about?!?

Bike #20, 30 mins., 600 mins. total.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Running for Doug Stern

There were quite a lot of people, and the fellow who organized it said we'd raised over $1600 for the kidney cancer research program at Sloan-Kettering, so that's good...

Met up with C. and did a few fastish miles with him, then staggered through a cooldown mile en route to the post-run party. 4.4 mi., avg HR 155, fastest mile 8:43 but I do not have good mile splits due to ill-advised lap-button pressing...

Lovely Thursday morning swimming

It was the most divinely excellent swim this morning, really absolutely lovely and I am filled with seasonally appropriate Warmth for Mankind etc. etc. Mmmm---I had the lane to myself, it was highly depopulated, it was the most beautiful workout, I loved every minute (except it must be said that is a very good thing that fly comes first in the IM sequence, I always look forward to doing that stroke and enjoy it while I'm doing it and yet it is still true that you have to sort of willpower yourself up for it, it's tiring!).

(No bike--I forgot how we get extra swim time once the undergraduate teams aren't needing to practice in the morning, and I need some minutes to swing by the office to pick up blue books for my lovely students to write their exams in at 9am this morning...)

Warmup: 3 x (100 free, 75 breast, 50 back, 25 fly)

(Should have been 4, but we were moving on...)

Set #1: 40 x 25 pull, as 5 x 8 (5 x 25 free on :30, 3 x 25 back on :35).

Amazing! There could hardly have been a better thing for me, this backstroke is exactly what I would have been working on if I'd had a lesson Saturday after all... That's just the right interval for the free; by the end of the series, I'm taking a few extra seconds on the back, but it's close, once I'm a bit better it won't be a problem. Useful to do pull back stuff like that, I think...

Set #2: 20 x 50, as 5 x (4 x 50). Odd sets: 25 stroke + 25 free, in IM order (fly-free, back-free, breast-free, free-free); even sets: 50 of each stroke in IM order. Those 50s of fly are intense!

I am in bliss--having that extra fifteen or twenty minutes for the workout makes a huge difference, and it was nice being able to really work on the intervals because of having the lane to myself... I still felt very strong at the end, but I also felt like it was a workout that tired me out, too often we are stopping and I still annoyingly feel like I want to swim hard for another hour!

I am going to investigate the early-evening CU masters swim for the spring semester. I am not sure, but I am regretfully concluding that early-morning swimming perhaps is just not realistic with my schedule. I think I will hold on to the Thursday workout at all costs, and in the spring it all goes back to 6:30-7:45 rather than 6:00-7:00, which may be a crucial bit more tolerable. And maybe my body will finally just give in and start going to sleep earlier! But I'm not counting on it, I need to take steps...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To my deep regret

the last shreds of 30-in-30 near-miss workout series are slipping through my fingers--I didn't bike yesterday, I will not bike today, I am full of self-reproach!

I am making an exercise schedule for the next two weeks to cheer myself up (but work and family obligations are pressing, I must stay flexible, it is bad for the soul to be internally grumbling about missed exercise when more important things are happening, I should write myself a stern note to this effect!):

Thurs. 12/20: 6am swim, 30 min. gym bike; fun run in Doug Stern's memory in the evening (prob. around 6 miles?)
Fri. 12/21: 6am swim, 30 min. gym bike
Sat. 12/22: run 10 (no swimming lesson, I. couldn't get pool access, alas--last week's was the last one...)
Sun. 12/23: 60 mins. bike
Mon. 12/24: 30 mins. bike plus some kind of core workout at home, swim @ Riverbank as reward if all grading is finished/grades submitted and if pool there is open
Tues. 12/25: run 5 early am, then to Philadelphia
Wed. 12/26: day off (Philadelphia)
Thurs. 12/27: 10am gym workout with M., run 5
Fri. 12/28, Sat. 12/29: Chicago (swim Fri. pm and Sat. early am in hotel pool)
Sun. 12/30: run 10, poss. 30-40 mins. bike in evening
Mon. 12/31-Wed. 1/2: South Carolina to stay with the family of a friend of mine who died around this time last year (will run once if I can, but I'm home by mid-morning on the 2nd, will get back on track then if I've lost the thread--run 5-6 miles in the afternoon I think)
Thurs. 1/3: 6am swim, 8am gym workout with M.
Fri. 1/4: run 5 early
Sat. 1/5: bike or swim?
Sun. 1/6: run 12

And then on Monday 1/7 I am going to visit Brent in the Cayman Islands, a trip that will include truly unprecedented amounts of swimming of one kind and another, it is going to be the nicest thing! Quite a bit of running too, I imagine, plus a dramatically large amount of work on my academic book manuscript...

[ED. A firm afterthought: all this is in aid of mental and physical health, and as soon as a workout obligation starts to create stress or make life worse rather than better I must skip it, this is perhaps not a good principle in general but I've got a lot of stuff on these next couple weeks and I cannot be filled with self-reproach every time I miss a workout! A couple days off will potentially be for the greater good, especially if it means more sleep...]

Gym workout

It is amazing how much better I feel at the end of an hour working out with M.--I was a little worried about whether I was actually just too tired and overwhelmed to take advantage of its benefits, but fortunately that was not the case...

I am going to indulge myself one day next week in a long lavish post about goals for 2008, but the real essential truth of the matter is that my one huge goal for 2008 is to take better care of myself and calm down a bit. This includes things like hydration, really I do not drink enough water, but the main thing is to figure out how to sleep a bit more & not let myself get into such a state about things. I have really overextended myself this last few months, and the worst thing about the state I'm in is that I have nobody to blame for it but myself. It's like when you're on a machine at the gym and it seems too easy and you turn up the resistance higher and higher and then all of a sudden you're staggering and can barely pedal or stay on the treadmill or whatever.

There's a fatal lag time--I feel something lacking (often already a sign of overwork), I pile on more activities, I pile on even more activities because I'm feeling the strain and more work initially seems like a panacea, and then the next thing you know it is absolutely too much and a complete disaster. But I do not actually enjoy being in a state of frenzy, and I am going to devote more brainpower to figuring out how to make some of this stop, or at least moderate its baleful influence...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuesday run

Pure bliss. It's a lovely day, mid-30s and sunny, and the paths in Riverside Park are for the most part beautifully clear...

5.5 miles, 9:22 pace average (HR avg 146).

(I am very paranoid about slipping on ice, I am pretty much just not going to run outside if it is at all slippery: mostly I'm just a cautious person in general, for instance I think that timidity is going to be my ultimate limiting factor re: cycling, but also my mother slipped and fell in the winter of 1993-94, she broke her wrist very badly and it was an accident with fairly life-changingly catastrophic consequences one way and another. Some of the life changes were good, it was not all bad, and the worst-case scenario did not in fact come to pass [she is a pianist, and it was very unclear for some time whether she'd really be able to play again properly--but in the end, though she still has a lot of pain and loss of strength and mobility, she reshifted some priorities and in my admittedly biased opinion was playing better than ever by a few years after the accident]. But just because good things sometimes come out of bad ones does not mean that everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds--and I really would prefer not to break any bones myself!)

Monday, December 17, 2007


I had a sudden glimmer of reason around five o'clock--the details are not worth going into, but it was clearly time for emergency triage fitness decisions! I have a huge amount still to do this week, I need my wits about me, and that means trying to get some sleep. I reluctantly wrote off Monday-night swimming, which eats a three-hour chunk out of the evening and ensures I do not go to sleep until 1:45am at the earliest. About 2 minutes later I realized I should also write off Tuesday-morning swimming, since it means getting up at 5:15am and I think the sleep will be of more benefit than even the most magically good workout. I need to run in the morning anyway, I cannot blow three fruitful early-morning hours on exercise tomorrow by squeezing in some insane swim-bike-run sequence, I need to calm down!

So that cleared things up.

I went to the office and had useful meetings till 7:30, got home around 7:45--just when I'd usually be starting swimming at John Jay--and found an e-mail saying that Monday-night swimming was canceled! Yes!

Then I went back to the office (symptom of lack of sleep: forgetting things!), and then I went for a nice quiet half-hour of contemplative swimming in the quiet exam-period's-not-hellishly-crowded-any-more evening CU pool slot. Nice! I did miscellaneous lengths of this and that, all very leisurely, including a bunch of IM hundreds. I can't remember when I just went and swam in a relaxing way, it was very pleasant (only in non-exam period that pool is never relaxing during the evening hours, so it was a rare treat due to other reasons than simply compulsive behavior on my part). Now I am going to eat dinner and go to sleep, after perhaps doing a couple more tiny little work things that I must take care of tonight...

Gym workout and bike #19

A very enjoyable workout with M. this morning at the gym. Nothing spectacular, just regular--good!

Bike #19, 20 mins., 570 mins. total. Yes, this is pitiful, but the schedule is out of control.

I think I am going to do another 30 in 30 on the bike starting around MLK day/beginning of new semester, this time with real workouts and really concentrating on what I'm doing. Swimming seven days a week is never logistically quite feasible, and running thirty days in a row seems inadvisable for injury-related reasons--and in any case the bike is where I'm by far the weakest, anything I do will be an improvement. Not sorry I've been doing even this half-assed version, actually, it was definitely better than nothing--but it turned out to be more inconvenient than I possibly imagined, it really is against common sense!

Bike #18 and treadmill run, a.k.a. the Primal Scream

The last few days have been a bit of a disaster, but what can you do...

Just had a mentally beneficial late-night gym session. Note to future self: do not ever persuade yourself it would be a good idea to join a twenty-four-hour gym, no matter how alluring and convenient it might sound! I lost both my Thursday and my weekend runs to the evil Wintry Mix, having forgot the cardinal rule of running which is that ANY run is better than NO run. So I dragged myself over to the Columbia gym, did half an hour on the bike and 2.5 treadmill miles, alternating laps of fast and slow. Enjoyable.

(I want to get to be a much faster runner, I will start doing some speedwork again in February, but meanwhile doing a treadmill one like this now and again is a good idea...)

As I came out into the quad, I walked straight into the middle of the ritual known as the Primal Scream, it was most apt!

I now feel that as long as I get up at 6am sharp tomorrow and make an insanely detailed list of everything that has to get done this week, everything will be just fine!

Bike #18, 30 mins., 550 mins. total.

(I have fallen far behind on this wretched project, #1 was on Nov. 25 and really I was going to have done all thirty by Xmas--but there are only nine more days including Xmas itself, so that is only twenty-eight--I guess I should make two of those doubles of some conceptual kind, and then I have just about acquitted myself with some semblance of honor...)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Swimming-related thoughts

I would not say I am unduly self-critical, I have a fair appreciation for what I achieve--only I am always so keenly aware of a bigger and better and altogether more excellent future version of whatever it is, there is a certain tendency to deprecate current attainments and concentrate on future goals. I was raised to believe that pride is a vice rather than a virtue! But I think I have to admit to myself that 2007 has been a great year for swimming, and that I should be at least a little bit proud.

I approached the task of learning to swim properly in January with grim determination, there was nothing light-hearted about it: I had a stress fracture that meant I couldn't run, I had the gleam of triathlon in my eye and it was also clear that I needed to have swimming as a non-weight-bearing cross-training tool for future running endeavors. The first few months were fairly awful--as a little kid, I loved swimming, and I learned a quite functional front crawl at age five or so, but I could hardly swim more than a few lengths without stopping to rest and the stroke itself was that very flat crawl which has since been rendered virtually obsolete. And of course the thing about swimming is that if you want to turn your functional old flat stroke into a really decent modern one, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better, so that though my swimming conditioning continued to improve through February and March, the stroke itself became significantly worse, which was rather mortifying...

But I had resolved to swim five times a week (subsequently reduced to four, once the complexity of pool hours fully dawned on me) until I could swim properly, and I have pretty much done that (plus spent vast amounts of money on lessons and workouts of various kinds), and I am pretty much now delighted with the results.

Even in September, it seemed inconceivable to me that I would be able to swim a hundred IM by the end of the year, and yet progress has been very rapid, I am fully functional now on all the strokes. Yes, of course I have a huge amount still to learn--everything could get significantly better, and most immediately I've got to start working seriously on flip turns and bilateral breathing. But it's really pretty good--I was prepared for it to take a lot longer to get to this point.

I. videotaped me in September doing an innocent approximation of what I believed to be breaststroke--I never learned it at all as a kid, it is not that I had an adequate version that needed updating, I was in complete ignorance. And then she videoed me again a couple weeks ago, and here is the amazing difference. The first one is truly awful, I am looking at it now and thinking, like, ARGHHHH! But the second one, though swimmers will see much room for further improvement, looks perfectly normal! This is exciting...

(And yes, sometimes we have the pool to ourselves but other weeks there's another teacher with a couple of students, and I am indeed about four times the size and seven times the age of all of the other swimming pupils, they eye me askance and wonder what I can possibly be doing!)

I am particularly grateful for all the wonderful swimming teachers and mentors I have found this year. I had a couple nice and funny swimming teachers around the place at Columbia before I discovered the group lessons run by Doug Stern, who died in June. I miss Doug very much, but through him I found I.--who has been a most wonderful teacher, I cannot speak highly enough of how much I've learned from her this fall and how enjoyable it's been!--and Robert, whose Monday-night coaching has had an immensely beneficial effect on my freestyle stroke. The Thursday-morning coach at Columbia is wonderfully inspiring and creates workouts of great beauty and swimming genius.

I've met some nice people in the lanes, and I'm also grateful to friends like Brent and Becca for tips and general training-related encouragement. But the person who I most want to thank, and who is the most generous swimming mentor imaginable, is of course the lovely Wendy Buckner. (It's Wendy's birthday today, so pop over there and wish her many happy returns in the comments!) Wendy has responded to countless questions and rants of mine with the most unbounded patience and intelligence; and though she is a singularly modest person, it must be said that the quality of the advice she purveys is extraordinarily high, despite her reticence about her serious coaching credentials!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Swimming lesson

It was a divinely good one, too. Mostly backstroke work, then some miscellaneous other stuff. Some amazing backstroke drills--my favorite was a particularly evil one-armed drill that involved holding the other arm perfectly perpendicular in the air--a length on each side (hmm, I am strongly right-handed, not so bad when I'm stroking with that side but when I'm holding that one in the air and stroking with the left arm only I really do feel like I'm going to drown, it was just as I. promised!) and then after two breathless almost-drown-y lengths straight into two lengths of real proper backstroke and they were certainly the best lengths of it I have swum, quite lovely. Some sprint IM lengths at the end, very enjoyable too.

I've just been out for almost twelve hours straight, which does not suit me, acquitting myself of enjoyable and important but rather tiring family-and-friend obligations, and I must say--remorsefully but sensibly--that there is no point doing a bike workout now. I am knackered. I will eat something nutritious, read something frivolous and try and get to sleep by midnight.

Slated to do an eight-mile run at nine tomorrow in Central Park, but the forecast is fairly dire--will have to wait and see if it's slippery or not, hard to say if it will be OK. I will be very sorry if I cannot do it, I am out all day again later and will not be able to squeeze it in if it doesn't happen in the morning. And Monday's impossible, and Tuesday's not ideal, and in fact I had better not think about this now or I certainly will not be able to go to sleep, maybe the weather won't be so bad in the morning anyway!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bike #17

Bike #17, 30 mins., 520 mins. total.

I have left it too late to do a run also, plus I'm way too hungry--I slept for two hours this afternoon when I should have been doing that run I missed yesterday, I am remorseful now but it also seems to me I need to calm down more than I need to do the run!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bike #16

Bike #16 of 30, 40 mins., 490 mins. total.

I couldn't do my run this afternoon. Classic wintry mix situation, just about freezing point and unhappily alternating between hail, snow, sleet and rain; it was so slippery that I almost went flying a couple times just during the couple blocks between office and home. I will hope the ground underfoot is clearer in the morning, I will try again then--I do not mind other horrible weather aspects, fairly stoical I think, but slippery makes me too cautious for it to be sensible, I do not really want to fall over...

I am contemplating going to the Friday morning swim workout tomorrow, but it partly depends what time I get to sleep tonight. I really, really need to catch up on some hours of that stuff, but I am already slightly anxious thinking about the pool being closed over Xmas for two weeks. I can go up and swim at Riverbank a few times, but I'm traveling quite a bit also and I know it will be awkward. Hmmm...driving myself perhaps a bit hard, better be sensible, it is not a moral defeat if I do not get up at 5:15 tomorrow morning to swim!

Heavenly Thursday morning swim

Just heavenly.

(And the men's swim team practice didn't start till 7:30, since classes are over now, so we got a bit of extra pool time--I wish I had known in advance--if I had gotten up forty minutes earlier, eaten proper breakfast and done a couple crucial work things, I could have stayed for the whole rest of the set, ARGHHH! Tantalizing...)

Warmup: 3 x 350 (25 fly, 3 x 75 fly-back-breast kick, 100 free--or something like this anyway, it's slightly lost to me now, a couple of the 75s were perhaps something else!)

Main set, which was a thing of great conceptual and practical beauty:

4 x 350, moving through IM order

25 kick stroke, 50 drill stroke, 50 swim stroke, 3 x 75 free

And the fourth set is 25 fly, 50 back, 50 breast, then the 75s of free.

(In theory each successive set of 75s free would be done on a slightly tighter interval, so that the first three might be on 1:35 and the final ones on 1:20 or whatver, but I must say that I entirely forgot about this and only remembered at the end...)

I loved this set, and I was able to do all of it in more or less OK time, it was exciting...

I was swimming down with a couple lengths of back (which is my new favorite stroke now that I actually understand how to do it more or less properly), it was after seven already, and then it turned out there was a delightful further part to the workout, only as I say I could not stay for all of it. I did 3 x 100 IM - the whole set (very characterically structured, I just love the way this guy thinks about swimming!) would have been 12 x 100, with the first three all IM, then 2 IM and 1 free, then 1 IM and 2 free, then last three all free.

All I want to do is swim, all the time!

And drink coffee, which I am now going to do...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gym/bike #15

Great workout with M., very enjoyable, only I was impossibly hungry--got up too early, breakfast had already worn off before I started. Now I am going to have coffee and second breakfast. (I have been watching the Lord of the Rings movies while I do my trainer rides!)

Bike #15, 20 mins., 450 mins. total. I feel very cheap counting this towards the 30, but time constraints today are such that it was unavoidable...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesday run

A really lovely one, for some reason it was just excellent, only now I have idiotically but thoroughly counteracted its good effects by wrestling for half an hour with the wretched Polar Weblink--I finally got the data onto the computer, it was being particularly temperamental, but the numbers are clearly wildly implausible, I do not know what happened. A lesson to me not to depend on mechanical devices!

Anyway it was just great, not cold at all (40ish?). S. sensibly suggested five instead of six, and I suggested slow instead of fast; we sort of went at a better clip than was quite intended, but it was super-enjoyable, well worth it. HR low to mid-150s, don't really know about pace but probably sort of 8:30-9ish, phasing faster and then slower again--probably hit around 8:15-8:20 for a mile and a half or so.

I must say that really I have S. to thank for at least a minute of that 10K improvement. (May: 54:10, 8:44 pace; December: 51:33, 8:18 pace. Same [hilly] course.) There are other reasons my time dropped so much between May and now (I'd only been running a couple months again post-injury at that point, and I've certainly trained very consistently since May and with lots of sensible cross-training), but a big part of it is that running with S. keeps me honest about certain things--namely that speed matters!

I really love the mix of having long slow ones at a pace as much as a couple minutes per mile slower than the mid-week runs, but S. is significantly faster than me in a way that really makes me push myself on these Tuesday evening ones--I cannot let myself off the hook by saying "Oh, I am just good at endurance stuff, I have no turn of speed!"

While the coffee brews

I will just report that I am ashamed of myself for being in such a fretful mood last night, I had a lovely swim this morning...

It was not the kind of swim, we observed in the locker room afterwards, that gives you much to think about. (The Thursday workouts spoil us.) But this has its benefits.

For the first half, I had the lane entirely to myself; in the second half, I split it, but retained that sense of freedom and independence. Not a fast swim, I think (it's hard to do a great workout on your own in the lane--really in my ideal swimming world I will find a masters workout where I am really working hard together with three others in a lane, I seem to have had none of this recently, very frustrating), but the feel was great (the technique benefits of the Monday night-Tuesday morning transition are luxuriously and decadently excellent, my hands feel like huge bear paws after all that anchor drill!).

Warmup: 300 swim, 150 drill-kick (choice), 150 swim.

Main workout: 5 x 100 free on 2:00 (I regretfully observe that I still cannot do 100s on 1:50 or even 1:55, I did try though but it is not to the point, not enough rest!); 5 x 50 drill-kick (choice--really I don't know drills etc. on the different strokes that do not make me feel that I might possibly drown, can't for instance properly do that dolphin kick with double-arm back though I. showed it to me and I temporarily achieved it once or twice, so I did miscellaneous stuff, including some regular swim in the other strokes); 5 x 100 IM. In theory the workout then continued with another 5 x 50 drill-kick, and 5 x 100 free, but time was up, the girls were ready to get in for 7am practice, so I just did 100 easy to swim down.

Can I just say that my backstroke is, like, a different stroke than it was last week?!? This is amazing. I think in an absolute sense it may be a bit slower than what I've been doing, but on the other hand it only takes about half the effort, so this is a big step forward...

Bike #14, 30 mins, 430 mins. total.

It was interesting, I was on the bike at the gym and had a sudden revelation that I was missing my real actual bike, which I have come to feel relatively fond of--the broad cushiony seat of the gym bike made me long for my nice narrow bike seat at home, and everything fitting me so exactly perfectly that it's like an extension of the body. I feel that even aside from mild potential fitness benefits (but I have not really been doing it in a way that leads to much fitness!), the 30 in 30 thing has already earned its keep if it has made me feel this way...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday swimming

More or less:

Warmup: 200 swim, 150 pull, 150 kick, 4 x 75 by 25s of right arm, left arm, catch-up (with fins)

4 x (2 x 50 drill) (long dog paddle, reverse catch-up, opposite side breathe right-arm left-arm, something else I can't remember)

Main set, done twice:

150 pull
3 x (3 x 50 on :55), with 1:00 RI after each set of 3
150 easy swim

Then we did random hundreds of various kinds while the coach did some videotaping--I think he's going to edit it so he can show it to us next week. I did 100 each of drill, pull, swim as suggested, then 3 100s of IM for variety, that backstroke was feeling pretty good... Maybe another couple hundred free, including the 75 where I was taped.

My catch felt pretty good, form in general good & quite enjoyable swimming, only it was one of the rare occasions when swimming could not counter a strong sense of dysphoria and misanthropy, my thoughts just never got quiet, very annoying!

Gym workout and bike #13

A particularly enjoyable workout with M. this morning at the gym. It's funny, I cannot say I actually feel well rested--indeed, the words "mental and physical exhaustion" come to mind!--but I have just had four nights in a row of more-or-less adequate sleep (between six and eight hours, no disastrous either front-end or middle-of-the-night insomnia) and frankly I am just much better rested than usual, it makes a huge difference! I was sort of springily doing all the stuff, the time flew by.

I especially like the first round of stuff we started with--we are often doing something a bit like this--but today I felt I was really getting the most out of it: planks (side as well as front, 45-60 seconds depending on the variant--I like doing the front ones with feet on a medicine ball, that's exciting!), cobra with baby-sized weights, "quadruped" (on all fours, raising opposite-side arm and leg, with five-pound weight in hand and strapped to ankle), a rather evil kind of crunch that I am still finding quite challenging (fifteen with a bar, fifteen without--lie flat, legs raised straight out & never touching ground; bring up torso and legs together, legs coming so that calves are parallel to ground and femurs near-perpendicular), then 60 seconds running-in-place-with-high-knees. By the end of the third round of this you really are dripping with sweat and in love with life...

(I asked M. afterwards why I am still so pitiful at those crunches, he says they are just hard and he has trouble with them also! That was heartening, I was wondering why they had not become miraculously easy as certain other exercises seem to once one does them a certain number of times...)

Oh, and then I got a thing of great excellence, good fodder for the blog! The first version of the calendar M.'s been working on! Here's his Myspace (Plaisir is the stage name!)--it's up on that page (scroll down), only I am not sure the pictures are large and bright enough to be visible.

I think I will try and scan part of the poster--thinking of what I know of this blog's constituency, I will concentrate on pics with physique and dogs (but I guess it will not hurt to throw in a few beautiful half-naked girls, lots of people like those also)...

Bike #13, 30 mins., 400 mins. total. A nice round number--I wish I were doing real training-type workouts, it's not quite happening yet, but there is no doubt that I would not have been doing any bike stuff whatsoever this month if I had not undertaken this wretched 30 in 30 plan, so there you go...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bike #12

Bike #12, 30 mins., 370 mins. total.

Week's schedule

Mon. am: 30 min. bike plus PT; pm: swim
Tues. am: swim plus 30 min. gym bike; pm: run 6 in Central Park with S.
Wed. am: 30 min. bike plus PT
Thurs. am: swim plus 30 min. gym bike; pm: run 5 easy in Riverside Park
Fri.: 1 hr. bike
Sat.: pm: swim lesson, unspecified bike
Sun.: am: run 8 easy in Central Park; pm: 1 hr. bike

I need to make the move from just doing token time on the bike to doing actual workouts, but it's not going to happen this week...

(I am not doing the indoor triathlon next Sunday because it turned out to be the best/only day for me to take a young cat-lover of my acquaintance to the Moscow Cats Theatre, which really takes precedence for obvious reasons!)

The rest of December and January are going to require flexibility. I'll have very little swimming for the last two weeks of the month due to pool closures and travel (must make sure to get in at least a couple swims somewhere each week though, for sanity as well as to maintain fitness/feel), but a lot of swimming in January. I'll keep running regularly, and will make sure to run more often when I'm travelling and can't do anything else. I will make bike workouts a priority again once the new semester starts on Jan. 21, but I've got the slight wrinkle that my editor wants the revised book manuscript by the end of January if possible (that will just about let it exist in bound copies in time for next December's MLA convention). I'm certainly going to do my damnedest to make that deadline, but mid-February may be a bit more realistic (and it has to be done by then, because after that I've got an unrelenting string of other important deadlines--goodness, it will be a huge relief to have this book off my hands...).

So I think that for every reason this next eight weeks or so needs to be a "swim as much as possible, keep up running fitness for an enjoyable and injury-free half-marathon on Jan. 27, do regular strength workouts and some biking but don't go crazy about maniacal training plans" spell...


It was good, it followed a by-now familiar pattern whereby I spent the first two miles having moderate road rage and just cursing the dishonesty of people's self-placement in the corral (I thought I was really starting as far forward as I could possibly justify, near the front of the 8:00 mile section, only really I was overtaking about five hundred very slow people with great irritation in the first twenty minutes, it is irksome and bad for the soul, I should be a more relaxed person--only it is after all a race!).

The dispiriting thing is that you just look out over the sea of (rather slow-moving) humanity unfolding in ribbons ahead of you and do not understand why you did not instead have a nice long run rather earlier in the morning instead of getting wrapped up in these wretched institutionalized races (the website says 4840 finishers, and it really is only a two-lane-type situation, in theory you are meant to fit into the very narrow rec lane which is about the width of someone's driveway in the suburbs only it is simply not possible).

From mile 2.5 or so I was finally able to run pretty hard, quite enjoyable; that 10K is a tough distance, though, and the forced unevennness of pacing is not ideal...

So: 51:33/8:18 pace. Very respectable, I was aiming for 52:00 really, I am pleased with my time.

(But I am tempted to find a fast, flat and less crowded one to do in the late spring so that I can have a real benchmark/time-trial-type time to work off, this is certainly not it!)

The device (which I did not remember to turn off immediately at the finish) says pace average 8:20, HR average 164. (Max pace 6:35, that sounds about right for a good downhill clip--it does seem like I'm getting faster...)

Splits with HR average (terrain fairly uneven, some miles significantly hillier than others so pacing in last four miles more even based on effort than numbers suggest):

8:51 (152)
8:22 (162)
8:01 (164)
8:24 (171)
8:13 (170)
7:54 (171)
last bit with HR 176/lap end pace 7:19 (interesting, I actually felt that I must have slowed down, my legs felt ridiculously strong still but I was tipping over during the last mile into that mild lactate-threshold queasiness which I do not enjoy...)

(Training partner S. made his sub-50:00 goal--49:29, 7:58 pace!)

(I jogged over to warm up, this is definitely the way to do it, especially given the start at 102nd St. on the east side which is relatively inaccessible by public transportation from where I live--1.5 mi, 10:20 pace, HR 143.)

A nice sociable breakfast afterwards with training partner L., Nico and another friend of L.'s, who all did the race also; this was good...

Glucose delivery

Duncan Mackay interviews Paula Radcliffe at the Observer.

Also, from the archives, Emma Townshend on the history of the energy bar.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bike #11

Bike #11, 30 mins., 340 mins. total.

Swimming lesson

Oh, it was a particularly amazing lesson this afternoon, fairly quiet and focused and very much to the point only with moments of mild hilarity. We worked only on backstroke, which we have been somewhat neglecting; I did do a couple 80s of IM (yes, it is a 20-yard pool!) to warm up, and some fly down-breast back while I. was rearranging things at one point, but it was amazing how much progress I made on that stroke just over the course of an hour.

We began with what I. had been threatening last week--she had made a funny skinny lane for me in the middle of the pool, and I kind of yanked myself down it (with pull buoy) and then backstroked back up to try and get the right shoulder-blades-together feeling. Also used it to keep arms narrow/close to body on regular stroke. We worked a lot on the elbow position and really pushing forward properly, then added a couple further refinements--some interesting little stuff here and there with different drill combinations. And then at the end we had an even skinner lane, only a couple inches wider than my shoulders, very interesting if a bit abrasive!

Only two more lessons--this is just as well from a financial point of view, I find that almost everything fitness- and triathlon-related is more expensive than one quite thinks possible but swimming really takes the cake. They have been extraordinarily useful though--was I not just in September bemoaning what seemed like the true impossibility of ever knowing how to do a hundred IM?!?

Then a CU triathlon meeting--sort of stuff I know already (mostly equipment-related), but I haven't been able to go to any of the workouts this semester, so it seemed worth showing up. I feel I had a nice triathlon-related respite from real life, and I still must do a short bike this evening and that 10K tomorrow so I must make sure I extract every ounce of enjoyment from 'em to sustain me mentally through ongoing work stress!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Easy run

3.1 mi. easy (saving it for the race on Sunday).

10:42 pace, average HR 142 (but the monitor isn't working right, it would give me some implausibly high number and then when I waved it around go back to the low- to mid-140s from which my actual HR had clearly not strayed).

Legs still very stiff from that gym workout Wednesday morning--it's the lunges that do it! This is not going to be a particularly fast race, I have low to moderate expectations...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

I had a depressing feeling as I hurried over to the gym this morning (I was almost ten minutes late I'm afraid, it is simply not psychologically plausible to stop commenting on a paper a few pages from the end, then you will have to read the whole thing all over again if you pick it up later!) of having stretched myself too thin this week. I have too many competing obligations and each one is suffering.

However after a few lengths in the pool it all seemed immaterial, I felt miraculously calm and happy! A strange feeling at this time of the school year...

I didn't have time to do the whole warmup; just did 100 swim, 100 IM, 200 pull.

8 x 25, swim underwater down (plus five seconds rest) and sprint back (twenty seconds rest)

(NB I must consult with I. about this swimming underwater business, I was peering around to see how everyone else was doing it but I think I will have to learn better coordination of arms and legs for it to work, really I just annoyingly pop up to the surface despite my best intentions. I like how when you're really underwater like that the water feels so heavy, though!)

4 x 200 pull, with the third 50 of each 200 as stroke in IM order (i.e. 100-150 of the first 200 is fly, of next 200 is back, etc.)

2 x 400 IM; on first 400, 50 kick-50 drill by hundreds, and on second 400, 50 drill-50 swim also by hundreds (i.e. 50 fly kick, 50 fly drill, 50 back kick, 50 back drill, etc.)

Ran out of time on this last, missed the last 50 of breast swim and all 100 free drill-swim. But this is fine, it was a lovely swim! I haven't swum since Monday night, I couldn't afford to lose the time Tuesday morning, but the stroke drill work we were doing then has held over, I didn't feel fast but I had that great taffyish-handfuls-of-water sensation. At practice on Monday night R. was showing us a video of Amanda Beard's freestyle, she's got this long flat pull and her shoulders really come out of the water in this amazing way, the body rotation is quite something. I am confident that a video would reveal that I do not look like that when I swim, and yet you do feel that holding the image in your head has some slight and happy contribution to form...

Then I did 30 mins. on one of the bikes in the basement.

Bike #10 of 30, 30 mins., 310 mins.

Now I am mentally fortified for the day. It's funny, usually on Mondays and Tuesdays this semester I have been doing a morning and an evening workout (Mon.: strength-training am, 1.5 hr swim pm; Tues. 1 hr swim am, 6-7 mi. run pm) but time pressures this week meant I only did the evening workout both days. And it kind of makes it feel like a day off! Very strange--and though I was tired both evenings in a sleep-deprived way, my actual body was noticeably more springy and energetic than usual, interesting--you really notice the difference. (However I like the two-a-days better than the one-a-days, two lets you really sort of spread out and take over!)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bike #9

Bike #9 of 30, 30 mins., 280 mins. total.

Gym workout

A nice one with M. this morning. Medium effort-level, still a little too short on sleep to go all out. It's amazing how much better I feel at the end than at the beginning, though.

The usual stuff, some good planks and crunches of various kinds, squats and lunges and so forth. We've been doing these one-leg deadlifts that I think are very good, just with a ten-pound dumbbell--it makes it more of a balance exercise and less strictly strength-based, you can really feel all the calf and ankle muscles straining to keep you upright...

All the ARC machines were occupied when I got there, so I warmed up on the bike instead for ten minutes, and contemplated some creative equivocation by which I could count that ten minutes as an actual bike workout, thereby clawing my way back to 30-in-30-related respectability by means fair or foul. However I decided that this was beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior, I'll just have to figure out which days will make sense for doubles...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Run - with cats!

(No bike this morning, which means I am two behind. It was unavoidable--the extra forty minutes of sleep weren't exactly enough, but they were necessary. Mood: self-reproachful but moderately resigned.)

A great run with S. this evening in the park. As I often have occasion to say, that fellow is just a fast runner! 6.1 miles, 8:41 average pace (and a farfetched 4:57 max pace!). Unfortunately my HR strap was for some reason not transmitting, I didn't realize until too late to do anything about it--high effort level, very enjoyable...

Mile splits: 9:17, 8:45, 8:16, 8:25, 8:46, 8:18. Lots of lap-end pace in the 7s rather than the 8s, though of course it's usually because it's downhill. I think it's worth trying for 8:15 pace in the 10K, there's a good chance I can do it--S. is aiming for sub-50:00, that is not currently feasible for me on this course!

S.'s lovely wife H. served us a delicious home-cooked meal afterwards, a rare treat for me frankly, and has also obliged me by sending pictures of their devastatingly attractive cats--these cats are just ravishingly good-looking, it is quite amazing!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday-night swimming

Frightfully tired in a way that leaches desire to write! Numbers it will be...

Warmup: 200 swim, 150 drill, 6 x 25 kick

#1: 4 x 75 drill, 2 x 100 drill

#2 (on 15 seconds rest): 200 pull, 50 sprint, 100 pull, 100 swim, 50 sprint, 300 swim, 6 x 75 alternating drill and swim

Bike #8

#8 of 30, 30 mins., 250 mins. total.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Run and bike #7

Not in the proper triathlon order, but in this month of short daylight hours and copious obligations there is no point being excessively self-critical, I will take things one step at a time.

An enjoyable run, only very slippery underfoot due to snow--I would have liked to go a little further, only the last part of the route seemed undesirably slick and it was starting to get dark in any case. 4.4 mi., 10:30 average mile pace, 145 average HR.

Got pretty much straight on the bike when I got home; I need to shower now and be out of the house in fifteen minutes.

Bike #7, 40 mins., 220 mins. total.

NB if I am going to be running all winter I need to get some more like train-running shoes, with better grip on the soles...

Collecting sweat in rubber gloves

A hilarious and inspiring article at the Times about Dr. J. Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade.

Pacing for 10K

I finally had a lie-in and am having a lazy morning, thank goodness...

Thoughts on pacing for the 10K next Sunday. Off my last half-marathon time, the McMillan calculator predicts 51:20/8:15 pace.

Factors suggesting I should go slower (say 8:25-8:30):

1. The course is significantly hillier.

2. I haven't been doing any speedwork; really I've just been particularly thinking about half-marathon distance, and my strength is more endurance than speed.

(Hmmm, maybe this is just wishful, who knows really? It might be rather than I enjoy working on endurance more than on speed, but that it is pure fantasy that it will suit me better to push hard on getting a marathon pace that's not a huge amount slower than my half-marathon pace rather than working on speed for these four- and five-mile races that seem to me not very interesting in terms of the mental challenge. Anyway those McMillan paces in my admittedly extremely limited experience seem very consistent--I do not have a turn of speed on very short runs, I was always the last person in every sprint I ever had to do as a kid, but really it is just a fact of human physiology that there will be considerable consistency for many or even most people across a wide range of distances.)

Factors suggesting this is appropriate:

1. I really felt like I could have gone faster in Philadelphia, maybe 15 seconds/mile faster, only I didn't want to blow what was clearly going to be a good PR and an excellent and very enjoyable run.

2. Why not try it?!?

I am not particularly invested in a time goal on this one--I did a 10K in May at 54:10/8:44 pace (more or less same course, only I cannot remember whether it was in the same direction round the loop or not), really I should be able to beat that barring unforeseen calamity, might just be interesting to see how fast I can go.

Run steady and hard for first four miles, then give it my all for the last two--I feel like I've been able to get pretty close to eight-minute miles for the last two at the end of a half-marathon, really I should be able to do it at the end for this one also.

I think my body can handle a race in which my HR goes into the 170s early on and stays there, so long as it's over in not much more than 50 minutes--it was that high for pretty much the whole of the wretchedly hot and humid half in October, certainly I kind of felt like I was going to die and had to take some walk breaks on hills in the last five miles or so, and no reason I shouldn't hold 170-173 or something like that and then just go all out for last couple miles...

In any case I really will be running on effort rather than on time very self-consciously speaking, the pod in-the-moment pace measurements are not so useful on a hilly course and the terrain is uneven enough that mile splits are not particularly useful either, not without getting more precise than I really want to be...

Oh, this is good, now I really am looking forward to it!

I must try and run for at least fifty minutes today, though it's snowing quite a bit and in the 20s so this is slightly thwarting. I will run Tuesday evening in the park (probably only 6, I think). I've got an unpleasantly tight schedule Thursday, so I think I'll just do a nice slow one Friday morning first thing instead, and count on cross-training to get me through the week otherwise.

I will wait another couple weeks before making my next chunk of training schedule, got to finish the business of the semester and deal with crazy schedule stuff in December, but I did just also register for the first of the Grand Prix half-marathon series for 2008--held over the course of the year, one in each of New York's five boroughs. I must prepare to be thwarted if some work trip takes me out of town for one of them, but really I am hoping I can do them all, it is a fun project...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Swimming lesson

Right now this is basically my favorite hour of the week...

It's interesting, there's something very stimulating about swimming, but in a calming way. I have had a slightly overstimulating week--swimming is at once insanely stimulating and very, very tranquility-inducing in a way that is rather foreign to me! Good for the soul...

We worked really almost entirely on breaststroke, various drills on the pull that I think had a quite beneficial effect by the end. I. videotaped me on her camera and we took a look, got to keep the elbows high and really let the hands do the work and go vertical--a lot of little sculling drills with paddles, etc. etc. And we did practice doing some of those (can't remember the name now) pulloffs, where you come off the wall underwater.

A bit of back at the end, because I really need to figure out some form stuff, only we ran out of time--but actually it's related to the breaststroke thing, I need to keep the elbows high and let the hands drop down [ED. No--come up! This is always confusing because I. demonstrates it standing up and I don't end up quite translating it plausibly underwater!] perpendicular, I am basically not really at all doing that last part of the stroke where you push down.

Interesting, illuminating, enjoyable. Swimming has the same aspect yoga does (only I like swimming so much more than yoga because it is in water and also you move forward), of how you could do it four or five times a week for ten years and you would still be learning something new about how to do it better...

Bike #6

Just time for a brief morning interlude, with some thoughts on hypocrisy and the novel...

It will make my later-on schedule a lot less stressful having got this out of the way early--it's looking pretty breakneck. Somewhere in there I must do laundry, all of my most useful items of clothing are really unwearably dirty at this point! Combination of rolling around on the dusty floor at these rehearsals, drenching bathing suits in chlorine and sweating profusely onto athletic undergarments--I think I last did laundry a couple days before that half-marathon...

Bike #6 of 30, 30 mins, 180 mins. total.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday gym workout

And it was a good one, too, though around 6:20 I was thinking very seriously of canceling, this has been an exceptionally poor week for sleep...

We kept things pretty low-key, I was wary of starting to feel sick if we did anything that made my heartrate get very high (had to leave a talk before the Q&A earlier this evening, the room was so hot I really was not feeling well), so it was pretty much the traditional strength-training stuff, more machines than we usually use: sort of nice, for a change, though I am impatient for it to be back where I am working super-hard...

Next week's schedule is going to undergo a bit of modification based on the insanity that was this week. (Really all I want to do is exercise a lot more than I have been doing, but this is not the time to think that way!) M. can't meet Monday morning anyway, and I am going to skip Tuesday-morning swimming because I am out at a play + dinner on Sunday night and also am meeting my grandfather for dinner after Monday-night swimming (he never comes to the Upper West Side, but is seeing a play about 10 blocks away from the pool, so it's too pleasant a thing to miss). I quite simply and obviously need the sleep more than I need the Tuesday-morning swim; the one that's really unskippable is Thursday, that's the day with great coach-workout combination...

I'll do a little bike thing Monday morning, nothing huge, and then swim Monday night; short bike first thing Tuesday am, then I'll run Tuesday evening with S. and other sub-clubbers in the park, but sleep in till 7:30am or so on both Monday and Tuesday for restorative purposes. I'll work out with M. first thing Wednesday morning (plus--hmmm, this is getting a bit repetitive!--bike); Thursday early-morning swim plus bike at gym; Friday light bike and run; Saturday swimming lesson and bike; Sunday 10K race.

(I won't do a taper for this one, I'll just try and sleep and count on it being a rather lighter week exercise-wise than I might like. I'm mostly done teaching at the end of that week, one more seminar the week after and of course tons of other school stuff but it will give me more flexibility schedule-wise, esp. re: running and daytime hours...)

I need to stay flexible about exercise over the next three days. The schedule's pretty tight, and work calls in some fairly important ways! I'll see whether a late bike thing tomorrow evening will work, but I'm prepared for it not to. Saturday early morning I suspect I will still be putting finishing touches on my paper, it's just not psychologically plausible to go out for a run when you're going to have to be all kitted up in nice work clothes & delivering a lecture shortly thereafter--so I am thinking maybe just swimming lesson in the afternoon and bike to follow. Then on Sunday I will do one hour bike and one hour run, that would be a good mental exercise in any case and I will keep the effort level very light.

Thursday swim and bike #5

There is something absurdly unrelenting about the 30 in 30 approach. It it true that I was partly waiting to deal with the bike issue till I finished with that last half-marathon, but on a more introspective level of explanation I have found myself several times this week pondering why it is that I always take on these somewhat massive and inadvisable and sleep-eroding-just-when-I-can-least-afford-it projects at exactly the times when I already feel myself to be near the snapping point in terms of stress.

I may need to skip tomorrow--not sure yet--but I have to save the early morning hours for work, and then I'm out at this conference from 10 till the end of the dinner. It's a mercifully early dinner at least, but I don't think I'll be home before 8:30 or nine; I'll do the bike after that if I can, if I eat a fairly light dinner I should be, you know, all digested or whatever by 9:30ish or 10 and just do half an hour before I go to bed, but I am having a strong suspicion that I have not gotten enough sleep this week for these workouts to really (as it were) sink in...

Anyway, a very nice swim this morning, though I felt mildly queasy at a couple points: I don't think it's exactly food-related, just lack of sleep and the strenuousness of doing butterfly!

Warmup: 300 swim, 150 kick (no time for the other 50 kick or the 300 pull, I was late because of paper-grading imperative)

Main set: 15 x 100, on 10 seconds rest. There is some way to explain this beautifully and economically--it is a beautiful and economical exercise--but I do not know it! Three sets of five. 1-3: free with stroke on the third 25, moving through fly, back, breast; 4: 100 IM; 5: 100 free.

(Hmmm, pity I didn't just swim 50 to cool down, there is something appealing about a round number, 1950 does not have the same ring to it!)

That is a lovely set! A good one for me to go and do on my own. It's funny, you really reap the rewards of the first two fives in the third one, I felt my form on all of the strokes was amazingly better in that last round, very enjoyable...

We were just finishing in our lane as the guys got ready to start their practice, but there was probably one more little set for the other lanes, I am guessing. I want to swim fast enough that I can do the whole workout, I hate not doing it all! However this morning it was not heel-dragging but work that made me a bit late starting the warm-up, so I cannot really have self-reproach.

Then I did 30 mins. on the exercise bike, a mild and pleasant enough interval workout. The basement fitness center room is extraordinarily depressing--I haven't been there for a while, but with a fresh eye I can see that it is not surprising I could never get in a really steady exercise routine in the days where that was the main venue...

Bike #5 of 30, 30 mins., 150 mins. total.

NB: for some reason my breast is much slower than my other strokes. The free is strong, I am disproportionately faster on that one for obvious reasons (I have only just learned the others, but have been working really steadily on free since January, more usefully since March). The butterfly and back have infinite room for improvement technique-wise, they are very clumsy, but actually I move through the water at more or less the same speed as the others I'm currently swimming with--higher effort level, but comparable speed. Breast is ridiculously slow! Form's getting better, so that's more important for now, but perhaps I will address this with I. on Saturday. Wouldn't mind doing a bit of work on back technique also, I think those should be the two things we concentrate on...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Run and bike #4

I couldn't do a brick in the right order, I needed the last of the daylight for the run...

5.2 mi., 147 avg HR, 10:10 avg pace. Nothing eventful, but it was almost painfully enjoyable--the late-afternoon light at this time of year along the river (with the sun setting over the Hudson) is beautiful, like something out of a Keats poem!

I was rather pressed for time after that, but I did squeeze in thirty minutes on the bike and had just about time to shower before going out again. Emergency Clif Bar action--have just eaten actual dinner now, much better, that is not enough food after that workout.

I order boxes of Clif Bars online, or my mother sometimes gives me a box as a (thoughtful!) present--only some flavors are much preferable to others! And I strongly notice that the number of them that I eat is directly related to how palatable I consider the ones around. If they are nice, I eat one almost every day; if not so nice, only a couple times a week in an emergency. (However I do try and keep a box at my office because I am always starving by mid-morning after my lecture!)

Actually I am curious about this, any opinions? Are some flavors of Clif Bar just better than others, or is it a matter of personal taste? The ones I am only rather slowly going through now are apricot, I find they have a not very pleasant sort of raw aspect (the carrot cake one is slightly like this too, only not so off-putting). I have not really tried any of the chocolate ones because in general I prefer non-chocolate--but it seems to me that oatmeal raisin, banana nut bread, crunchy peanut butter and to a lesser extent black cherry almond are really the most palatable. Crunchy peanut butter for instance is mysteriously much nicer than the suspiciously malty peanut toffee buzz, the word "toffee" is distinctly misleading...

(That said, I gave my friend A. a black cherry almond one from a stash in my bag on a stressful day when we were traveling to a funeral and it was 1:30 and there had been no time for lunch between the service and the graveside bit, and she was only just too polite to spit back out the first bite, I think she was expecting something more baked-good-like and less nutritious!)

So: inherent superiority of certain flavors, or no consensus on individual flavor superiority? And is there one I should try that I haven't perhaps mentioned here?

Bike #4 of 30, 30 mins., total 120 mins.

(I am going to do some real bike workouts soon, but this week is not the time, I am swamped!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bike #3

Pleasant once I was doing it (and 30 mins. is indeed starting to feel very short, I will get acclimated and build up to longer times soon, this week is just crunch time), but an effort of will to get started. All sorts of good reasons to put it off (and really I must not do it in the evenings like this, it is bad for sleep which is my great problem in life in any case), but I cannot afford to miss one so early in the sequence--there will no doubt be days in the coming weeks where I feel much, much worse!

I have put off the bike-run till tomorrow, I would very much like a nice run outside in the afternoon for mental health; M. has rescheduled tomorrow morning's appointment to Thursday evening, so instead tomorrow I'll do 30 mins. bike followed by a very easy five-mile run that I'll hope to finish before it gets dark. (And instead of doing two hours on Sunday morning on the bike, I'll do one hour bike and one hour run.)

#3 out of 30, 30 mins., total 90 mins.

Tuesday swim

Decent workout this morning. It occurred to me last night and then again this morning that certain muscles were strongly and happily telling me I had a good workout yesterday at the gym...

(Wasn't feeling very energetic, not enough sleep and a hardish swim last night, but it felt pretty OK otherwise. I am consumed with the desire to find the perfect swim workout, but it is going to have to wait--the one I want to try is this, if I can get to a couple of their workouts in December I will have a better sense if it will suit me...)

500 warmup, though we only had time to do 350 before we got started on the main workout. Can't remember intervals, we ignored 'em in any case. 2 x 50 stroke, 400 free (I think this said 7:30 on the sheet, I did 7:40 maybe? We were swimming steadily rather than hard), 2 x 50 stroke, 2 x 300 free, 2 x 50 stroke, 3 x 200 free, 2 x 50 stroke. Mostly fly down breast back on the stroke, but a couple lengths of back here and there also. No time to do the 4 x 100 at the end (on 1:50 in theory, which I cannot do), the young fellows were at the end of the lanes waiting to get in. I was relieved, I swam hard enough last night that I could not see any real benefit to doing four more hard hundreds this morning!

Grumble: It has dawned on me that the time I leave for swimming is the exact time the newspaper delivery guy ties up the (slowest) elevator (in the world) stepping out on every floor after having pressed all the buttons! Arghhh--I waited more than four minutes this morning--this may not sound like a long time, but it is a trial of the temper--I cannot quite face walking down ten flights, they're just not really set up for it (trash areas by stairs, not properly lit)...

Anti-grumble: I finally got a bathrobe! It is not particularly nice, but the sales clerk sold it to me with extraordinary glee (that was a guy who was really loving his job, the girl at the cash register was dumbfounded at how many robes he had already sold that day) but it will do for now, and it was cheap enough to replace when I find a nicer one.

Further anti-grumble: My past self's present to my present-time self was to put the coffee and water in the stovetop espresso maker last night. It will be ready in about 30 seconds...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Monday night swimming

On the subway downtown I was (I'm not kidding) pondering the relevant pages in my appointment book with a view to working out when I could schedule the necessary minor nervous breakdown a.k.a. weekend off...

I can have it from the evening of Friday the 21st through Monday the 24th, but only if I get in all my grades on Friday. Otherwise I will just have a major nervous breakdown on Christmas, which will be worrying for my family members; so this is a good incentive to get the grading done in good time...

Tonight's workout was bad for my self-image as a swimmer but good for my actual swimming. We had a substitute coach, and he set us very determinedly to work on something that has been on my mind recently as the necessary next project as far as freestyle goes: bilateral breathing.

I'm a very strongly right-handed person, I only breathe on the right (every fourth stroke unless I am swimming very hard in which case I switch to every two), I've got to change this, but of course breathing on the left side or bilaterally reintroduces all the problems into my stroke that I was making at the beginning (in particular the thing of breathing a bit too late in the stroke and then having all the rest of my arms and legs go out of whack). Ah well, it is all in a good cause, even as I was not really enjoying it I was thinking of how good it was for me...

I can offer a very accurate description of the exact workout because it was given to us one little bit at a time in a way that made it hard for me to remember, also it was a different swimmer's brain than usual so the patterns weren't clear to me, so I asked the coach to tell me again at the end so I could write it down.

(I am thinking it would be a good one for me to take and do by myself at Riverbank one day over the holidays.)

Warmup: 300 (I snuck in a few length of butterfly)

300 pull: 100 breathing left, 100 breathing right, 100 bilateral

2 x 25: first breathing every 4, second every 2

Next part of the set with fins:

200 kick by 25s (front; left side; right side; 5 kicks on one side, then switch, aka "alternate catchup")

4 x 50 "broken swim" down (three strokes, then kick on side), swim back breathing every third stroke

4 x 50 breathing every 5, 3 strokes by 25

[I am guessing this is where the fins came off, but really I can't remember.]

2 x (4 x 50) descending 1-4

2 x (25 + 50 + 75 with 20 seconds rest and bilateral breathing)

6 x 100 in threes, with first two comfortable and third hard (I did the first three on 2:00 with the faster group, but this really just is too fast for me still, had to switch to 2:10 for the second three; time on the final one was 1:40, that's not bad)

150 with negative splits (i.e. second 75 rather faster than 1st 75)

100 cooldown choice (I did 50 streamline kick on back, 25 butterfly, 25 breast)

Some useful tips: working on streamline position off wall (and why did I never think before about how the first hand I stroke with should be on the bottom?!?).

As I say, it was not the most enjoyable workout, but looking at it again now I have more of a sense of accomplishment--the kind we get from doing things that we do not entirely like but that are good for us!

A nice thing: he told us that there will be a fun run in Doug Stern's memory, to raise some money for Sloan-Kettering, round the reservoir in the park on Thursday the 20th. That will be a nice thing to look forward to (pre-nervous breakdown, just about!). Details from the New York Flyers website:
1st Annual Jingle-Bell Fun Run for Doug
Thursday, December 20, 6 p.m. - 7 p.m. on the reservoir at Central Park in memory of swim coach Doug Stern, and for the benefit of Kidney Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. To enter, participants only need to buy a jingle bell from Mike Keohane for $10 (100% of the contributions going to MSKCC!!) and then show up, in costume or not, between 6pm and 7pm on the reservoir and run in memory of Doug. This fun-run will be an untimed, uninsured, unmanaged, un-porta-sanned, un-everything event. The way it's supposed to be.

Here are further details.

Training partner L. has also persuaded me to join her and some others in the 10K NYRR race on December 9. It would be nice if I could run a great race--some thoughts will follow closer to the time on pacing. If I am sensible, I should be able to beat my PR from May. It would be even nicer if I could use it as a commitment device to get some sleep next week...

Bike #2 and gym workout

You know, it is most curious, because really I did the exact same thirty minutes on the bike this morning that I did yesterday, only somehow it was much more enjoyable today! Perhaps because I had eaten breakfast first--or maybe because I did some hard minute-long effort bits in the middle that were rather lovely (hmmm, I like how you can get your HR to spike up so quickly, this is convenient--running is not really so much like that, at least at the level I'm at--swimming is, but in a different way--but there is something very pure about the way it works on a bike).

The siren song of e-mail diverted me briefly from what should have been a rather more seamless transition out the door to the gym (I was having an all-round more complicated morning than usual--I had to bring clothes & stuff to shower at the gym, which I never do, because I had split-second timing to make it to midtown for a 10am rehearsal), but basically this will work...

A good workout with M. Just solid, nothing insane, though we did have a stimulating little bit at the end where I thought we were done and then we had some unexpected and rather pleasant little final stuff!

I confessed to him that I just cannot shake the idea of having my winter fitness goal being to work towards being able to do 3-4 unassisted pullups. We have had this conversation before, he is always skeptical, but I think I have persuaded him that it really is worth doing.

ED. Just to clarify--not skeptical about whether I can do it, in fact he is more confident than I that I can--just skeptical about whether it's a good idea!

There just isn't that much gym stuff that really has much sway over my imagination. I can get excited about pushups in miscellaneous variants (I am thinking about doing a lot of 'em with that alternating dumbbell row kind of thing on the sides, and ones with only one foot on the ground, etc. etc.), and planks and ab stuff of various kinds; and I can get excited about the notion of the unassisted pullup. I enjoy the other stuff, but it doesn't strike me mentally one way or another, I don't care how much weight I'm lifting!

It is not so much really that M. thinks I shouldn't do it as that he does have an idea of the proportional female physique that does not involve excessive back muscles--I'm not saying he's wrong--in fact the reason we first were talking about it was last January in the very particular circumstance where my awful stress fracture had insanely limited what I could do. Basically there were about six weeks where the only, only thing I could do at all was 3xweek workout with him, it was about the only thing that kept me sane, but we couldn't do any lower-body stuff and even a lot of core work was ruled out because of too many hip-area muscles involved. So basically we did strict upper-body and limited core stuff for 4-5 weeks and it was fairly amazing how muscley I got, I kind of never saw such a thing... He was alarmed, it was pretty funny! We stopped doing several things for a while precisely because of this question of back muscles!

However if we are doing full-body workouts and I'm doing a lot of cardio it will probably not be so noticeable. Not to mention I cannot really see my own back muscles anyway so there is little potential for me to be aesthetically offended! These body-builders just do not have a really sport-centered focus, their priorities are different--he's a great trainer for me to work with, he's incredibly fit himself and has very high standards, I really enjoy working out with him, but he's not knowledgeable about endurance sports and every now and again something like this reminds me that really he and I care about somewhat different things...

Bike #2, 30 mins., total 60 mins.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bike #1

I am tempted to describe it as fairly pitiful, but the whole point of the 30 in 30 is just to do it every day and not worry for now about whether it's pitiful or not!

I have a confession which those who do not know me in real life will find almost literally unbelievable, it is so farfetched--but I have not had a television in my life for a million years (well, say at least ten years)--my mom did give me one, oh, I think it must have been the fall of 2001 but I plugged it in and couldn't get any reception (that's why I remember it was shortly post-9/11, because TV reception was especially non-functional?) and at Radio Shack they laughed at me when I asked about buying an antenna and told me really I just had to get cable! So the TV just sat there unplugged (a friend of mine had given me an old DVD player, only I did not have the cords to connect it with), then (after several years, I fear--in fact probably MANY years, it is possible that I only moved it when I was getting the apartment ready for a subletter in August 2005!) I put it in the closet because it was taking up space...

So last week, in aid of cycling-related enterprises, I ordered a very tidy and convenient little unit; it fits on the edge of one of the bookshelves, it does not take up any space at all. And I dug out the couple DVDs that I have had to hand and never watched, and put the first one in (it was Howl's Moving Castle).

Further true confession: I meant to do an hour, but the scene that comes about half an hour in where they are cooking bacon and eggs made me so hungry that I really thought I could smell the bacon! So I got off, and am writing this blog post (because my hunger for reading and writing is always stronger than my hunger for actual food), and now I am going to eat something immediately...

#1 of 30, 30 mins., total 30 mins.

(Actually it was about 32, but I realized I was not going to stick it out despite good intentions!)