Thursday, December 31, 2009


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

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

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

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

Call it 600 yards!

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Further side note

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Side note

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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Postscript on willpower

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

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

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

Sunday run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 miles easy

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The picture of abjection

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday run

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

5 miles

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday swim practice

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

2650 yards total

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


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

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

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

Workouts and total distances for 2009:

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

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

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

Nice round numbers!

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

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

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

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

There, that is a start...

Glorious midday run

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

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


9 miles

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Back on track

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

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

1hr. spinning class
1000 yards swim

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

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday run

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

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

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

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back in the saddle

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

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

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

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

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

50 mins. spinning

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

1200 yards total

10 miles RT bike

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday update

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

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

Last night he was looking painfully bare and brutally incised:

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

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday swim/yoga

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Just a quick one

to say that the marathon was mentally and physically arduous, a singular example of poor pacing on my part, but ultimately satisfying.

I had significant mental self-laceration from miles 8-16 or so, but talked myself out of it and in fact ran myself back into a genuinely good mood in miles 23-26 (as I passed - I was holding onto about 10:00 miles - a good number of those who paced even more unwisely than I did!).

Final time: 4:27, more than ten minutes slower than my time from last year in Philadelphia.

I am frustrated with myself because it was a very similar race to last year's in terms of pacing errors - however, I believe I have now learned my lesson! Aspirational pacing is not wise at the marathon distance - I need to have more miles under my belt before it is realistic to aim for a 4-hour marathon. Patience, patience, patience...

Detailed post-mortem to follow on Monday night once I get home and acquit myself of that day's teaching responsibilities!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In other news

Triathlete L.'s Cranksgiving win!

2 miles


I trained more/harder last year, but I trained smarter this year - I felt pretty fast and strong, and I think I should be able to have a decent race...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blissful Saturday long run

The weather is uncannily beautiful today - upper 50s, crisp and clear and sunny with a hint of coolness in the air. I ditched the heart-rate monitor, the wrist unit and the pod and ran data-free - it was quite lovely.

10 miles

Friday frazzle

The psychic significance of long-distance running.

Wasn't able to get out this afternoon for my last ten-miler before next week's race, but will hope to do it tomorrow late morning/early afternoon.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday swim practice

Well, it was good, I was feeling very lethargic and gloomy all afternoon and was slightly late getting over there (or, rather, didn't leave enough time for logistical arrangements re: procuring new "splash card"!), but it was a very enjoyable swim - I feel I am swimming noticeably better than I was in the middle of the summer, so this is satisfying to contemplate, and of course my aerobic fitness is currently very good due to MARATHON TRAINING!

It was not quite as good a workout as the other day, but this was for the very good reason that we spent the last part of the hour practicing DIVE STARTS! The first one I had to do off the pool deck rather than the blocks (Coach Conrad basically had to sort of tip me in as I wavered!), but I went several times off the blocks after that, and it seems entirely manageable to me. That is good!

Only had time for 100 warmup


6 x 100 free on 1:55

4 x 150 swim-kick-swim by 50, IM order, on 3:30

3 x 150 pull on (?) (I skipped a 50, had to get out and change my moldy rice-cake-cylinder pull buoy for one of the more hourglass shaped ones, I could not hold the first one in place and it was making my legs and hips go in an impractical position!)

Then: a bunch of dives and 25s!

2 x 50 free on 1:00

Call it 2000 yards total

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Unfortunate postscript

My eyes and nose are utterly streaming in aftermath of full-on pool chemicals at the Columbia pool - it is four hours post-swim and it truly is as though as I have had an awful cold all evening, though I know it is just chemical irritation! I forgot how acute it was - it lasted more than 12 hours after that early-morning swim at John Jay (where chemicals are notoriously even stronger), and knocked out a whole work day. This is impossible!

Tuesday swim practice

It is way too long since I last went to a real practice! It's not that I don't love it, I do, but between work conflicts, other training commitments and general tiredness, it has been pretty much impossible to get to TNYA this semester. Fortunately because I only ran 4 rather than 8 miles this morning, I had much more vim left by the end of the day than I have had in previous weeks - I got there early (having realized at some point that a full stretch of warm-up swimming is the difference between a truly enjoyable swim practice and one where I am slightly discombobulated and scrambling to catch up), had time even to do a bit of extra, and then had a very enjoyable swim.

- I am now doing flip turns on ALL my freestyle, without disaster or undue discomfort
- I am slower than the fastest couple guys, but I am a good pacer and I am 'less slower' by the end of the workout than at the beginning!
- I got some very nice compliments on the current state of my fly, including the observation "You really are skimming over the water!"

400 free without stopping plus 2 x 50 drill-swim stroke by 25 (fly, back)

4 x 50 free on :55

2 x through of (2 x 200 free on 3:55 + 1 x 200 kick-swim by 25 on 4:30) (I only did 150 of the kick-swim each time - partly I am slower - partly I am not sure everyone is so scrupulous as I am about only kicking!)

Then a TRULY DELIGHTFUL IM set, with enough rest to really maintain form:

6 x 100 IM as 2 x 100 IM on 2:20, 2 x IM medley order on 2:25, 2 x reverse IM on 2:50

then 3 x 50 stroke on 1:20 (I did all fly, I am loving that stroke right now!) plus 3 x 50 free on :50

2800 yards total

Quick Tuesday run

Only time for a quick four miles (down to the Boat Basin and back), but it is a most beautiful day for it, clear and crisp and sunny - best time of year in this part of the world, that's for sure. I am having that very strong marathon taper feeling of NOT HAVING RUN NEARLY ENOUGH - it is true, more's the pity - but certainly I have run enough to have a strong and enjoyable race, even if it is not as fast as I would like.

I am going to endeavor to go to TNYA practice this evening - I have been missing it the whole semester, I am usually too tired, but I think the shorter run earlier in the day makes it a more feasible possibility!

(Oh, it is absurd, how can I even still be thinking about it - I got really excited about the possibility of doing my first swim meet, on Dec. 5 - for a few days I really thought I would do it - then I realized that not only am I not getting home from Thanksgiving till Monday at midday, I am also going to be away from the 10th to the 13th - I am sure that on the actual day, I will have a much stronger impulse to stay at home and do work than to go to Queens on the quixotic mission of swimming in a meet! And yet you can tell from the way I am writing about it that I still have a bit of a yen - Liz is going to do it - hmmm...)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Speed Reading

(Picture courtesy of Shelley Jackson.)


Felt like I had a much better feel this week in the cycling class for how hard to work - avg HR 140, avg watts 230 - will continue to ponder these questions, though...

Sunday things

Well, it was a very good afternoon - I met up with Liz (Liz and Lauren must henceforth be denominated by their real names here, as the former distinction between Original Training Partner Liz and Triathlete Lauren is now complicated by the fact that Liz has REGISTERED FOR THE NYC TRIATHLON IN JULY, to my very great satisfaction), we went to the 11:15 spinning class and had a short swim thereafter. Then brunch, and then we had an extremely useful trip to Sid's Bikes - Liz is on the verge of buying her first road bike...

(200 free warmup, then 5 x 100 "rolling IM" [25 fly, 75 free; 25 free, 25 back, 50 free; etc.], then a little backstroke coaching - I would not venture to give advice on the short-axis strokes, but I have at least a good theoretical understanding of the long-axis ones, with a special fondness for backstroke)

Now I will continue to have self-laceration at having let the whole weekend pass by without doing any work - and it is not as though I feel at all mentally restored or well-rested, just incredibly stressed out that somehow I have not made even the smallest dent in the huge pile of work that awaits me! Must go to the office now and pick up a few things I left there, then dig in for what I devoutly hope will be a long and productive evening of reading, lecture-writing and paper-marking. I have this essay to write, but still cannot at all see when I will be able to fit it in, though I will try and get as much done this week as I can - oh dear!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday run

Hot-weather folks will be rolling their eyes, but it is nearly sixty degrees here again and quite rainy/humid - I overheat pretty easily when I run in that kind of weather!

My day got off to a very late start, and I realized that it was foolish to try for a long run at midday on an empty stomach/no caffeine; I had a late breakfast and coffee, waited for some digestion to happen and set out around 2.

At that point I really didn't have time to do the full twelve miles on the schedule (I need to head downtown around 4:30 for Speed Reading!); I thought I might do ten or so, but once I was actually setting out, I impulsively decided to have a pace-experimentation run instead, and just do 6 or so at or close to marathon pace.


- Pretty much every night this week, I've spent some time lying in bed and concentrating on what it will feel like to see the numbers "3:58:59" on my watch for my finish time!

- There's something new-agey about this sort of visualization exercise, but experience tells me that having a very concrete vision of what one would like to have happen is always more conducive to accomplishing it than having only a quite vague notion

- I believe that if things go well on race day, I am just about capable of a sub-4:00 marathon right now, but it is also plausible that I could have a great day out there, run as fast as is feasible and still only clock a time more in the 4:08-4:10 - I simply won't know until after I've done it!

- It happens that my ambitious goal times/paces are quite easy to count/track: 9:00 miles comes in at 3:56; a 4-hour marathon means 9:09/mile

- If I hit the sweet spot between 9:00 and 9:09 right away and can hold it, I meet my goal - and as I say, I think this is attainable (with proviso that I was ten pounds lighter when I ran my fastest race times a couple years ago, and I don't have recent half-marathon or even 10K times to tally - running is a merciless sport as far as weight goes, but on the other hand several years of additional experience in endurance sport is a serious benefit nonetheless, so I hope the two factors somewhat cancel each other out)

- Marathon pace is not nearly so intuitively easy to feel as half-marathon or 10K race pace

- Let's contemplate the McMillan numbers for a 3:58 marathon, which is what I will aim for (to give myself leeway for walking through aid stations and up a hill or two!): corresponding 10K time is 50:43 (8:09/mi.), half-marathon is 1:52:51 (8:37/mi.), marathon is (obviously) 3:58:00 (9:06/mi.)

- When I try and do a shorter workout at marathon pace, I am really gravitating to something a bit faster, close to half-marathon pace, and then have to slow myself down and check myself

- Marathon pace is faster than an easy long run pace, but it has to be really comfortable

- HR guidelines will serve me better on race day than trying to hold an over-ambitious pace in opening miles despite high HR - I think I must stay c. 158 for first 6 miles, stay at or under 160 till miles 12, hold low 160s till mile 20 and then just assess what I think I can manage for the final six based on feel and stop looking at the numbers!

(- Half-marathon race HR has traditionally averaged 165-66 - I am certain that my marathon HR, tallied up afterwards, should not exceed 162, and 160 would be a more conservative choice)

- The footpod is measuring a bit short - I should recalibrate it before the race, or else I am making too many mental allowances when I look at the numbers - that said, if I don't recalibrate and I try and hold very strictly between 9:00 and 9:10, I will be in reasonable shape, because the real numbers should be a bit faster than that

- How much is "a bit"? Well, the 12 miles I did on Mindy's course counted as 11.79 on the pod - I know that she measures her courses very carefully with one of those little wheelie devices, not just with an electronic one like a Garmin - so I could just use that to get the conversion factor for the Polar

- Today's run, by pod measurement: 5.60 miles, 52:04 (9:18 pace - if I adjust distance to 5.7, which I think is more accurate, I get 9:08 pace, which is pretty much exactly where I was trying to be); avg HR 152 (but in fact for the last 3-4 miles it was looking more like 155-158 - the opening miles are unduly low in a way that is not relevant for marathoning!)

- I had better stop musing on these matters, get in the shower and get dressed in more running clothes for this evening's activity!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday swim/yoga

A very good swim earlier, only it now so long ago that I can hardly remember what it was! There might have been one other bit, I cannot say...

50 free
500 kick with board as 100 flutter, 25 whip or dolphin
4 x 75 alternating drill ([1] right arm, left arm, catch-up; [2] 6-3-6), free
6 x 75 alternating free build by 25, IM no free steady (10 seconds rest)
6 x 50 drill-swim by 25 (running through some standards: fists, front scull, thumbs-and-salute, catch-up, 6-3-6, perhaps 1 other)
50 all-out fly down, easy free back

1650 yards total

1.25hr. yoga

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pace questions

Pondering paces: 6.1 mile loop at 52:02 (with a couple short water breaks off the clock), c. 8:30 pace - it is hilly, first bit was quite hard effort, avg HR 165 is basically half-marathon race pace...

(I want someone to offer magical divination techniques to tell me I am not overreaching to aim for a four-hour marathon!)

(My sprint times from the running class last week are commensurate with that sort of time goal, I think, and I believe that another year of experience in endurance sport is probably the biggest boost from last year's time...)



(I wouldn't mind if it were SOONER, though!)

Tuesday run

It was a good one, in the end. I felt quite tired, both in terms of legs and in terms of huffing and puffing, as it was underway; but I finished strong.

(This is really the zenith of the semester as far as mental insanity goes - on Sunday and Monday, my stress levels were through the roof - but I think this was a hard enough effort that it will temporarily quiet the buzzing! No knee problems, but some slight tension in the right thigh muscle - clearly this is taper-related and MENTAL as much as physical.)

I measured segments separately. Ran 1 mile over to 110th St. to meet J.; then we had an UNDULY hard effort (it was my fault, I am the slowest but I am also usually the one who escalates the pace) up Harlem Hill to meet C. at 86th St. My pod distances are running a little short, I should recalibrate before my race - 1.4 + 4.42 = 5.86 and real distance is 6.1, just making a note for later use...

Segment 1 (very hilly!):

12:29 (1.4 miles)
avg HR 165, max HR 173
max pace 8:10, avg pace 8:55

Segment 2 (the rest of the loop, slightly more moderate effort):

39:33 (4.42 miles)
avg HR 165, max HR 173
max pace 7:22, avg pace 8:56

Walked the last mile home - it is in the mid-60s, I was wearing short sleeves! Now must hastily suck down the rest of this cup of coffee, REALLY hastily shower and try not to be late to the lecture I am attending at noon!

7 miles

Monday, November 9, 2009

"If you got really lazy..."

I am set on reading my way through all of the classics of endurance sport training, at least the ones I can get my hands on, and it was in that spirit that I gulped down Running With Lydiard. It is an interesting and enjoyable read, but what I liked most (shades of Counsilman!) was the inimitable style and flavor - we are living in different times now, though the training principles remain in many cases the same:
Your running shorts should fit comfortably and not drag on your legs when your knees come up. If they do, you can expect problems on wet days when the drag is accentuated. For men, athletic supports seem to be a thing of the past; they can cause chafing. It is much better, if you do not have shorts with a sewn-in support, to use women's cotton briefs.

I was in a training camp in Woodville, north-east Texas, in 1970 when about 30 of us when for a 22-mile (34-kilometre) run on a hot and humid day. The American boys wore broad smiles of amusement when they saw me changing into cotton briefs which were obviously designed for a woman; but at the end of the run I was the only one not complaining of chafing. The next day, about 30 runners trooped into the local drapery and asked the woman behind the counter to fit them out in women's briefs. She looked rather alarmed until it was explained to her why so many men wanted feminine underwear. She did great business.

Running without some kind of support under your running shorts is cool and comfortable - but the continual strain imposed could cause problems
Advice for ball games and team training, especially for run conditioning in the off season:
You can do too little or too much, you can do it too intensively or too casually - and you could be wasting a lot of time and effort. Think about it carefully and get an even balance and stick with that and you should be all right.

Even if you cut the schedule in half, you will be working along the right lines. If you got really lazy and jogged only fifteen minutes every other day until you began normal team training, you would still benefit. It just depends, does not it, on how good you want to be.
And, finally, on facilities:
Many football clubs now have weights-training equipment or have linked up with a gymnasium. Those that have not would be making a better investment of club funds in providing gym facilities rather than a plush bar for members, supporters and free-loaders.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Question time

From Harry Mathews, The Orchard: A Remembrance of Georges Perec:
I remember asking Georges Perec, who had been a bicycle-racing fan, why it was so much easier to maintain speed when following another cyclist. Was the explanation mechanical, psychological, or both? He answered that there was nothing to explain--either I understood or I didn't.

High Sunday irk factor

Hmmm, it might be partly that I was annoyed with myself for not staying at home and working, which might have been the more mature choice - but in fact I was in an EXTRAORDINARILY GRUMPY MOOD by the time I reached Chelsea Piers.

I set out feeling extremely sunny, and it was truly and literally an uncannily beautiful day - but in fact an unseasonally beautiful weekend day (it is in the mid-60s, with clear air and bright sunlight!) is an UNALLOYED EVIL from the point of view of one who wishes to ride the bike path down the west side...

Before I even GOT on the path, I was already irked to find HUNDREDS OF FDNY MOTORCYCLISTS milling around across BOTH lanes of Riverside Drive - THEY WERE WAYWARD! (This was their event.) In fact this was only a matter of a moment's annoyance - but then in the next bit of Riverside Park I was extremely further irked to be confronted by a SWARMING THRONG OF WAYWARD HUMANITY (like farmed fish in tanks - it was awful, they were packed virtually solid!) - they were there for a good cause - but STILL! And I already knew I was going to face serious congestion around the docks in midtown, having had to run through crowds there yesterday (but there were cool jets and helicopters flying above) - and again, it is churlish to complain - but the USS New York's weekend of activities for Veterans Day is drawing unprecedented throngs - basically by the time I got to Chelsea Piers, I was ready to move to a LARGELY UNPOPULATED part of the planet - Alaska - Nova Scotia - Antarctica?...

Anyway the spin class was very good. At the end, in an effort to get my HR higher (I think I spent much of the class at too low an effort level - avg HR 125!), I went into a super-high gear that twanged something in my knee - I guess I really just have to stick with not-quite-that-hard gears and higher cadence (the cue was for cadence between 50 and 60 - if I want my HR to get into the 150s, I have to be in a really high gear for that).

So I just had a very short swim (having prudently worn Triathlon Garb), just 200 yards, a dunk in the hot tub and a bag of ice from the snack bar - in fact it now feels as good as new, but it was still twanging a bit on my bike ride home, so I must be careful of that. It is a spot of knee pain that I first felt in August, and in retrospect I am very certain it has to do with running gait - I upped mileage that month (and it was treadmill mileage, which for me I think increases the effect of instabilities) - I blamed it at the time on increasing cycling hours, but it really is exactly the spot that I saw in that gait analysis taking all the pressure. Spin teacher guesses it is tendonitis & was stern on the heat/ice instructions...

ANYWAY I am not really mentally prepared for a taper, I am finding exercise sort of my only outlet right now for STRESS! I do have a lot of work to get done in the next week and a half or so - if I can stay offline more of the time (my main distraction), perhaps I can channel obsessiveness back in that direction instead of so much towards fitness-related activities...


Had a productive evening offline, but grew impatient with the battle to fall asleep and fired up the computer again - I forgot to link to the hilariously apt event I am participating in next weekend - I do not keep my lives excessively compartmentalized, but this is definitely a full-on collision!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ten things about today's run

1. I had the most extraordinarily beautiful day for my last long run - it was mid-40s when I went out, now about 50, sunny and clear and hardly windy at all. Beautiful!

2. I ran up to the Little Red Lighthouse, then back down along the west side. Had intended to go all the way to Chambers, but turned around at Houston instead, having realized that it was the difference between 21 and 19 and that given even the shorter distance was going to clock in around 3:15, there was no reason to go longer.

3. c. 19 miles, c. 3:15, avg HR 144. Polar device says avg pace 10:30, max pace 8:08.

4. Marathon training really works!

5. That gait analysis was extraordinarily well-timed. I was concentrating on "running tall" (chest out, head high) and also on not having excessive arm movement (keep arms fairly close to chest - interestingly the spin teacher the other day was also cautioning against excessive upper body moment with the mental cue "Hold that cup of hot coffee on your head!" - notional equivalent of cup-of-water-on-forehead backstroke drill!). But perhaps most of all to the point, the new shoes are definitely incredibly helpful. (I switched to the Mizuno Wave Inspire from the Wave Elixir - the new one has much more of a stability component, and I think it makes a huge difference.) There is nothing like seeing a freeze-frame series that shows you exactly how strongly your left knee buckles after your left foot rolls over to prompt a shoe switch!

6. Incomparably easier than my 18-miler two weeks ago - hard to say exactly what factors made the most difference, good weather and shorter work week certainly figure into it, but I think the shoes helped make this one easier...

7. Gravitated to my natural 9:30ish pace in the last little bit of park close to home - it felt really easy. I don't know - I am still undecided about race pacing - prudence would dictate a 4:08 goal, with even or slight negative splits - but I think I may well decide to make a real stab at 4:00. Run the first half as close to 2:00 even as I can manage, then assess and slow down slightly or hold pace depending on how I feel. The constraint for me is always the huffing and puffing system rather than the legs - we will see, it will be interesting...

8. When, oh when will I learn to apply the BodyGlide with a more lavish hand?!? I put a few dainty dabs on here and there, but entirely omitted to coat the area the heart rate monitor strap covers - definitely a racing stripe...

9. It is too soon to assess how this year's training stacks up compared to last. But I guess I am pretty pleased, all things told, with how it's gone. I have done my long runs at a much more strongly aerobic (i.e. easier) pace, and I can feel the difference in terms of ease at a range of paces. If I could do one thing differently, I'd have had one more one-hour easy run every week. But I made triathlon a priority, it was a very busy work spell for me and (this is perhaps the clincher - I hesitate to mention it, might jinx it!) I seem to have made it all the way to November from September without getting a cold - so perhaps it really was worth it. Definitely the tactic of not writing up any mid-week schedule and just putting the long runs straight into my appointment book as a weekly obligation was a good move - I should remember this for Ironman training. My mind is always so full of plans and systems, I do not really need it to be written down on paper - if I have the whole week planned out, it's very hard for me (mental insanity!) to skip a workout, and that's how injuries arise. In September 2008, I had a slight hamstring tear that was the pure result of not being able to skip runs and modify the training plan appropriately depending on circumstances, and it dogged me all season - as I get more experienced, I guess I may be slightly better at making these choices off a written plan, but I like the approach of just scheduling the "breakthrough" workouts and then working other stuff in as it suits.

10. It really was a lovely run!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Short Friday run

Have postponed speed workout - I was too lazy! I just went out and did four miles in what is really the most beautiful running weather - sunny, windy, low 40s. Brisk! The call of coffee and breakfast was too strong for me to think six would be better than four, and that is the call I will now heed...

I would prefer to do my long run tomorrow rather than Sunday, but I'm not sure how sore my legs will be tomorrow morning from yesterday evening's workouts, so I will keep an open mind about whether this is a good idea.

(More pressingly, I have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks, including massive paper-grading and an essay to write - I need a plan!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Thursday weights, spinning

I will continue to have unseemly gloating about HOW MUCH I LOVE MY NEW GYM MEMBERSHIP. Really it is ridiculous - I would basically just be there all the time if I could...

I had the last of my four free sessions with trainer A. It was very good - we did an hour of weights, triathlon-specific. Really the problem with strength training for me is that while I enjoy it as I am actually doing it, it does not mentally have me in any kind of thrall - I would always rather have a spin [ED. Correction - that was meant to say SWIM!] or a run or go to a good yoga class or what have you. But I am fully persuaded of the benefits, and I think that it would be wise to make strength training a priority in December and January. They have these Freemotion machines I have not used before, certainly not necessary but useful - we did a bunch of stuff I know I should do a lot more regularly, like one-legged squats and reverse lunges, but there was also a very interesting hamstring exercise (using one of these Freemotion machines) where you rotate the leg as though you were cycling...

Then I went to a really fantastic spinning class! Lauren had told me Dolores was very good, and I thoroughly see it - it's a great workout, and so much lower-impact than running, too. There were only eight or nine people in the class, so we got a ton of individual attention - she gave me some very useful coaching on form stuff (body position, that thing I am always needing to work on of really pulling up on the upstroke as well as pushing on the downstroke with the quads). The Keiser bike is very nice indeed, but especially cool is the plethora of data on the computer! You get watts and mileage as well as RPM; and best of all, though I was not wearing my HR monitor strap, she said that if I would wear it next time she would help me work out my proper Friel HR zones so that I can just 'dial in' (as they say) my Ironman training - this will be incredibly helpful. The whole class was very specifically oriented in terms of cadence, gear, watts, etc. - it really was excellent, I've got to go to a lot more of these classes as soon as my time gets a bit more flexible again!

1 hr. strength
1 hr. spin (24 miles)
9 miles bike to and from gym

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday swim

A long and tiring but on the whole quite satisfactory day. I didn't have time to fit in a run before class, but I had a very good swim just now with Lauren - good for morale and variety to share a lane with a friend!

Warmup: 100 free, 100 drill-swim by 25 (6-3-6)

6 x 50 free descending by pairs (1:00, :55, :50)

300 pace set - check clock every 50 to try and hold :55/50 (this is an appropriate pace for me, but I 'lost' five seconds on one of the middle ones due to mild confusion!)

4 x 100 as 25 stroke, 75 free on 2:10 (2 fly, 2 back)

2 x 75 kick-drill-swim (fly, back)

4 x 50 free starting in middle of lane and working exclusively on turns (accelerate into the wall, good streamline off wall)

c. 1550 yards total

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


No swimming for me tonight - too tired, and I have a massive heap of work that I can't seem to settle down to!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday intervals

The running class at Chelsea Piers was amazingly good! I am truly delighted, though the fact that makes me want to weep is that it is on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm and I literally cannot go again until December (well, there is something I can try to reschedule on Wednesday the 18th, then I could go one more time pre-marathon). ARGHHHHHHH! I should not schedule my teaching for Monday nights, that's the long and the short of it...

C. and J. came as my guests, and we really had a lovely time. The fellow who does the class is quite inspiring (he is obviously a very fast runner and an experienced coach, I am really looking forward to going to that class quite regularly as soon as my schedule opens up a bit).

I consulted him in a quiet moment as to my mile repeat plans for Friday - I had been thinking of doing 3 miles at 7:45 with 4-5 minutes jogging between each one for recovery. He suggested I would get better bang for the buck by walking my recovery rather than running it, and that though 7:45 should be OK, on the principle of ending strong & still able to do more I could try it as a descending set: 8:00, 7:50, 7:45. This seems to me like excellent advice, and C. and J. have been enlisted for some Friday-morning reservoir pacing!

We started with 15 mins. of core and plyometrics, nothing out of hand but a nice way of getting some of that stuff in. Then we did (not sure if I am remembering this correctly)

3 x 200m with two minutes of rest between

3 minutes rest

200m, 400m, 200m with two minutes of rest between

3 minutes rest

3 x 200m with :30 rest

It was a great workout! My fastest 200s were :46, and I was still at :47 on the final one, so that is good. 1:50 on the 400. I think the class tends to do longer repeats on Wednesdays (up to half-mile); I really want to go to these!

(Hmmm, tomorrow I have to get up early and buckle down and get a lot of work done - it is another day 'off,' but having solely pleased myself today, I must acquit myself of various obligations tomorrow! Will go to TNYA practice in the evening, though - it has been hard for me to get there this semester.)

Monday miscellany

Interesting NYT bit on the fluid stations for elite marathoners:
Athletes can fill up to seven bottles with any legal substance and hand them to Tringali the day before the race. On Saturday afternoon, in a suite at the Hilton New York that overlooks Central Park, athletes took turns taking part in a combination chemistry/arts-and-crafts session.

Some brought their own bottles, preferring sizes that fit their hands well or easy-to-open lids. Some used green Gatorade bottles supplied by the race. All added personal touches to make their bottles easily identified.

Some athletes carefully scooped powdered mixes into the bottles. Other poured various ratios of liquids. Several altered the mix for different stations.

Brian Sell combined red Gatorade and Red Bull. Abdi Abdirahman used fruit-punch-flavored sports drink except for the last bottle, which he filled with Coke.
My favorite piece of marathon coverage this year, though, is definitely still the story Liz Robbins wrote on the 8- and 9-year-olds who ran the marathon in the 1970s before an age limit was imposed! Great pictures...

My thoughts are very full of marathoning but also of triathlon - in large part I put aside ambitious running goals this year for the sake of longer-term triathlon development, and I think it was a good choice, but just now is about when I start worrying that I haven't run nearly enough miles to run the race I want!

Shaking out the cobwebs

It is clearly mental rather than physical fatigue - I have the day off from teaching, but found myself utterly unable to do anything useful!

Rode down to Chelsea Piers and had a very lovely swim:

500 warmup as 75 free, 50 stroke (alternating back, breast by 50)

600 kick as 150 flutter, 50 non-flutter (whip, dolphin, whip)

2 x (100 right-arm, left-arm, catch-up, free, then 50 free hard)

2 x (50 6-3-6, then 50 free hard)

2 75 fly as kick-drill-swim

5 x 50 fly-free on 1:15

100 easy back

2100 yards total
9 bike miles

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday long run

A recovery week, so I 'only' had to do 14 miles...

Straight out and back down the West Side to Chambers St. Very strong through about mile 12, though internally grumbling about the relative heat and humidity of the day (not actually raining, but about seventy degrees and with very high humidity - I was covered with sweat almost instantly!); stopped for a bathroom break due to stomach troubles, and definitely didn't quite bounce back after. I stopped my watch at 2:20 and walked the last little bit home, I was feeling slightly sick to my stomach (disgusting smell of ginkgos didn't help!) - I think it is still pretty close to 14 in any case. I would say I was at 10:00 pace for most of the run, but noticeable faded for final few.

Main goal: mindfulness about gait. I think that I have retained some benefit from the work I did on Wednesday, it was interesting to think about it at any rate.

14 miles, 2:20, avg HR 151, max HR 160

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday swim/yoga

This morning began relatively inauspiciously, with a dentist appointment at 8am and a long meeting that took up the whole morning and that has nothing immediately to do with any of what I think of as my real work! But after that, the day turned into a sort of lovely reward for the very insane weeks I have had since the beginning of the fall semester:

- my agent took me out for a beautiful lunch at the Gramercy Tavern (and since I know a few of you will like to hear it - we shared the calamari-and-carrot-salad appetizer, I then had the roast chicken with parsnip puree and brussels sprouts and a most glorious dessert, a blueberry corn parfait made up of corn ice-cream, blueberry compote, caramel popcorn and whipped cream with a light touch of pepper - and yes, there were petits fours also, and a cappuccino of deliciousness - the food there really is exceptional!)

- I told her about my two new book projects, and she likes 'em both and has lots of good ideas about ways of organizing and pitching them

- during the twenty minutes I had to kill before meeting her, I picked up several threaded CO2 cartridges, a new tube and a warm pair of winter cycling gloves at Sid's Bikes

- after lunch, I found myself only a few blocks from Paragon Sports, so I stopped in to pick up a couple clothing items that I have been obsessed with acquiring - amazingly, there was a 15% markdown on all running clothing (these Falke clothes are pricey, but the quality is truly exceptional - and chafe-free unless under the most chafe-hospitable circumstances!)

- I had a useful conversation, too, with a knowledgeable fellow in the shoe department, since I fear that yesterday's gait analysis is yet again going to prompt a change of shoe - I really love these Mizuno Wave Elixir ones I've been using for the past year or so, as they're super-lightweight and comfortable, but I think they do not give enough support - I had a pair of the Wave Nirvana last year, liked them reasonably well but they are very stiff and structured in comparison - that may have been better for my knees, though, which have been giving me more trouble this year than last. The shoe fellow pointed out that there are also two 'interim' shoes, i.e. that the Wave Elixir and the Wave Nirvana are at the two ends of the stability spectrum and that I might well like to switch to one of the other two options that are more supportive than the Elixir but not quite as structured as the Nirvana - namely, the Inspire or the (I am having a hard time remembering the exact names!) the Alchemy - alas, I am well-stocked up on Elixirs, I have 2 pairs in circulation in NY and a back-up pair in Cayman in case luggage goes astray. I can't remember now whether he was particularly recommending the Inspire or the Alchemy, but I suspect the former - something to ponder...

- I walked over to Chelsea Piers - it was the most beautiful day today, in contrast to yesterday's utter rainy drear! - and sat and read Jef Mallett's Trizophrenia: Inside the Minds of a Triathlete for an hour while I digested my lunch (it is very good, I think I am going to try and land an author interview for the blog!) - I believe that cafe is going to become my home away from home, in fact I think that my best shot at finishing the set of paper comments that has hitherto eluded me this week will be to take the pile of 'em down there and sit there and write comments until I am done!

- then I had a lovely swim as follows: 50-100-150-200-200-150-100-50 warmup, then 500 flutter kick with every fifth lap alternating whip or dolphin for variety, then 2 x 100 drill (right arm, left arm, full catch-up, stroke), then 3 x 50 descending (1:00, :55, :50), then 2 x 75 fly as kick-drill-swim, then 50 easy back: 2050 yards total

- then I met up with Lauren (who is running the NYC marathon on Thursday - wish her luck! - and so is Leah, who I am pretty sure is going to have a magical day out there) for the excellent Thursday evening yoga class - I think I need to make this a regular part of my training week, with the suspicion that of all forms of exercise (with the possible exception of swimming) yoga is the one that is most likely to improve my mental as well as my physical health!

- and finally, after coming home on the subway, I deposited a large check that represents the second-to-last installment of the money for the novel I just finished (it will be published in fall 2010)

That is what I call a good day!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday frazzle

I had an amazingly good run assessment/technique session with A. at Chelsea Piers. Again, the video is a hugely useful tool - especially on the treadmill, it is very easy to see how much my ankles roll and the way the knees then buckle to compensate - I have a lot of work to do!

We then did a bunch of drills on the track, with some more video - a drill where you lean up on the wall and do "fast feet," a couple other drills to get the feel for 'pushing' off the ground (leaning against trainer who is walking slowly backwards; trainer standing behind and using stretch bands to exert force) and then some actual 'running' - only in a drill format. Hands crossed on chest for the first half of the 50 meters, then dropping to sides (but keeping arms relatively still and hands high/contained - I have a tendency to swing much too far back); eyes on the ground about 5 feet in front, so as to keep body leaning forward; and striking with FOREFOOT (I mistyped "heel" in first version of this, sorry!) and really pushing off, as though one is pushing the ground away. Some noticeable improvements by the time we did the last video at the end, though I can see it is the sort of thing it's difficult to work on on one's own.

(Hmmm, really it is possible that I am almost as inefficient a runner as I am a swimmer! Certainly in both cases whatever speed I get is much more from the fact that I'm reasonably fit and that I'm willing to work hard than because of any particular biomechanical advantages.)

Other cues: stay "low to the ground" (but without hunching/crouching/folding at the waist); light fast steps.

(I will log it as 2 miles)

I have been having truly epically high stress levels this week - nothing out of the ordinary, I think it's always like this at this point in the semester, but it's been well beyond acceptable levels for the last couple days. Last night and this morning in particular, I really was on the verge of totally losing it! It was amazing what strongly beneficial effects this session had on my mental health - after about 20 minutes, I realized that the previous five hours of insane stressing-out had completely escaped my mind, I was fully concentrating on foot placement and neuromuscular questions about running!

This coach is very good - it's really exceeded my expectations. Training sessions with him are too expensive (these are free, as part of my membership package) to be more than the occasional luxury, but I think that I will have to ask my mother for the 3-session package for my Xmas present...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday run

It's a recovery week, and I couldn't fall asleep last night till very late, so I made a more sensible decision than usual and ran short!

Nicely rainy and cool outside (C. was tempted to cancel, but fortunately by the time he emailed, I knew J. would already have left the house, so it was not an option) - in any case I like running in the rain.

We decided to do a couple times round the top loop rather than doing the entire circuit - I left C. and J. to do a third one and jogged home on my own.

1 mile there and back, plus 2 x hilly Harlem Hill loop (1.42 mi. each)

2.84 miles, 24:55 (8:46 pace), avg HR 164, max HR 174

I need to enlist these guys to do a couple speed/tempo workouts with me as the last bit of my marathon training! Hmmm, might be time to actually sit down and make a list of the 4-5 consciously chosen things I'd like to fit in over the next couple weeks - I'm five weeks out from the race, that's crazy.

- Will do the interval training run class at Chelsea Piers on Monday 11/2, with C. and J. as guests

- Will figure on running 8 (1 warmup, 6 hard-effort, 1 cooldown) on Tuesdays the 10th and 17th with C. and J.

Some higher-speed mile repeats would be good, and I should make a couple of my own shorter runs 3 x the Harlem Hill loop, it's very good cardiovascular training...

5 miles

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Short Sunday swim

I feel I have been neglecting my swimming!

Rather unproductive work day - I read several hundred pages of Proust and wrote comments on ten essays, but that is only a drop in the bucket of what must be done by tomorrow afternoon - I figured a short evening swim was in order...

I really want to work on the drill stuff that A. gave me - it seems practical. My swimming is pretty strong, but I think there's a lot of room for improvement in the near future - I should be able to swim quite a bit faster, I am not an efficient swimmer at all currently. I do have an ambitious Ironman swim goal - 1:30 - I will need to get quite a bit faster for that to be realistic, but I think it is attainable with work. It is a nice round number!

100 free
100 right arm, left arm, catch-up
100 free
100 as 50 catch-up, 50 swim
100 free
100 as 50 finger-drag, 50 swim
100 free
100 as fists, swim by 25
100 free
100 6-3-6 (kick on sides with one stroke between)

Then a kick set with board: 600 kick as 100 flutter, 50 non-flutter (2 x whip, 2 x dolphin)

1600 yards total

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday run/yoga

It seems like a very long day (started with a dentist appointment at 8!), but I guess I packed a lot in, and I certainly had a very blissful evening, as it turned out.

I ran down to Chelsea Piers in the late afternoon (it was in the mid-70s, it is t-shirt weather again here!) with a change of clothes rolled up in a tiny bundle in the waist-style Camelbak (you take out the 'bladder' and it has a surprising amount of storage space - it is something along the lines of this one, though not exactly like it, as opposed to the backpack-type one I use for cycling).

Met up with Triathlete L. at what turned out to be a VERY good yoga class - I gave up on yoga because the teachers I liked at the Columbia gym left and the other local yoga place just wasn't that suited to me, but this teacher was excellent, the class is exactly what I like.

(But my muscles are going to be VERY sore - I am slightly regretting the fact that really I cannot move my long run from Saturday to Friday, because I think that delayed-onset muscle soreness is REALLY going to have kicked in when I wake up on Saturday morning!)

5 miles
1.25hr. yoga

And then we went and had was was truly the most delicious pizza ever - we were both so hungry by that point that ANY pizza would have been delicious, but this truly was exceptional! Co. Pizzeria, handily located more or less en route from gym to subway; L.'s had something like fresh spinach and pecorino romano and something else delicious; mine had "speck" ham, gorgonzola, figs, almonds and grapes. BOTH UTTERLY DELICIOUS!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Interlude of bliss!

Well, I don't know how the whole business of bike-riding downtown on a freezing cold day in the middle of the winter is going to sit with me, but I think I can say in the meantime that my Chelsea Piers membership has brought BLISS INTO MY LIFE! I wrote my lecture first thing in the AM, then had a LOVELY INTERLUDE midday - rode my bike downtown (it's back into the mid-60s here), swam on my own for half an hour or so and then had an actually quite wonderful half-hour swim session with the assistant triathlon coach there.

It was quite different than what I'd do with JB - in fact it reminded me very strongly of Doug Stern's approach. It is a streamlining of approach that is well-suited to the triathlete's needs, doesn't focus so much on underlying principles and fundamentals but on a more down-and-dirty what's-wrong-with-the-stroke bit, plus drills and immediate video feedback!

The video is invaluable - it is unbelievable how straight my left arm is when I swim, and how little body rotation I have if I'm not paying attention. So I think it was an extremely useful session.

We did something like 100 swim, 4 x 50 right arm, left arm, 4 x 50 kick on side/1 stroke/kick on other side, 4 x 50 catch-up, 2 x 50 swim (cannot remember exact details), looking after each length at the video and then concentrating on mental cues (high elbow, good catch). Did a bit of dryland work with some cords on really getting the position of the forearm right so that you get a good catch and pull. My strengths: I am pretty relaxed in the water, decent body position, etc. Weaknesses: flat stroke, little rotation, very little kick. He recommends doing some kick sets with board, which I think is a very good idea, I like those and yet I rarely do them!

(Before that, I guess I swam 200-150-100-50 free to warm up and practice good flip turns - definitely if I let the breath out more slowly, I do not find myself with unpleasant empty-lung feeling as I surface, then 100 fly drill-swim, then 3 x 25 fly/75 free, then 50 back, 50 free.)

I get two more free sessions with this fellow as part of my membership package - we are going to do a run technique session next week and another swim one the week after!

1800 yards total, plus 9 miles bike

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday run

A highly satisfactory run with J. and C. We met at the foot of Harlem Hill and did the loop in the opposite direction from last week - a beautiful day for a run, sunny and mid-50s (most unlike my blustery Sunday one!).

All three of us were more than usually fatigued, and around mile 4 we stopped for a drink of water and agreed to take it easier for the last few miles.

Total time: 54:58 (6.1 miles, 9:00 pace, still very respectable!)

avg HR 163, max HR 171

+ 1 mile each way to and from park

8 miles total

Monday, October 19, 2009


I am laughing - I finally picked up today at the library my copy of Jan Olbrecht's The Science of Winning: Planning, Periodizing and Optimizing Swim Training - a recommendation from Chuckie V.

(As a book and information fiend, I find a post like that one ABSOLUTELY GALVANIZING - I've got some good reading ahead - the Maglischo volume looks absolutely amazing, I've only had time to dip in but it's pretty staggering - and how come I didn't already have a copy of The Lore of Running?!?)

Anyway, the Olbrecht book is quite hard to track down, but I requested it through interlibrary loan and am amused but not surprised to note that the library that provided it for me was Indiana!

And as I read that for IM swimmers in the base training period, "it is recommended to improve the aerobic capacity in each stroke and to avoid medley sets," with the suggestion that the coach should "select one, or at most two strokes for his main sets," I suddenly remembered that I forgot to log some IM in my previous post!

Short and sweet Monday swim

I teach till 8 on Mondays this semester, and though I have in some previous weeks taken a chunk out of the middle of the day to go and swim at Chelsea Piers, I think it will be increasingly impractical over the rest of the fall - too busy! But I was set on having a short (local) swim after class...

(Otherwise I will forget how to swim! Definitely not enough swimming or running this past week!)

100 free, 50 back, 100 free, 50 breast, 100 free, 100 fly drill


(Really this should be 3 x through, once for each non-free stroke! On varying intervals depending on other folks in lane, but with plenty of rest - 2:50, mostly.)

100 fly
75 fly, 25 free
50 fly, 50 free
25 fly, 75 free
100 free

1000 (fairly strenuous) yards total

Tomorrow I will run in the morning with C. and J. and go to TNYA practice in the evening; Wednesday midday I have my appointment at Chelsea Piers for swim stroke consultation.

(Gotta figure out when I can fit in more Spinervals - this weekend has more flexibility than I have had for some time, but of course there is always a huge mound of work to be done also. I think I will do my long run on Saturday - a friend's 40th birthday party is happening in Brooklyn on Saturday night, and I am thinking it will be a suitable night to drink champagne and stay out late, better to get the run done first!)

[ED. Not THAT short! Forgot to log 3 x 100 IM on 2:15, after warmup and before fly set.]

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Long run

Just a quick post before I go and take the LONG HOT SHOWER OF MY DREAMS...

I had a stimulating but unusually taxing work week, and when I got home around 11pm on Friday night it was clear to me that I'd better move the long run to Sunday from Saturday. In the event, I couldn't even get it together to do a short workout yesterday - I just spent the day hanging around my apartment feeling shatteringly exhausted! Got some better sleep last night, and in fact fell BACK asleep in the late morning for 2 more hours (it is the hazard of reading Henry James in bed!). Around 2:30, realized that even in my groggy semi-waking state I had better get myself out the door shortly - there is little leeway in a marathon training schedule, I really needed to do a 16-mile run this weekend...

It is WINTER in NY! I actually almost cut the run short around mile 3 - I was staggering up Cherry Walk along the river towards 125th St., and the wind was so strong that I felt I was hardly moving forward. Almost worse than the physical arduousness was the auditory assault - IT WAS UNBELIEVABLY LOUD, in a way I find very tiring.

Anyway, I slogged it out and did the full 16. Almost the whole time I was running north (which includes the last 4 miles as well as much of the first 5-6 miles) I was basically fighting an incredibly strong wind. It was certainly a very slow run - on the bright side, though, I think my fitness is pretty good right now, in spite of not having put the run miles on my legs that I would have liked.

c. 16 miles, 2:57:04 (c. 11-minute miles), avg HR 141

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Snack sausages

Via BoingBoing, an amazing illustration of what it really means when we say that an item of food has X number of calories!
Meat blowtorch.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday run


I was feeling AWFUL that I hadn't run since Saturday - on Tuesday, I was debilitated for about 14 hours by the most insanely acute pool-chemical-irritation eye-and-nose-streaming, it was OUT OF CONTROL, I used up every tissue and paper towel in the house and had to go and buy two more boxes, one of which I carried around with me to the rest of my work commitments (causing swine-flu-type flinching-away from various folks I encountered!) - and on both Tuesday and Wednesday, though there was a brief early-evening window where I could have run, the fact that the heating doesn't come on till Oct. 20 in the building that houses my office meant that when I got home I was so cold that I had to either take a hot bath (Tuesday) or drink hot tea (Wednesday) - couldn't face going back out. Probably this was also fatigue-related.

Today, though, I had a 12:30 date with C. and J. at the foot of Harlem Hill; it is rainy and 40 degrees, we had the park VIRTUALLY TO OURSELVES, it is lovely! They are faster runners than I, so it is a real luxury running with them - I can hold a suitable pace when there's peer pressure, but would not have the mental fortitude to run that fast on my own!

1 mile jog over, then the 6-mile loop; I figured I had then earned the right to walk the mile home rather than running it!

(Cold weather, perhaps, had left my quads in particular feeling very stiff.)

Nice, too, that I then bumped into several training friends at the corner of 110th and Amsterdam: first of all, cycling buddy R., who says he will ride with me in the spring and summer next year; and then H., who says that her legs are now recovered enough from IMKY that we can go for an easy run sometime soon!

I will have to go back and look at speed and HR data from last year's hard-effort park loops, but I was pleased with the time - I felt very strong, I was working pretty hard but I think the pacing was excellent and clearly my fitness levels are similar to or better than where I was this time last year (I've been running fewer miles, so I was a bit worried, but the general endurance work adds up).

1 mile warmup

6.1 mile loop (52:48 total; avg HR 163, max HR 181; avg pace 8:40)

It is quite hilly, so I think that would translate to more like 8:25 on a flat course. It is an appropriate tempo training pace for me.

I am keeping an open mind about marathon time goals - as I said, I am not convinced (I don't have enough data!) that I will be able to make my sub-4:00 goal, but I will have a clear spread of goals: 4:16 attainable goal (my time from last year, which I feel certain I can match if things go as they ought); 4:08 challenging goal; sub-4:00 dream goal. And then just see how I feel on the day!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Far, far better bike away

David Byrne on cycling in Manhattan.

Tuesday swim clinic

When my alarm went off at 6am I was grumbling to myself...

Why did I sign up for this swim clinic?!? I don't go to sleep early enough to do 7am clinics in midtown!

Had thought I would ride my bike there, but in fact, though I had thought things through enough to bring the heavy chain lock back from the bike cage at Chelsea Piers, I had not FULLY thought it through - my nice bike does have lights, but the bike I can lock up on a public bike rack does NOT - so I took a taxi down and subway home...


WELL worth my while - that's an understatement.

TNYA offers a couple different kinds of clinics - I think the Saturday ones would have been invaluable for me when I was really learning the basics of the strokes, but for me now, they're not quite worth it - it's a big group, so not a lot of individual stroke feedback, and an hour travel time each way on Saturday afternoons adds up to not quite worth the trouble.

The smaller-group clinics that Stefan Bill does for the team, though, are a different story altogether. (He also coaches at SBR, but we are lucky that he has an affiliation with TNYA!) I went to the fly one in the spring, and it was fantastic. This one was a backstroke clinic for advanced beginners, and it was absolutely superb.

(In the lessons I just had with JB, back was the one stroke we didn't work on at all - it wasn't a priority, and it is relatively speaking stronger than my other non-free strokes - so I was especially pleased to have the chance.)

A lot of drill work - kicking on stomach with arms floating forward, then pulling one to side and kicking on side, concentrating on keeping one arm forward and extended and neck position neutral/relaxed. Successful of further kicking exercises on stomach, then switching to back; including a LOT of lengths with cup of water balancing on forehead and focusing on various cues! It was super-enjoyable; cues include thinking of arms extending along "railroad tracks" (my tendency is to be a bit narrow and also too close to the surface - legacy of flat 1970s-style swimming I learned as a kid!), rotating from hips, etc. It is surprising how easy it is to keep the cup balanced. Also, a useful concentration on keeping the stroke easy and flowing - don't let hand pause before recovery part of the stroke, keep the bottom arm moving and coming up.

Anyway, it was very good. Warmed up first with 200 free and 150 IM drill-swim by 25 (no free), prob. kicked and swam about 1200 more after that.

SB is possibly doing a fly or breast clinic next month, so I will certainly do whichever of those he is offering - hoping it will be breast, which is at this point really clearly my weakest stroke!

[ED. Put this up accidentally at the wrong blog! Now corrected. What I forgot to write before: SB has that gift which I think is the single most essential thing for a good swim coach, namely ability to see and assess instantly the particular weaknesses of a given swimmer's stroke and give a "fix" in terms of mental cues, drills, etc.; as each swimmer comes in he is giving verbal feedback of a quite specific sort, it is clearly second nature! The bigger-group clinics can't offer this kind of attention...]

1550 yards total

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday swim

I am glad I had a proper swim first, because the fitness assessment (free as part of new gym membership) I had at noon was a bit of a bust! Some mildly interesting bits (it is a Polar system of this sort) - but BECAUSE I swam first, my heartrate was already elevated - and I know from many years of doctor's-office visits that my blood pressure is always elevated due to nerves the first time round, at the doc they have to take it 2-3 times to let it settle back down - so that data is not especially useful.

I was OFF THE CHARTS on the bicep strength rating - literally! It is true, I am fairly strong; but I came in on the 98th percentile, and the fellow administering the test rightly looked at the number of lbs. pressure with skepticism and said he had never seen anybody, including a man, score so high, and that he was worried the equipment wasn't working properly! (On my printout, it says 208 lbs on a scale that gives a ranking of "Excellent" to anything over 73 pounds, so I am sure he is correct!)

We did all the bodyfat caliper stuff and measurements of different body parts, only somehow in the wad of pages I got as my printout, none of that stuff seemed to have gotten saved, which is honestly the only really useful part, if one were planning on retesting later on!

On the bright side, I was also close to top percentile on situps and pushups - the pushups, disappointingly, were KNEE pushups only (they have to stick with the test's metrics!), but I did 44, which considering I have not done any for many a week is not bad; 50 situps in a minute, also not at all bad.

Anyway, more to the point, very nice swim! I note that flip turns make swimming freestyle much less enjoyable/more like hard work than usual, and that it is nice to mix it up a little with some stroke bits to give myself a break from the hypoxia!

100 free, 100 back, 100 free, 100 breast, 100 free, 100 fly drill-swim

12 x 50 stroke-free by 25 on 1:15 (4 back, 4 breast, 4 fly)

500 "sliding IM" on 2:10 (25 fly, 75 free; 25 free, 25 back, 50 free; 50 free, 25 breast, 25 free; 100 free; 100 IM), plus 100 easy back cooldown

1800 yards total (+ 9 miles bike)

Now I have to get on with my REAL day!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday long run

This morning we took advantage of Coach Mindy's Running Center supported long run; Brent and I were both having recovery weeks on our respective schedules, so we each just ran 12 (Coach Mindy described Brent as a "speed demon," and he certainly had a good fast run!).

I enjoyed my run a great deal, but am sorry to say that I'm definitely at higher HR on that pace than I might have hoped - this, however, is not the consequence of any kind of setback or "bad day" phenomenon, I just ended up having other priorities for this training season and this LIFE season. So I am reconciled, and I will keep my goals for the late November marathon responsive to how things go in coming weeks - sub-4:00 would be wonderful, but something like 4:08 would be great too, I will keep an open mind (my time last year in Philadelphia was 4:16, so I am aiming to take some minutes off that).

12 miles, 1:58:54 (avg pace 9:55, avg HR 161, max HR 173)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Brief Thursday run

Just did three very easy miles on the treadmill - it was clear after 1 mile that I was mentally fatigued and would not do a whole hour!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Midday swim

Had an altogether blissful midday interlude at Chelsea Piers. It was very rainy and blustery when I got up, I worried that perhaps my plan to ride my bike down there was unrealistic; it turned into a most beautiful (but incredibly windy!!!) day, so biking seemed fine, but as I topped up the air in the tires on my 'real' bike, I mysteriously made the back tire flat! ARGHHHHH! Fortunately I have this other 'cheap' bike, so I pumped THOSE tires and rode it instead - it is so windy that it is difficult to stay in a straight line!

Only had time for a short swim, because I wanted to try the abs class at noon (verdict: not bad, not as good as the evening boot camp class but on the other hand also beneficially much less intense - a half-hour core class of that sort is a nice accompaniment to a swim or bike - unfortunately my teaching schedule is not really compatible this semester with the midday spin classes, but that's the other thing I'm eager to check out).

It really is the most beautiful pool, especially on a sunny day! I had a lane to myself, and experimented with 3 new pairs of goggles - one much superior to other two, so I will order another pair of those ones and throw my old ones away, they have been incipiently leaky for some time, and now ACTUALLY leaky!

3 x 100 free, 50 drill-swim stroke (back, breast, fly)

50 back

100 IM

100 back

50 breast

250 free concentrating on swimming long and easy with non-taxing smooth turns

1000 yards total

30 mins. core (concentrating on obliques)

(I decided that the bike ride there and back should get logged in training miles, as an incentive in cold weather! Will call it 9 - can revisit this later if it seems to introduce ambiguity into training records...)