The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Great Kayak Adventure -- Caught Between the Tide and a Monsoon

Just sit right back and read this tale, the tale of a fateful trip. Back in December at the Bike Club's holiday party, I was one of eight ride leaders that won a special “mystery prize.” The prize was a gift certificate for a “kayak adventure” from Hudson Valley Outfitters in Cold Spring. On Saturday morning August 2, 7 castaways, oh I mean ride leaders set out for a 3 hour tour of Constitution Marsh.

After getting “fit” for our kayaks and a few minutes of instruction, we were ready to put our ship, oh I mean kayaks in the water. I very casually mentioned the possibility of a thunderstorm, and was told by the fearless crew, oh I mean kayak guides, not to worry. They would know what to do in the event of bad weather and I should just have a good time.. I was assured that the thundering noise I was hearing was not thunder, but artillery at West Point.

Entering Constitution Marsh via kayak requires passing underneath the railroad bridge. There is not very much clearance, and this is highly dependent upon the tides. But obviously the Professor, oh I mean Matt the kayak guide, had knowledge of the tide schedule and we entered the Marsh. Even on a cloudy day, my first impression was of the overwhelming beauty of the marsh—the tall grasses, the beautiful flowers and the calls of the birds. As we paddled along, it started to drizzle, but it was actually quite pleasant and we moved along through the channels in the marsh. A few minutes later, we heard thunder. Very clearly thunder and not artillery at West Point. The 3 guides had a brief conference and decided we should make our way to the Audobon Center just in case we needed to get off the water. At this point the tide was coming in and getting back under the bridge to get back to Cold Spring was not really an option.

Guess what happened next, my friend. The weather started getting rough, VERY rough. It was becoming obvious to the crew that we were not going to get to the Audobon Center quickly enough and that we needed to get off the water. The kayakers set ground on the shore of this unchartered piece of Constitution Marsh. We disembarked; over the rocks, between the large tree limbs and through the poison ivy patch. One or two people fell out of their kayaks, but it was warmer in the water than standing in the now torrential downpour. If not for the courage and fast acting guides, the kayakers would have been lost! We spent the next 20 minutes huddled together in a very small clearing along the shore, waiting for this monsoon to pass. But it did pass, and we were able to get back in our kayaks. Most of them were now little floating bathtubs. We continued on our journey and made our way to the Audobon Center, where we were able to wring out our clothes, bail out the kayaks, eat our lunches and make a few more analogies to Gilligan’s Island. At this point it was abundantly clear that the monsoon was not going to repeat, and we were given the choice of a ride back to Cold Spring or returning via kayak. All 7 of us proudly got back in our kayaks and we set off. The Marsh was peaceful and cool and quite beautiful and the tide did most of the work, pulling us along. When we got near the railroad bridge, the guides had us practice crouching in our kayaks to make sure we didn’t get bonked in the head. We all made it under the bridge and back to Cold Spring. You can be sure that all 7 of us will be at the Holiday party in December, hoping that our names are pulled out of the bag for another Great Kayak Adventure!!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Swim Bike Run DONE!

It was a challenge, mentally and physically, but I did it! After 21 years, I am a triathlete once again.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Butt Buster

Are you tired of your flabby ass? Or maybe your ass is MIA. Either way, you can have a better bootie. All you need is this new exciting technology-- The Butt Buster.

Before using The Butt Buster, I highly recommend that you put on some appropriate work out clothes and fill up your XL water bottle. You might want to prepare a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because building a better bootie is hard work. You are going to get hungry, so be prepared. Sneakers are usually sufficient, but hiking boots are better. Two pair of socks may make your feet a little warm, but that's better than having butt busting blisters. Are you ready? Good. Now get in your car, drive to a nearby mountain, and walk up to the summit. If you can find a trail that traverses several peaks, that's even better. Spend 3-4 hours walking up and down mountains and your butt will be screaming at you, "Here I am, back here. Remember me now?" As an added benefit, your butt will probably reacquaint you with some other long lost friends-- your quads and your calves.

The Butt Buster Basic edition is inexpensive, but if you want to throw some money on it, you can opt for the Deluxe version with various add-ons: GPS system, heart rate monitor, camelback, camera (to take photos of friends when they fall on their butts), bug repellent clothing, pants with multiple zippers, and a sherpa carrying all the fixin's for a gourmet lunch.

The Butt Buster is easy to use and readily available in many (but not all) locations. It can be used by multiple people simultaneously, which makes it easier to appreciate butt humor ("I'm going to slide down these rocks on my ass, that's why I grew it"). No need to go online, no deposit required, just call up a friend, ask them to join you and start Butt Busting today.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Two Weeks Off Six Weeks Left

For whatever reasons (work, family, friends, holidays), I have not worked out very much in the last two weeks. My two weeks off the program ended with a food fest. It is true that as predicted, Delhi did not have any funky lunch emporiums. But what they do have is a culinary program at the college. The students cooked, prepared, and served us several meals during our meeting, and it was all Dee-lish-us. Especially the cheesecake and the little individual pineapple upside down cake with homemade ice cream. You get the idea. I then drove to my brother and sister-in-laws home on Saturday for a Passover seder featuring some of my favorite foods any time of the year. So after two weeks off the program and six weeks left until My Triathlon, I have to get serious about increasing the effort and getting the work done. I also have to buy a wetsuit! That is on my agenda for this week. Working in Manhattan does have its advantages. There are two stores that sell everything scuba within a reasonable distance from my office.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Road Trip

I work for the State University of New York, and several times a year I get to travel to various campuses within the State University system. Tomorrow I am going to Delhi. This is the perfect road trip. It is probably under 3 hours and most of it is on easy roads. I don’t have to be there until 2 pm, so I have time to go to the gym before heading out. Then I can load the CD player and set the cruise control. When I get to Delhi, maybe I will find a funky little lunch emporium (then again, it is more likely that Delhi is devoid of anything even remotely funky). After the meeting and a friendly dinner, I get to hang out in a hotel room and read, write, or watch TV. And then….. if I may quote my friend Lynn, “the best part of going to these meetings is you get to sleep for 8 hours in a bed all by yourself.” As much as I love DH and sons #1 and #2, I must admit that sometimes I enjoy being by myself. In small doses, of course. For 2 days, there is no dishwasher to empty, or laundry to be folded, or daily reminders of the chores I neglect. I get to interact with some interesting people, too, people that are so different from me. The downside-- the food is usually mediocre but abundant. Boredom often leads to mindless eating. There is usually a lousy “fitness center” in the hotel. Should I bring my sledgehammer? Or my suspension trainer? Hmmm, maybe I will bring some fitness toys on my road trip.

Monday, April 14, 2008


I had an off-week for working out. There was the Santana concert (with special guest the Derek Trucks Band), and Girls Night Out, and brunch on Sunday at which I must have done something wrong because when I got home I fell asleep for almost 2 hours. It wasn't bad having a little break, but this week may not be much better.

I did have time to think about Project Cheap Streak. And I may have already talked myself into buying that SLR. But I think I have to consider some of the other options before I decide what I would buy if I was going to buy something. Then I can decide if I should really buy it or not. So here is option #2: a tandem.

DH and I rarely ride together because he rides much faster than me. If I asked him to, he would be more than happy to slow down enough to ride with me, but then I always feel guilty about holding him back. The solution is I ride with the club, and he either rides with the club (on a different ride) or he rides alone. He does not mind going out for a 30 mile ride by himself. I prefer company. Another solution would be to buy a tandem. The problem with considering this is it's not a sure bet. What if we buy a tandem and then discover we prefer to ride solo? or that transporting it is more trouble than its worth? or we enjoy it but feel guilty because we never get around to riding it as much as we thought we would. There's also a money consideration because $1400 is probably not enough. You can buy a tandem with $1400, but I'm not sure it would be good enough for us to do some really significant riding. Or it might be just enough to make us realize that we should have bought a better one. So it might take packing lunch 3 days a week for 2 years to pay this one off!

It might make more sense to rent a tandem for a few days while vacationing (that might not be as easy as it sounds but worth exploring). And save the $1300 for something else.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

SLR Lust

If I was going to make a deal with myself to pack lunch to save money in order to buy myself something, this would probably be it: a digital SLR camera with a nice zoom lens. I grew up with a camera in my hands. When I was about 10 years old, my father bought me my first 35mm camera. His daughter would not be seen carrying around a Kodak Instamatic! He then packed a pad of paper and a pen in his pocket, took me to the park and taught me how to use the camera. He taught me about the relationship between shutter speed, aperture size and the depth of field. And I was on my way. He always had different cameras and he made sure I always had one. Before I went to college, he gave me an Argus C3.

He even repaired the soft brown leather case that was falling apart, by sewing all the seams with white dental floss. For the next 9 years, I took hundreds of photos with that camera. I loved that camera despite its one shortcoming—it didn’t have a light meter. I had to consider the film speed and then manually set both the shutter speed and the f-stop. It was a range finder, so focusing involved aligning the split image. Then I would hope I got everything right. Most of the time I did, but I knew I wanted an automatic SLR camera. When I graduated and got my first job, I was living at home and had very few expenses. When I got my first paycheck, I bought a camera—an Olympus OM10. I still own it, but I haven’t used it since I got my first digital camera. Several years later, I bought another Olympus camera—the XA. That 35 mm camera fit in my pocket and was my companion on so many bike trips! Once I entered the realm of digital photography, I opted for the pocket camera first. I love my little Canon and it is surprisingly versatile. I take it with my whenever I am hiking or biking, and I even take it out just to go take some pictures. This is when I start wishing I had the SLR. There have been times when I have come close to buying it. There are reasonably priced models specifically for the “hobbyist” but I just haven’t made the commitment. I keep telling myself it is something I want not something I need. Is it my cheapstreak talking or am I just too damn practical!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Lunch Math

More often than not, I bring my lunch to work. I keep telling myself that the reason I do this is to make sure I eat a balanced healthy meal. By brown-bagging, I am not tempted to overeat, or make poor choices, such as French fries, cookies or Snapple Iced Tea. It also makes it much easier to spread the food out. I can have part of my lunch before high noon, and then finish it later in the afternoon. This works well on days that I go to the gym, so I am not absolutely starving when I am just starting my workout. Then of course there is the politically correct/green rationalization. By bringing lunch, I am consuming fewer resources (by avoiding the packaging associated with take-out) and probably wasting less food (by packing leftovers instead of tossing them after they sit in the frig for several days).

Over the last week or two, I have come to the realization that there is another reason that I bring my lunch. I am cheap. I could have said frugal or economical or some other euphemism for cheap. But the plain truth is I do have a streak of cheap, and every time I buy lunch in midtown Manhattan I suffer from sticker shock. Now there is no shortage of lunchtime dining choices within a half block radius of my office front door. And many of them do offer healthy and delicious choices. There’s Hale and Hearty, serving soups and salads. And Chipoltle with their delicious burritos (an example of overeating: the burritos are BIG and I always eat the whole thing). But lunch costs at least $7, and usually $8 or $9. If I did this 4 days a week (I work 4 days/week, not 5), then that’s at least $30 a week, or $120 a month! or about $1400 a year!! Okay, so the lunch I pack is not free, but it certainly costs much less. Let’s say a brown bag lunch costs $2, and I do that 3 days a week, then I am saving at least $16 a week, or $64 a month, or at least $700 a year. And whenever I pack my lunch, DH gets a lunch too, so between the 2 of us, that’s $1400 a year.

I am hereby initiating Project Cheap Streak (PCS). I am going to use my cheap streak to encourage the adoption of healthy habits and brown bagging, by investigating what I could buy for myself for $700 (PCS7) or for my family for $1400 (PCS14). This could be interesting because I am not a material girl. I don’t usually go for expensive clothes or jewelry or make-up. But I’m sure I can think of ways to spend that kind of money. That doesn’t mean I am going to buy any of these things as a reward for packing lunch 3 days a week for the next year. It’s just a way to motivate me by thinking about the money as well as the good healthy food I will be eating.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sucking it Up

On Sunday afternoon, I went out for another “training ride,” for slower riders looking to improve their skills, and maybe get faster. It was a 30 mile ride, and it was hilly. There were a few folks with skills and speed equivalent to mine, and there were a few riders who are stronger and faster. To a certain extent, it’s always the faster riders that set the pace for the rest of the group, so off we went! This is exactly the kind of motivation I need to push myself to work harder and ultimately (I hope) improve. Even if I don’t really get faster, at least I will get more comfortable trying to ride faster (does that make sense?). There was no sag wagon and there was no way I was getting off the bike to walk. There were moments (F*%#K ANOTHER hill) when I had to tell myself to suck it up and keep the wheels turning.

On Tuesday evenings I swim with the Master’s Swim Team. I am now at the point where I do the same workout as the “faster” swimmers, but with slightly shorter distances. At the end of every workout, we usually do 100 yard medleys (that’s 25 yards of each of the competitive strokes—butterfly, back, breast and freestyle), usually two of them. Well, on Tuesday night, we did FIVE. I pushed pretty hard on the first two, because I didn’t know there would be 3 more! After 3, I thought I might puke. After 4, I thought I might die. I thought the coach might die when he said 1 more, because my teammates were ready to kill him. Once again, it was time to suck it up and just get through it so I could get out of the F*&^King pool/torture chamber. I did not die. I didn’t even puke. I did sleep well!

Sucking it up is very similar to Dab the Wussy. The difference is when you dab the wussy, you are focusing on a particular activity and planned your workout to induce discomfort. You do it because you know it’s hard. Sucking it up typically involves no planning. You find yourself at the edge and you have no choice but to push yourself. The end result of both is the same—you get stronger, faster, better at whatever it is you are doing. And then you can go eat and take a nap with no guilt!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crossfit in the Crossfire

I have been been fishing in Youtube, looking for ideas for outdoor workouts, now that the weather is warming up. I already mentioned Coach Tara and Primal Nature Play, both of which have given me tons of ideas. But I also stumbled upon Crossfit and the numerous videos that their affiliates have posted of workouts, both indoors and outdoors. Here are 2 examples:

(Notice the kids in the video-- I love it!)

On Sunday I went to the track which is adjacent to the playground with a bunch of toys and played/worked out. I bearwalked the length of the football field (100 yards) and that totally kicked my ass. Who would have thought that bearwalking would be so challenging! It looks so damn easy. And burpees with broad jumps-- yikes! I lunge walked with the overhead PVC pipe. My 11+ pound medicine ball inside a tote bag became a kettlebell for swings. I also made a suspension trainer, hung that up, and did some upper body work. I never got to the sledgehammer. Yes, I actually bought an 8 pound sledgehammer.

Anyway, when I got home, I picked up the newspaper and came across this article about Crossfit. The author depicts Crossfit as a cult, almost a religion. I was prompted to visit their website and do some of my own investigating. Although I don't think I am ready to abandon my current approach to fitness, I agree with much of their philosophy and I LOVE their video library! So I will probably continue to incorporate some of their workouts and ideas into what I am doing.

On Monday morning, I was REALLY sore. It's probably a good thing I never took out the sledgehammer. Next time! And I still plan on making a slosh pipe.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tales of the Medicine Ball

I made a medicine ball. There are some old soccer balls in the garage. I invested $5 in a 50 pound bag of sand. I cut a small V into a #4 soccer ball with an exacto knife, stuck a kitchen funnel in the resultant hole and filled the ball with sand. This actually took a long time because the sand wasn’t completely dry so it didn’t flow right down the funnel. I had to use a chopstick to coax and push the sand into the ball. Then I patched the hole using a standard bike tube patch kit and wrapped some duct tape around the ball passing over the patch. When I picked up the ball, my first impression was, “damn this thing is heavy.” It weighs in at 11.5 pounds!!! That’s about double what I was hoping for. I’m sure I will find ways to use it and torture myself, but I am already thinking of ways to make a lighter medicine ball. Buy one? what fun is that! I have a smaller soccer ball, and I was thinking of using rice instead of sand, or maybe lentils (I’m not kidding, lentils may be less dense than rice and sloshing lentils might give it a nice sound), but how do you get lentils down a funnel (ANS: get a bigger funnel).

Yesterday was an indoor workout day and I made sure I included various medicine ball play (4 or 6 pounders). I watched a whole bunch of videos on youtube and I spent 15 or 20 minutes doing a bunch of different exercises and movements, whatever I remembered and seemed to be working, nothing specific. It was actually fun to “go with the flow” instead of doing 10 of this and 12 of that. As a result, I am a little bit sore today in a lot of different places, including my abs and other small muscles all around my core.

In the meantime I have roughly 40 pounds of sand in the garage which I can donate to a neighbor’s kid’s sandbox, but not before I make some sandbags.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Creative Outdoor Fitness

Four ideas/events have come into my field of view and converged.
1) Spring ahead. Changing the clocks means an extra hour of daylight in the evening. The vernal equinox is fast approaching. The great outdoors beckons.
2) This article on the Core Performance website. The fitness industry is running out of new ideas and new equipment to keep us in the gym. If you want to be healthy, stop looking for magic pills or magic toys and start looking inside yourself.
3) These 2 blogs, Coach Tara and Primal Nature Play, which teach the value of movement in the natural world. Wherever you are, be there and have fun. These coaches share their ideas on outdoor activities that promote fitness, fun, and a healthy lifestyle. Use whatever equipment is available—the slope of the terrain, playground equipment, stairs, or invest in some inexpensive even homemade equipment.
4) Parkour is the urban equivalent of primal play. This is a little extreme for me, but the principle is the same. You don’t need stairmasters and treadmills and Nautilus machines. A little creativity can go a long way toward creating a healthy lifestyle.

I am psyched to get outside and play and have some new adventures in fitness. I want to take my DIY Bootcamp to another level. I usually do this workout at the high school track which is adjacent to the elementary school. Playground!! There is a playground right next to the track. Duh! I’m also going to make a field trip to Home Depot. I want a slosh pipe! If you take a shorter and smaller diameter PVC pipe and fill it with sand, that might make a nice body bar. And while we’re talking sand, there are some soccer balls in the garage that are starting to look like medicine balls to me. Sandbags, hmmmm, how much does a gallon sized Ziploc bag of sand weigh and how many will fit in a small duffle bag. Ever watch rhythmic gymnastics? The sticks with long ribbons attached—how hard can it be to make one of those?

When I told my son I wanted to make a slosh pipe, he was quite horrified. He would be embarrassed if any of his friends saw me walking around carrying a giant slosh pipe. He would prefer that I stayed within the lines, like the walking talking mommies. Well, that’s his problem (if I do see any of his friends, I plan on challenging them to carry the slosh pipe!).

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Slow and Proud

My swimming has improved about 6 million percent since joining the Masters Swim Team 2 months ago. When I started, I could barely swim 50 yards without sucking wind. Today I swam 1 mile. I swam real slow and I may have stopped for a few seconds here and there, but I swam a mile. I am very proud of myself.

When I started, it wasn't my intent to swim a mile. I finally felt like I was swimming well enough that it was time for some benchmarks. I timed myself. I was brave enough to document my slowness. First I timed myself swimming 100 yards freestyle, then 100 yards breast stroke, then 100 yards freestyle again. It was slow, but it was beautiful: 2:38. Then I decided to time myself swimming 1/3 mile, which is the distance in the sprint tri. So I slowed down (if you can believe it). It took me just over 18 minutes. I loved every lap. I found my beautiful inner slow rhythm and it was easy. By now I had covered 1000 yards, and I figured why stop now. The beautiful slow strokes just kept pouring out of me, and I was even making turns off the wall (not flip turns, open turns). Something clicked and I was swimming like a fish! I felt my core rotating, my arms piercing the water, my shoulders pushing forward, and my 3 count rhythm driving the whole process. Swimming slowly made the whole experience more vivid. I swam 1 mile today, slowly and with pride.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Green Button Failure

I had dinner with my girlfriends to celebrate Nancy's 50th birthday. She chose a restaurant in the chichi mall. I drove up to the entrance to the parking garage and pushed the big green button to get a parking ticket. No ticket. Push big green button again, still not ticket. So I pushed the little green button on the callbox, no response. I spent the next 60 seconds pushing buttons despite it being painfully obvious that I was not going to gain entrance to the parking garage. By this time, someone had pulled up behind me, so I had to get out of my car to play charades to get this lady to back up so I could back up and choose another entrance to the parking structure. This time pushing the big green button produced a parking ticket, the bar went up and I was admitted to the inner sanctum.

After spending some quality time with my girls (good food, martinis, making fun of the waiter, etc), I found my way back to my car drove down the ramp and handed the sacred ticket to the parking attendant. When he gave me my change, he asked me a question, with a strong Jamaican accent.

I heard him ask me, "Did you have trouble parking your car?" I felt so vindicated, at last this man was acknowledging my plight, how something as simple as parking my car had made me feel so vulnerable, like a pawn in the game of life!

"As a matter of fact, I did have trouble parking my car!" I then launched into a narrative of my ordeal, with all the gory details. Arlo Guthrie would have been proud of me, even though I left out the part about the 8x10 color glossy photos with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one. When I had finished my sad story, it occurred to me to ask him, "How did you know I had trouble parking my car?"

"Lady, I asked you if you know the results of the Ohio vote!"

WTF? How did I hear "Did you have trouble parking your car" from "Do you know who won the Ohio vote?" The Jamaican parking attendant had a wonderful sense of humor and we spent the next few minutes laughing at my wacky ears. When I told him that I didn't know anything about the Ohio vote, he was appalled! "What? How can you not know about this, don't you live in America?" When I provided clarification, that I knew there was a primary and that it was do or die for Hillary, but I did not yet know the results of the "Ohio vote," he was relieved. "Good, I can accept this." I was permitted to exit the parking garage and once again live and work in America.

When I told son #2 about my encounter with the Jamaican parking attendant, he said, "Mom, he thinks you're a total suburban airhead bimbo." Well, maybe, but my theory is that the parking attendant is a federal agent of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and I passed the citizenship renewal pop quiz.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Cold Skills Including Plunging

Yesterday I went for a club ride. It was billed as a training ride for slower riders who want to improve their skills and hopefully their speed as well. The plan is to ride the same route on 4 Sundays in March, to learn to handle certain challenges with greater confidence, strength and skill. The ride was 22 miles, 11 miles up to Swan’s Deli and then back. It was cold when we started, but we were all dressed for it, and no one was complaining about being cold once we got moving. It was a beautiful day, and riding your bike when there is snow on the ground is a great experience.

The first skill we learned was how over-inflating your tires is bad. Pat got to learn how to change a flat before we even got started. In fact, she learned how to change front and rear tires before the ride was over. Then we practiced some more mundane skills, like how to navigate through several lanes of traffic safely, obeying traffic signals, downshifting and using all your gears when climbing.

When we got to Swan’s deli, we purchased some hot beverages and Jill really needed a bathroom. There is a big sign that says the bathroom is not for public use, but Jill threatened to pee on their floor, so they let her use the bathroom. Well, if Jill can use the bathroom, then so can Alan, Pat, Mable, John and finally me. When I finally got in there, I realized that the toilet was stuffed up and on the brink of flooding. And there was a plunger in the corner, suggesting that this is a common occurrence for this toilet, so wanting to a) be a good citizen and b) be able to return to Swan’s deli and use their toilet on subsequent Sundays, I engaged my plunging skills. Now I have better than average plunging skills, having practiced a considerable amount on one of the toilets at home. But alas, I was not able to unclog the toilet, so I had to tell the staff that the toilet was hopelessly clogged (but it wasn’t my fault) and that my noble attempts to dislodge the clogging wad of whatever had failed. They were not happy, so next Sunday we will have to find another venue for Jill to pee. Jill suggested that I put on my balaclava and helmet and return to the toilet and hoist the plunger again so she could take some photos. I thought this was a fantastic idea and was willing to comply, but at that point they weren’t letting us anywhere near their elite bathroom, especially since we were laughing so hard.

Just for the record, Panera's has great toilets.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Embracing Slow

When I competed in my last triathlon 21 years ago, I was slow. Since then, my biological clock has been working against me. If I believe the science (and I do), then I have lost muscle mass, my fast twitch fibers twitch with less enthusiasm, my stride has shortened, and a loss of flexibility has translated into less efficiency. As I get older, speed becomes more elusive. I can live with this. But if I accept my place in the triathlon world at the back of the pack, if my destiny is to exemplify slow, then the question becomes, why am I busting my ass in the gym 4 or 5 days a week? Glad you asked.
  • I may be at the back of the pack, but I’m in the pack. How many women over 50 do you know that are training for a triathlon?
  • There’s plodding gasping ugly slow and there’s graceful smooth beautiful slow. Guess which slow I’m aiming for.
  • I’m strong and healthy inside and out. This has given me beauty and confidence that I see and use everyday of my life. I am able to go outside my comfort zone and accept challenges.
  • I see the average 50+ year old woman. My friends, my colleagues, on the street, in the gym. Not for me. I’m not going there.
  • I was never big into team sports. I always preferred competing against myself. Measuring progress in terms of time and distance in 3 sports is more meaningful (to me) than winning with a goal in the last 30 seconds.
  • I like going to the gym. I see some of my friends there. I make new friends. It’s not like I have to make deals with myself to get there. It’s become part of what I do most days.

It takes longer to be slow. To be slow is to endure, to focus, to concentrate. Slow is about smelling the flowers. Its about the journey, it’s about encouraging others to set out on their own journeys. You just have to be in it. You don’t have to be in it to win it. Slow is looking BEYOND the finish line. Slow is flexibility and balance, in life and in the gym. Slow is music, a conversation, or a poem.

I like slow. I LOVE slow. I am going to live and breathe slow. I am going to blog about being slow. Join me, embrace slow. Slow is beautiful.

p.s. I haven’t totally given up on speed. Even if I am at the back of the pack, maybe I can realistically compete in my age group (maybe I’ll be the only woman in my age group).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cycling Haiku

Spring has come at last!
I rejoice with speed and miles
Oh my aching butt!

Silver with some blue
Designed for women, she rocks
Together, a team.

My husband asks me,
“Why are you obsessed with hills?
Just go out and ride.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Daily Dose of DOMS

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness has become a way of life. Every morning when I roll out of bed (and some days rolling really is the only option), I discover which muscles are sore and what movements cause the greatest discomfort. Sometimes it’s merely walking to the bathroom, or sitting on the toilet, or putting gel in m hair or shaking the juice carton (it’s amazing how many activities require muscles). Then there’s walking up the stairs to the train station with my backpack on, or reaching for the pen that has fallen to the floor. Some days are worse than others (like after not doing a strength workout for 2 weeks). Sometimes its concentrated in my upper body and other days in my lower body. Sometimes it eases as the day progresses and sometimes it gets worse. Occasionally I have to decide is this just DOMS or is it something a little more serious that requires a couple of days of rest. This morning was one of those decision days, and I have decided to rest. No gym bag in the car today.

I had Monday off (Presidents Day). It was a somewhat rainy day but unseasonably warm. I went to the track and did my DIY Bootcamp. I had run the day before and I didn’t want to simply run 2 days in a row, so I broke up some really slow laps with other activities. I jumped rope, did lunges, squats, push ups, and jumping jacks. I jumped up onto a low step, and dribbled a soccer ball. I brought an elastic band and did arm/shoulder exercises then tied it around my ankles and got my inner thighs burning good. Before I knew it, I had been working out for over an hour. And just because I still felt strong, I ran one mile, nice and slow. It was the easiest mile I have run in recent memory. I just floated around the track. I contemplated continuing to run, but luckily I thought about my knees. Yesterday morning was one of those days when rolling out of bed was the best option because I had DOMS in muscles I didn’t even know I owned. And my knees were sore. I swam last night because there’s no place like the pool when you are sore like that. And the hot tub! Today my knees are better but still asking for a day off. And all those other muscles are quietly rejoicing as well.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Swimmin' and Drummin'

On Saturday mornings at 8 am you will usually find me in the slow lane at the Masters Swim workout. I often wonder why I talked myself into getting up at 7 on Saturday to go wobble snort gasp burp, why I actually paid money to do this! But after swimming the first few laps all the "you must be crazy" thoughts dissipate and I just think about the 101 things the coach has told me to do. Today, I am pleased to report, I had a real swimming workout. I am finally at the point where the coach does not need to correct something after every lap, and I can swim in different gears (slow, medium, fast). Not so much freestyle, but even that is getting better. The swimmers in the fast lane cover about 3,000 yards during a workout. Today I swam about 1600 yards. And I made it to the end of the workout (most days I quit about 10 or 15 minutes before the end of the session. So, I'm getting stronger, I'm swimming better. Maybe not faster, but that will come.

After rewarding myself with hot tub time, I got into my regular workout clothes, clipped on my iPod and I was about to head upstairs to the land of electronic fitness (treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, etc). I overheard a woman talking about the Drums Alive class which was about to start. I ended up taking this class for the first time and it was really fun. You use drumsticks to drum on a stability ball. There are simple choreography/aerobic type steps and combinations, but it takes about 1 minute to master any skills required (hitting a big ball with a stick, sliding to the right or left, jumping jacks and grapevine). It was different, it was fun and it can be quite challenging if you want it to be. Try jumping around and drumming on a stability ball for about 45 minutes and see how your arms feel! Next time try that after swimming 1600 yards. I may have to take this class again!

Here's a video that shows a Drums Alive class:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Things I Think About When Swimming

  • Keep your head down.
  • Breathe every 3 strokes
  • How many laps in 1/3 mile?
  • Haven’t seen my red and yellow socks in a while.
  • Lead with your elbow.
  • I should get a pedicure, even in February, because everyone can see my toes in the locker room.
  • Is that 8 or 9 laps?
  • How do good swimmers not snort water up their noses when doing the backstroke?
  • How difficult is it to buy a bathing suit if you are really obese?
  • Was that last thought disrespectful because I don’t mean to be disrespectful but it’s difficult enough for me to find a bathing suit that fits.
  • Why can’t the bathing suit industry make bathing suits that fit more than 10% of American women?
  • Do more than 10% of American women even want to buy a bathing suit?
  • Keep your head down and lead with your elbow.
  • Pierce the water and roll like a log.
  • Logs don’t have legs.
  • I know I’m supposed to know where I am by looking at the ceiling, but I still can’t swim the backstroke straight.
  • Don’t rest, just go.
  • Flip turns? Yeah right.
  • Hot tub hot tub hot tub.
  • Is that 13 or 14?
  • How come that lady swims like total shit and she doesn’t have to stop every 50 yards gasping for oxygen?
  • If I keep swimming, I’m gonna be a lean mean swim like a fish machine.
  • If I was a mermaid, I’d probably be a good swimmer because I would have learned how to swim as a very young child.
  • Keep your head down, rotate to the air every 3 strokes.
  • Lead with your elbow, feel your core rotate.
  • Think fish. But not scallop. I don't want to swim like a scallop.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Crap Cycle

On Tuesday morning I woke up at 5:40 (I teach an 8:00 lab so I get up earlier than usual). By the time I walked 20 feet into the bathroom, my head was pounding and I realized I had a really sore throat. I turned around and got back into bed. I got up again at about 8:00 to call in sick. Then I plopped down on the couch in front of the TV and slept another few hours. I felt like total crap. When I finally felt hungry, I told myself I deserved to eat some delicious processed carbs--- like a bagel! And hot beverages with sugar. I spent the rest of the day on the couch, in my pajamas, a fleece bathrobe and a blanket, trying to get warm. Whenever I felt hungry, I ate crap food because I had no energy to prepare or chew real food. That night I slept like crap. Wednesday was a little better, but still pretty crappy, so I continued to eat crappy food, watch crap TV, and complain about feeling crappy. Thursday morning was a little less crappy than Wednesday, and surprisingly, I had not developed a full-blown head cold. I decided it was time to break the crap cycle, so I packed a lunch of real food and went to work (even though it was my day off, I really needed to get some things done). I left the office a little early and by the time I got home, the crap-o-meter showed a much smaller number, so I cleaned up the kitchen, did a little food prep, and in general decreased the total amount of crappitating. I still slept like crap last night, but being optimistic, I put my gym bag in the car this morning. It’s been 4 consecutive days without working out and I feel like that is part of the crap cycle. I feel so much better about everything when I am working out regularly. Last week I bought Freestyle Made Easy, a swimming instruction DVD. I had an abridged version on videotape, but it broke. One of the non-crappy things I did during this crap cycle was watch the DVD 3 times. And now I need to get in the pool and start putting these skills into practice. Am I addicted? I want to lift! I need to swim! Show me a big red stability ball!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Big Do-Over

I spent 2 days in Albany, to attend a university wide meeting at the University at Albany, my alma mater. The place is almost unrecognizable from the days when I roamed the campus. The academic podium and the 4 quads are still the backbone of the campus, but so many new buildings have been added. And it seems like there are parking lots everywhere there are no buildings. At one point I parked my car near Indian Quad, where I lived as a junior, and walked to the Campus Center. Wearing jeans and a turtleneck, my nylon jacket with the hood up, and my backpack, it really felt like I was caught in a time warp. Oh, there were some big differences, like the fact that I never made that excursion at 8:00 am on a Saturday, and the MacBook in my backpack. But it sure felt plausible, maybe it felt more like a wish. I would love to go to college again, knowing what I know now, and having all of today’s toys. I would probably go in a different direction academically, and probably end up in a different place. It’s fun to think about that, what would you do if you had a big “do-over.” But more than that, in hindsight, it’s about viewing the whole college experience differently. I was so fixated on being a biology major and getting good grades, that I didn’t appreciate the other opportunities and resources that were laid out in front of me. It’s definitely one of ideas that I tried to convey to son #1 when he set of for his freshman year. I’m glad he joined a fraternity and hopefully he will get involved in other groups and activities as well. College is the time to try things on, see what fits, where does it take you. Then hopefully you won’t wish you had one big do-over.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Moving into February

January is done, in the books, and it was all about stepping it up. I made the commitment to a triathlon in 2008 and I put all the pieces into play to make that a reality. I started doing core workouts. I managed a couple of bike rides on the warmer days, but other days I took spin classes. I ran. I lifted. I added core/rotational exercises to my strength workout. I did real intervals on the arc trainer. I worked out with my trigrrls. I bought a new bathing suit. I joined the Masters Swim Team! I’m eating better (but there’s still lots of room for improvement here). Most important, this feels like a good fit, I’m enjoying working toward this goal.

Super Bowl Champions

Today I came to work wearing my Plaxico Burress jersey. Since I have clinic today, I wore a white turtleneck under it and a string of (fake) pearls. I had this big grin on my face all day. And when I wasn’t smiling because I was working, I was smiling on the inside. Because the Giants are Super Bowl Champions. It still feels like a dream, a fairytale come true. And my kids were there. As exciting as it was, it was even more exciting because I gave my kids this experience, this once in a lifetime event (if the Giants are in the Super Bowl again and we get tickets again, they are not getting the tickets!). When we got home from our friend’s house, DH couldn’t even get in bed. Even I had a hard time falling asleep. What a rush. So now it’s time to get back on track, to get back to the mundane……… until pitchers and catchers report!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eat Pray Love Swim Bike Run

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is quite the rage in bookclub circles (I just finished reading it for my bookclub and enjoyed it very much). It has also been on the NY Times Bestseller List for upteen weeks. The book is Gilbert’s account of a year she spent traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia in search of “everything.” After a crippling divorce and a crushing depression, her road to recovery begins in Italy, with the pursuit of pleasure, continues in India with a search for love of self and God, and ends on the island of Bali where she seeks balance.

Swim Bike Run is my version of Eat Pray Love. It is an account of this woman’s search for “everything” across Westchester County.

The Bike is my Italy. It is my source of pleasure as I travel many miles through the natural world and across the seasons. Most of the time I share the experience with friends, new and old. It is easy to make the ride fit my needs (both physical and emotional) on that particular day.

The Swim is my India. Even when I swim with the Masters Swim Team, I am in the pool alone. It’s me against myself. Because I suck so bad at swimming, I am constantly battling my negative thoughts. “Why are you even attempting this? You’re supposed to be in good shape. The coach thinks you’re hopeless, but he can’t tell you that.” And on and on and on, lap after lap after lap. Like Gilbert, I am learning to banish these negative thoughts by telling myself, “You have no idea how strong I am.” You don’t have to excel at something to enjoy it. I am learning to love swimming and rejoicing in my baby steps. Lance understands, “Feed the warrior…..Kill the coward within.”

The Run is my Indonesia. It is a constant balancing act, between my knees and my lungs, between pounding the pavement and finding the rhythm that propels me with little effort. Running is the only time I find myself thinking about just about anything or pretty much nothing. I can turn inward or I can turn on the iPod. I can focus on the rhythms of my body or the rhythms of classic rock.

When in Italy, Gilbert's favorite word in Italian was "attraversiamo," let's cross the street. This becomes a metaphor for her journey as she learned to cross the street, navigate all the traffic and end up on the other side of her life. Swim Bike Run, attraversiamo, let's cross the street and find out where an athletic life can take you.

Monday, January 21, 2008

It's All Good

What a great weekend, ending with a Giants victory that is sending them to the Super Bowl. What a great football game! There were a lot of very excited people in my house last night. Son #2 had his posse here, and they were going crazy when the kick was good. Things got a little bit crazier around here when I opened the email this morning and realized that we have 2 tickets to the Super Bowl. Details are being worked out, but DH and I have decided that if it’s at all possible, we are going to send our kids. That seems a better alternative than trying to come up with 1 or 2 more tickets. Of course we could sell these tickets and make a nice little bundle of cash, but our children would probably never forgive us. The upside f this decision is that both of my children will do anything I ask of them with no lame excuses or backtalk. They jump when I say jump! Might as well enjoy it while I can.

The weekend began bright and early on Saturday when I showed up at the gym at 8:00 for my first workout with the Masters Swim Team (Team, every time I type that I crack up!). I am one of three “beginners,” but I’m probably the most beginning beginner. But the coach is fantastic and gave me quite a bit of instruction. I wish I had a dime for every time he told me to keep my head down. Swim in the water, not on the water. I was in the pool for over an hour when I got a cramp in my calf, so that was it for me. It wasn’t an intense workout because I didn’t swim more than 50 yards without stopping and talking with the coach. But it was all good. I don’t know if I will be ready to swim freestyle in the triathlon, but I don’t really care at this point. I’m so freakin’ happy that I’m learning to swim and enjoying it. I thought I was reasonably fit before I started on my swimming journey. I have a new respect for swimmers and swimming as a fitness activity.

On Sunday, I met a couple of other triathletes at another gym for an all morning workout extravaganza followed by a girltalk lunch. Now that was fun! We jumped in the pool for about a half hour, then we threw on our bike shorts for a 40 minute spin class and then we did an hour Total Body Conditioning class. I was ready to kill the instructor if she yelled, “Lower! Hold it” one more time during the bazillion squats she had us doing. This was quite the workout and I’m feeling it today. I have the day off today, and I think I’m ready to head to the gym for an easy workout.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wobble Snort Flap Gasp Burp

I have earnestly been teaching myself how to swim. I have made significant progress, but the experience has been humbling. I wobble down the lane. I swallow water as well as snort it up my nose. After 50 yards, I am gasping for oxygen. If I think about what my arms are doing, my legs forget to kick. If I make sure my legs are kicking, my arms are flapping. I haven’t even thought about what my head should be doing. But I’m improving, I’m definitely getting better. And the weird thing is, I am starting to enjoy it. I actually look forward to getting in the pool. It’s like Lance says, “Feed the Warrior, Kill the Coward Within.” Do not be deceived. I am only 5 feet tall, but I am fierce.

And so, it is time for the next step. I have decided to join the Masters Swim Team at my gym. “Team” is a misnomer, although some of the members do compete. It’s more of a “Swim Workout for Grownups.” The aquatics director has assured me that the coach is very open to working with swimmers of all levels. The limiting factor is my comfort level for being the slowest crappiest swimmer in the pool. That works for me. I’m practically guaranteed to win “Rookie of the Year.” (realize that I am the only member of the Awards Committee). I just hope my teammates don’t swim over me as I wobble snort flap gasp across the pool. Oh, and did I mention burp. That comes a little later, after I swallow and snort enough water.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I’m getting the pieces together. The various workout parts are starting to come together into more of a unified (yet flexible) plan. My nutrition is more consistent and I know what I need to “fix.” My support network is taking shape. I’m feeling more focused. Now I just hope my knees will keep me in the game.

On Friday, I decided I had to make the transition from practicing rotations and other swimming drills to some sort of real swimming stroke no matter how messy. And I did. I have a much better understanding of how to rotate my body when swimming. I don’t do it well and swimming 25 yards is exhausting, but this is a major breakthrough. I will work on making it smoother and easier and I may take a private swim lesson. At this point, I think a lesson can have a bigger impact.

On Saturday I planned a club ride for 11 am. The late start gave it time to warm up and I had the opportunity to go to the gym and do a core/upper body workout. I had 8 riders join me, including 3 on one bike! We have a family in our club that rides a custom built triple—daddy in front, mommy in the middle and daughter in the back. You can imagine the gawking, comments and questions they get wherever they ride. It’s quite a sight to see. It was a warm winter day and a great ride, including a rest stop at the Stone Barns CafĂ©, which is one of my favorite places in Westchester County. The ride was a 22 mile loop from a high school, with a beautiful turf track. I’m going to look into shortening the ride so we can start doing bricks—ride then run workouts.

Today a bunch of triathletes from the club had a meet-up. There were 9 of us, and we ranged from ironmen to first timers, competers and completers. We happen to have a very talented triathlete/coach (Coach A) in the club and he was offering some great advice about how to get a training program started. One of the points that Coach A stressed was the need to make a plan that fits into your life and then to discuss it with your significant other, because if you don’t have the support at home, it ain’t gonna work. I am very lucky that not only is DH a triathlete as well, but he has always been behind me 100%. We are on the same page. I’m really focusing on tweaking our food and nutrition, and he has picked up the slack around the house with both of us spending more time at the gym.

The next piece I need to put into play is Dab the Wussy (Once a Week, Do What Sucks at the Body Shop Until Your Eyeballs Hurt). It’s not too early to start doing bricks, or swimming after almost any other workout.

At our little meet-up, we introduced ourselves and told out personal triathlete “stories.” It made me realize how far I’ve come in the last few years. More importantly, registering for a triathlon after a 21 year hiatus has given me a new direction. I know where I’m going and I have aroadmap to get there.

Monday, January 07, 2008

DNF and Other Outdoor Adventures

On Saturday, I went on a club ride called “Dirt-Road-Dirt.” The 25 mile ride travels mostly dirt packed backroads, with a few paved roads here and there. The ride is not suitable for road bikes, so I pumped up the tires on my hybrid (haven't ridden it in about a year and a half) and threw it into the back of the Subaru. The weather people promised me temps into the 40s, so I dressed for temps in the 40s. However, when we set out at 9:30 am, the temp was only 27. I. Was. Cold. Soon after we set out on our little journey, I realized that riding a heavier bike, with fatter tires, on dirt roads, up many a hill on a cold day was really hard work. Much harder than riding a road bike on a paved road. MUCH Harder. My bike has a triple and my knees were wishing I had a quadruple! In fact, when we made a big loop and I realized we were only 2 miles from where we had started, I bailed. That’s right. I Did Not Finish. I quit with 12 miles on my little computer. I felt like a weeny, but a smart and considerate weeny. I probably could have dragged myself through the next 12 or 13 miles, but it probably wasn’t going to be fun. And while I know I need to push myself to become a better athlete, it’s still supposed to be mostly fun. I also thought about the other riders who were obviously going to have to choose between leaving me to eat their dust or slowing down to wait for me (so they could see me eat their dust). I may try again (he does this ride or some variation thereof) every Saturday morning. Knowing what to expect, and wearing warmer accessories might make enough of a difference that I could do it. Or maybe I’ll just keep doing the weeny version and bailing at the halfway point (makes sense, it felt about twice as hard). Or maybe I’ll wait until the roads are clear and stay with my skinny wheels.

Sunday’s outdoor adventure was hiking. This time the weather people promised me temps into the 50s! But I wasn’t falling for that again, so I wore 2 pairs of socks and brought an extra pair of gloves. The temp was only in the low 30s when we hit the trail, so I was dressed right. But did I mention that the leaves that covered the trails were covered with a layer of crunchy snow and that the light rain that had fallen overnight covered the crunchy snow and the rocks with a fine layer of ice. Oh, and that it was foggy and still drizzling. But I had no intention of being a weeny two days in a row, and neither did anyone else in our little group of hearty hikers. I managed to stay upright for 98% of the hike, and except for slipping and totally immersing my right foot in an icy cold stream (waterproof boots, you TOTALLY ROCK), it was uneventful. Although the conditions made it challenging, it was actually a really nice hike. I got home just in time for the kickoff, watched the Giants dominate the Buccaneers with family and some friends, and stuffed my face with totally bad-for-you foods. I never said I was perfect, just not a two-day-in-a-row weeny.