Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How do you make a mountain out of a mole hill?

Today, I was suppose to ride 1 hour on my bike and followed it up with a 40 minute easy (zone 1) run which should include 5 x 30 second hill climbs. The bike was no problem...jumped on Sharkie and an hour later my bike was done. My run turned into a run/jog/walk in order to keep my heart rate low and in zone 1. I don't think the brutal cold wind helped at all.

In any case, I did the best I could with the whole heart rate issue. But I have another problem. Hills. They simply don't exist around my house. It's pancake flat. Now, don't get me wrong I could probably jump in my car and drive 20 min to find some sort of a hill or something that resembles one. But there are no hills near my home where I run.

What do I do when my training plan requires me to do 5 x 30 sec hill climbs? I found a very weak-looking/wanna-be-a-hill-when-it-grows-up-someday spot on my run. I ran up it 5 times. It was pathetic. I'm not sure how or if it did anything for me.

So, tell me...are there any other options to simulate hill climbs? I was thinking of possibly running up the the stairs of a nearby high school football stand---would that work?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stationary Bike and Treadmill Hell

The other night Waddler and I went to see the movie "The Spirit of the Marathon".  On the way there, Waddler asked how my EN training was going.  I replied "good, I actually like the interval training."  I then went on to explain how going hard and fast for 10-12 minutes straight helps relieve the boredom on a bike trainer.  Another added benefit to interval training is after the interval is done, the riding just seems easier.  My only hiccup with my training is not the training itself but the disruptions/obstacles I come across when I try to train.

Unfortunately, I have to make a trip to Decatur IL,  which  is 3 hours south of the Chicago area, every week or every other week for business.  Sometimes I drive 3 hours to the warehouse, do my work and then drive 3 hours back home in a single day.  Other times I stay the night and go back the next day.   Somehow I usually find the time to squeeze in my work-out but other obstacles abound as I find myself stuck in "Stationary Bike and Treadmill Hell".

Decatur, unfortunately, is a depressed industrial town.  With the exception of McDonalds you will hardly find any chain restaurants, stores, or fitness facilities in the city.  Locally owned stores and restaurants are all that can thrive.  This isn't a bad thing; I'm all for the small-business owner's success....it's just that options are slim in Decatur.  I have found a decent fitness center literally across the street from the warehouse that has a decent selection of workout equipment (or so I thought).

A few weeks ago, after working in the warehouse for the day I headed over to the fitness center for a bike workout.  As I was climbing the stairs to where all 4 of the stationary bikes were, I overheard an instructor mention a spin class that was starting in a few minutes.  My ears perked...there was a spin room?  Hmmmm.  I kindly asked the instructor if I could join in.  He was extremely pleasant but explained I wouldn't be able to spin since the class was already full (via prior sign up).  My shoulders slumped and I quickly deflated.  He then suggested that if there were any open bikes from someone who didn't show he would come get me.  Ok....coool.

Meanwhile, I went to the bikes and picked one.  Two minutes into spinning, my butt was killing me!  I adjusted seat... no good.  I adjusted seat a second time, still no good.  OMG, this hurts!  I was staring at the clock and hoping the instructor would come save me from this torture.  Fifteen minutes into the painful ride....I had had enough with bike #1.  I hopped onto bike #2 to find out that it was just as bad as bike #1.  Did I mention that bike #1 and #2 did not have any pedal straps.  The resistance was at a relatively low level but I felt like I was mashing the pedals.  Smooth and easy wasn't happening today.

After 10 minutes on bike#2, I switched to bike #3.  The seat still sucked but at least this one had foot straps.    I managed to do about 20 minutes on this bike but still struggled with the resistance levels.  I was uncomfortable with the my position on the bike and my legs were burning.  Again, I had had enough.   Onto bike #4.  5 minutes on this one and I called it day for the stationary bikes. On days like this, I sorely miss my bike, Sharkie.

I then went over to the treadmills to get in a short run.  It was a high-tech machine and for the life of me I couldn't get it started.  Push start---check....push incline---nothing....push speed---nothing.  Over and over again I did this scenario and the belt wouldn't budge.  I had no clue what I was doing wrong...so I just kept pushing buttons.  Eventually the belt started moving and I got in my run.

Last week, I was in Decatur for the night and decided to run on the treadmill in the fitness center of the hotel due to the threatening rainy skies outside.  As I walked into the tiny room with 3 pieces of fitness equipment all which are old and decrepit, I immediately felt the heat.  It was like a frickin' sauna in there!  I looked around for a thermostat.  Nope.  I turned on the lonely fan in the room which was pointed down.  I tried to point the fan toward the treadmill, but the fan was broken and would only cool the floor below.  Oh how lovely.  Regardless, I was determined to get my workout in.  Within minutes I was sweating buckets.  It was suffocating.  Luckily, I had one of those "easy" workouts where I needed to stay in zone 1 for the whole run.  Of course, my heart rate skyrocketed to high levels--way too high for a zone 1 workout.  I walked and my heart rate came down .  I welcomed the "walk" at this point.  I again started running and managed to keep my heart rate down for the majority of the work out.  

Well, today the weather in Chicago area just plain sucks.  It's windy and cold and rainy.  It sucks.  My game plan was to go  to my fitness center and jump on a spin bike then run 25 minutes on the treadmill.  I looked at Sharkie in my bedroom and remembered how crappy it is to ride on spin bikes and stationary bikes.  So I changed my plans.  Plan #2 was to ride Sharkie for my bike workout for an hour and then drive to my fitness center for the run portion of the workout.  My fitness center is about 10-15 minutes away.  

I had a great workout on Sharkie and then I looked outside.  I convinced myself that it didn't look so bad.  Screw it...I'm not going to the fitness center.  So I bundled up for an outdoor run.  I must have looked like a crazy person...who in their right mind would run in weather like this? Me.... I am usually such a sissy about riding or running in cold, crappy weather. I hate it.  But the thought of another treadmill gave me enough motivation to brave the elements.  Bring it on!

Surprisingly enough, it didn't seem too bad.  It was cold and really windy.  Just pain crappy.  The rain started mid-way through my run.  But I was ok.  I was ok and it felt good.  And I finished.  Another little milestone for me.  Mentally, this was great for me...I feel as if I am getting tougher and will get more and more comfortable with the my outside workouts.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

LTF Indoor Triathlon

It's the middle of March, and I can't believe I'm saying that I finished my first triathlon of the year! And it was an interesting one at that. Waddler, of course, made sure I signed up for the Lifetime Fitness Indoor Triathlon. And what a dear friend she is; she also made sure that we were signed up for the first wave starting sharply at 7 am. (I, personally, thinks she likes to torture me by making me get up so darn early on a Sunday morning---which should be reserved for "sleeping in". I believe Wadder is foreign to this idea). I guess I better get used to it....there is going to be a lot of early-rising work outs this year.

I arrived at the fitness center promptly at 6:15 am to greet Waddler and to finally meet Snips, Waddler's running pal. What a hoot she is... Love her! Opposite from me, Snips loved the idea of getting up uber-early; well, at least she had a grin big enough for the two of us.

We signed in and were given our race numbers: Me (#3), Snips (#4) and Waddler (#5). 80 people signed up for the race and 73 participated. The race is scored on distance rather than time. We were given 10 minutes to swim (lap pool), 10 minutes to transition, 30 minutes to bike (spin cycles), 5 minutes to transition, and 20 minutes to run (treadmill). The distance covered in each category earned you "points"; the total number of points determined your rank in comparison to every one else.


Since Snips and I were (#4 and 3 respectively), we were in the same lane together while Waddler was in the lane next to us. Snips seemed a little apprehensive about the swim; it was a little intimidating since many of the people in the first wave Waddler knew from her Master's Swim class. I told Snips not to worry about anyone else---just swim. 30 seconds before the start, I lean over and tell Snips that "...it is very common for people to go out too fast at the start of the race. Again, don't worry about them." The whistle is blown and I bust out. In the first 30 seconds of the race I find myself doing what I didn't want to do; I went out too fast. Doh! I'm breathing too fast; maybe I should listen to what I say more often. I get my breathing somewhat under control but I wasn't truly comfortable. I did my best to keep a steady pace and to breathe. I wish I knew what my heart rate was, it felt a little high. I heard lots of noises of bystanders yelling and cheering---but couldn't understand one word. Toward what I thought was the end, I started lifting my head out of the water to see what was going on. With one minute left on the clock, I did my best to pick up the pace; I wanted to get to the end of the pool before time ran out. I was close but no cigar. I came up short about 6-10 feet from the end of the pool. My final length count was 17-1/2. Not too bad since I hadn't been doing much swim training.

Snips, Waddler, and I congratulated each other on the first leg of the race and ran into the locker rooms for transition 1. I was proud of Snips, she did great for hardly (or no) swim training.


As we ran into the spin cycle room, there to greet us was IronSnoopy and Moose (volunteering). I wanted to chat with them but being it was a race and all I had to stay somewhat focused, right? As we all got our bikes ready to go and seats adjusted, we were given the ok to start the bike. With the first few turns of the pedal, Waddler and I quickly realized that the resistance levels on the bikes were too much and we couldn't do a darn thing about it. Our resistance knobs were ducted taped...dang! We looked over at each other and grimaced....looks like we were going to have to spin 30 minutes uphill. The men didn't seem to have a problem with it, but the women were struggling. I noticed that all the women in our wave had to stand on the pedals to get some relief from the mashing. I wasn't a happy camper. I felt "the bike" was one of my strong areas, but not today. I watched my heart rate, it was stuck in the low 170's. I couldn't bring it down. Oh did I mention, the air conditioning wasn't working. No one could figure out the thermostat since it was on a timer and it didn't adjust for daylight savings time. Can you say boiler room?

One poor woman in our wave, passed out and fell off her bike. Volunteers rushed to her aid and so did Waddler. (Waddler-they should have given you an extra mile for that. You abandoned your bike and went to her aid. Way to go my friend!) Luckily, the woman who passed out turned out to be ok and was given the once over by the paramedics. And to all our surprise, she finished the race!

The best part of the bike was when the song "Pour Some Sugar On Me" came on; I get so pumped up with that song. I started to sing as loud as I could but I found myself gasping for air instead. At that point, I was ready to get off the uphill spin cycle. I finished at 9.1 miles.

Once again, our little trio celebrated the second segment of the race and dashed off to the treadmills.


I'm not a fast runner, but I decided to push myself a little today. I wanted to finish 2 miles in 20 minutes. My legs felt pretty good on the run. It was my heart rate that I wish I could control. Again, my heart rate was high; it was well into the mid 170's and it reached a high of 185 bpm. I did my best to zone out and just focus on myself...I was determined to do 2 miles despite the heart rate issue. Staring straight ahead for 20 minutes (I wouldn't allow myself to look at anyone else around me). I was on a mission. 1 minute to go, I stepped on the gas a little harder, I wanted to make sure I made it over 2 miles (I had to compensate for starting the treadmill from zero). As I pushed the pause button when I heard the words "STOP" I looked down at my distance...it was right on the 2.00 mile. I did it. Yeah!

Sweating and smiling, I looked over at Waddler and Snips; we all had finished our first Indoor Triathlon. We congratulated each other and headed for the showers. Afterwards, we headed for the cafe to chat. Yes, it was a minor accomplishment but we had fun and reveled in the spirit of being triathletes.

Thanks to all the volunteers...including Corbin (Waddler's son), IronSnoopy, Moose, Kurt, and Dan! And it was a nicely run event by Coach Steve and Bob.

Final Place: 24th out of 40 women

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Whoo hooo! Ed and I are leaving for Savannah GA as soon as I get out of work for the day! This will be our first "road trip" together which means lots of windshield time (note: we have taken numerous vacations via plane) . I'm excited just to be getting out of dodge. Work has been stressful and I'm so tired of the cold weather.

We plan on stopping in Asheville, NC for a day then onto our final destination, Savannah. Alicia (Ed's sister), Andy (Ed's brother-in-law) and Grant (Ed's nephew) now live in Savannah after a job change. Ed and I have been to Savannah several times now to visit. It's a great city to visit and we always enjoy spending time with all of them. Ed and I usually bring our golf clubs but due to time constraints we probably won't get a chance to hit the little white ball on this vacation getaway.

I was a little worried about how I was going to get my workouts in for the week without Sharkie. Ed suggested we put Sharkie in the backseat of his car and when we have some spare time in Asheville and Savannah, I can just pull Sharkie out and go for a ride. Sounds good to me.

Note to Waddler: You've got competition, girl! I've signed up for the Lifetime Indoor Tri on March 15. See ya when I get back into town!

Happy trails!