Wednesday, December 30, 2009

T Rex, revisited, not by choice

I heard something great on the radio today as I was driving home from Red Deer. "Alberta for Newfies is like a litter box for cats. You go there to do what you've got to do, then go home." I laughed. Alberta, Calgary in particular has been home for nearly 30 years. This particular house has been home for almost that long. Clearly I don't think of it as a litter box. Yet I want to bury today's workouts in the litter box and forget them.

First I suppose I should talk about why they go in the litter box. The swim first. 2 K, 40 minutes. Almost from the very first strokes I knew it was going to be slow. It was like wearing a parachute. Several parachutes. I could not get the feel of the water at all. My catch sucked. My kick was feeble, except for a few laps in the middle. My elbows were mostly up, and my chest mostly down. I think. I hope. I shudder to think how slow I'd have been if I didn't have that much right. Picture T Rex trying to swim in the tar pit. Did another 30 minutes of deep water core.

Drove to Red Deer to pick up a wine kit. Highway 2 in the winter is interesting. This is a 2 or 3 lane highway running from Calgary to Edmonton. The speed limit is 110 Kph (68 mph), and most people set the cruise at 123 or 124 Kph (76 mph) during the summer. They get passed a lot. You'd think winter would be different, but it isn't, much. It's not like there aren't reminders. Today, I saw 4 cars that had just been driven into the ditch. You could still see the swerve marks on lanes where they lost it. One guy was backwards into the centre median in about 3 feet of snow. That van had just passed me a minute before, and I could see the sweat on the guys face. In addition, every few hundred metres there was a set of tracks heading into the ditch with varying degrees of sideways, and you could see where they had driven or been towed out. One set of tracks looked like the car rolled. These are of varying freshness, but still clearly visible. Today it was light snow, and slippery enough that my traction control came on a couple times. I spent most of the trip at or a little below 100 Kph, getting passed a lot. Including during a snow flurry with crap visibility. During one trip a few years ago, I counted more than 100 vehicles in the ditch in a 300 K stretch. About half SUV's and big 4x4 pickups, about a quarter regular pickups, and a quarter cars.

My old running form (T Rex in the tar pit) visited today. I hope it's just a visit. My tummy and chest were bouncing all over the place, and I was beginning to regret lunch, even though it was nearly 2 hours before. It took about 15 minutes to find a smooth pace, and that only lasted for 5 minutes. Then I felt my left leg beginning to cramp up, hams and calves, and shut'er down for the day. Walked another 20 minutes home. My hip feels fine, but I had no strength in my legs. No running form.

Gets out the shovel to start digging in the kitty litter.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Better, but still not right

The Monday swim was pretty good. Only 45 minutes, lots of different stuff. My flip turns were a bit sloppy, and I attribute that to my sore hip. I could tell from the feel of it that deep water running wouldn't be good, and actually running was right out. Too bad, it was nice out. I did some stretches and gentle twists trying to relax the tight muscles. You know how it feels when something 'clicks' then feels better? I got a 'THUNK' that echoed up and down my body a few times. Things felt better after that, but still not totally right.

Today I was on the bike after some loosening exercises and easy stretching. My hip feels much better. The spinning was going ok, though it was falling apart at 120 rpm. If anything was hurting, it was my calves feeling a bit tight. The second part of the main set was a seated/standing climbing set. Seated was fine. Standing was the subject of an urgent stop work order posted by my hip flexors and some other muscles. I guess the different degree of stretching was too much. After that even the seated pedaling was sloppy and starting to hurt so I did a few minutes of easy cool down, for 45 minutes total.

I wasn't sure how the core routine with the one leg squats would work out, but I was pleasantly surprised. The entire core routine was just fine. Even the one minute plank wasn't bad. Did some additional stretching for 45 minutes overall, but there wasn't any rewarding clicks or obvious improvements. With any luck I'll sleep well tonight, and can try to run tomorrow.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Well, that was almost painful

Saturday we went for a nice walk down through Fish Creek. It was a beautiful day. All was good.

Sunday I woke up to an achy painful right hip. Lots of sore and creaky muscles around it. I did a bit of of easy stretching and massage to try to loosen things up. When I finally got on my bike I warmed up really slowly, really easily, trying to see if I could get things to loosen up. After 25 minutes things weren't much better but I started into the workout anyways.

I very quickly bailed on anything over 100 rpm for more than 30 seconds. I could feel myself fading on that, and things were getting very jerky. The first part of the main set was 5 min at 90 rpm. Picked one gear easier than what I'd normally do for this, and found I was struggling to maintain the rpm. I was sweating a bucket, even though my heart rate was well below what I'd think of as normal for that. The sore muscles were starting to burn so I gave it up. I didn't even consider running.

Even the stretching was painful, and didn't seem to help much. Here's the difference between legs. Lie down on your back, one leg stretched out straight, and the other bent with sole of the foot on the mat. Rotate the straight leg inwards so the toes roll sideways toward the floor. My left leg will go almost to the floor. My right will go barely past the vertical, and it's an ouchy going that far. Even trying to get into pigeon pose was painful. So I'm not sure what's happening there. I sometimes have these things flare up and go away as suddenly as it comes. Hope it's better tomorrow.

Weekly Summary
Swim 1.0 hrs
Bike 4.5 hrs
Run 2.66 hrs
Walk 2.0 hrs
Core 1.75 hrs
Total 11.9 hrs.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A natural run

I've come to believe at any particular time during a run, there is a natural run pace. That if you let your body run, it will find an optimal balance between a number of factors. What are these factors? They include:

Hard physiology factors (things that don't change, or change only very slowly over time)

  • Length of your bones
  • Flexibility of your joints
  • Muscle strength and conditioning
  • Health of ligaments and tendons and such
  • VO2 Max and other factors relating to bodily process efficiency
  • Basic running skill
  • Your weight
Soft physiology factors (Things that change from day to day, or even hour to hour)
  • What you've eaten recently and other nutritional issues
  • Hydration
  • State of your emotions or mindset (probably the most important of these factors)
  • Tiredness from a recent workout
  • Fatigue from previous workouts
  • Application of new running skills or mental discipline
  • Trying to impress a hottie (which probably belongs under mindset)
Environmental factors
  • Weather (temperature, humidity, wind, precipitation)
  • What you're running on (road, path, trail, open field, ice or snow)
  • Incline of running surface
  • Elevation above sea level
  • Traffic or pedestrians
There are so many different factors that it's impossible for our minds to consciously process it all, and come up with an optimum pace. Yet somehow, if we let it, our body will settle in. We'll find a stride. Sometimes it's harder to settle in than other days. Some days the training plan calls for going faster, or slower than that natural pace. That can get tough very quickly. Too often we get sucked into the mindset that we *ought* to be running faster, and try to push it, which takes us down the road to injuries.

That natural pace will change over time.  To some extent a natural pace is trainable. As you become more fit you'll become faster. As you become a more efficient runner you might not go faster, but may be able to go further more easily. Your stride might change as your hips or ankles become more mobile.

I've gone through lots of running changes over the last couple of years. When I started, just over two years ago, there was no such thing as a natural pace beyond walking. Picture an injured T Rex (poor thing) trying to run through a shallow tar pond, and you've got a good idea what I ran like. Changes have been a long time coming. Even as late as last summer I didn't run particularly well, and certainly not quickly, and didn't get any special enjoyment out of it. Enjoyment came from swimming or biking. 

However, just recently, in the last few months things have come together and I've had a bunch of good runs. I've been running faster than ever with less effort, and I've been looking forward to running. It seems that my body is finally finding a natural pace because I can actually run at the minimum speeds required to actually run at. That probably didn't make much sense. Most of us can probably walk 6 K per hour (a hair under 4 mph). Now try to imagine running that slow. Mechanically it simply doesn't work for the way our bodies are put together. My problem was that I didn't have the skills, conditioning, or strength to be able to make the leap to an actual running pace until recently. (I'm fully aware I'm still on the slow end of the running pace.) 

Probably the single clearest illustration of the difference is a photo of me and Cath taken by her husband Jase, during the Canmore Oly. Even if all you know about us is what you see in the picture, you can tell instantly who is the faster runner. (Her 10 K time, 49:04, mine 1:06:10 and it damn near killed me.) (And if you're looking for a great place to stay on a vacation to Fernie, (skiing, hiking, fishing, ect) check out their B&B. )



As a side note, I think this is where many people go wrong as they try to get into shape. There is actually a huge chasm between a fast walk and a slow run. The mechanics are entirely different. I've felt them, I know. Lots of people get injured trying to make the transition, and I consider myself fortunate that I've had only minor injuries. What's fascinating is that once you find the pace, it becomes easier to find it again, and when you run at that pace (which might be different speeds, strides, ect) your body starts making the changes to be able to do it better and longer in a wider variety of conditions. Which gets you into a great positive feedback loop. 

The plan today was to go for a run, and have fun. I went down through Fish Creek on a 7.75 K loop. I didn't wear a heart rate monitor, and didn't try for any particular pace. Today I wanted to concentrate on what a beautiful day it is out there, and let my body find whatever pace it wanted to run at. Started off slow and easy, and gradually built up. At one point I was running south, and the path looked like it was made out of diamonds, all sparkling rainbows in the sun. Wow. 

I kept a nice pace up the hill out of Fish Creek, then slowed down again when I got closer to home. That's the only time I thought about pace. It's cold enough I didn't want to be walking far for a cool down. Even then it was tough to slow down. My body wanted to run. I don't think I was quite going through this semi-mythical "runners high", but I was feeling great! Stretched for a while after, till I started getting cold. I suspect some of you guys will have a tough time believing the coldest part of the workout was stretching in my basement, but it's true.

Oh, and I couldn't help myself. The run took 54 minutes. And you thought I'd forgotten. (hahahaha)


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The HARD night before Christmas

Twas the spin before Christmas, And all through the set
No one was resting, not even a pet
The plan was writ out in neat text with care
In hopes that big fitness would soon be there
With me all clipped in by my feet
While seconds slipped by at a really slow beat

And why did they slip by so slowly??? Because part of the main set was marked as 3x5 min HARD!!! I'm not kidding. I used some geeky high tech tools to go into the Word doc, and look at the previous versions of the plan. There was a comment about having a bucket just in case, but it got removed for the final version. (Kidding!)

Big chainring, half way down the cog, maintaining high 80's, and 90 for the last. The heart rates ended up at 138, 140, 139, 142, and 144 bpm. I was a little lightheaded at the end of it. Of course just before this set was one leg drill, and guess what? More one leg right after. oof. 90 minutes overall, even though I was on the bike a few minutes longer.

Then 30 minutes core, per the plan. I was feeling stronger today. In the evening we decorated the tree. Here's a photo of some of the ornaments. Maybe later there will more photos of Christmas stuff.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Me and numbers

There was some comment about me and numbers in my last blog, and over my blog history. The word geek has been used, affectionately, and I have to say, at least somewhat accurately.

Here's why. Numbers don't lie. Numbers measure progress, or lack of it. Numbers mean something real to other people, like a coach. Numbers build knowledge and confidence. For example, today over 20 minutes, I ran 3.25 K at a heart rate of 140 bpm or a little more. That's the top end of my aerobic range, and works out to being a 6:09 pace or 9.75 Kph. That is real data for me and my coach. It tells her a great deal about where I am in terms of running fitness. It's repeatable, so I can compare that to last month, or next month when it comes around. It means nothing to me, nothing at all, if other people are faster, or slower. These numbers are about me.

But numbers aren't the only thing. Feelings are important too. Knowing I ran that and felt great during and after gives some context to the numbers. If I'd said I ran that but nearly spewed after, that would be something else again. Knowing I had a good stride, my feet and legs felt strong, and that the weather was cold and clear, with good footing tells more again.

Imagine how a coach would react after a training run where I said that I wasn't sure how long I ran at each of the paces the plan called for because I didn't start the stopwatch, and I don't know my heart rate because I wasn't wearing the monitor, and I don't know how far I went and there weren't any landmarks to Google Map, and my breathing was ok, not too hard, not too easy, and my legs felt ok during and after. How on earth would the coach know if the athlete were making any progress? How would you?

Today I ran up the 37 St path to the reservoir, and part way to the boat docks. The idea was to run easy for 10 minutes, then run zone 2 for 20, zone 3 for 20, and zone 2 again for 10. That is exactly what I did. This is probably the closest I've ever followed a run plan. Nice stride all they way, and it turned out I got back to the start, and another .37 K besides in the one hour. It worked out to just a hair under 9 K in the hour.

This aren't the best tusks I've had, and there's no rim of frost around the hood. But it's what you guys get. After all, it's only - 16 C (3 F) with a wind chill of -27 C (-17 F) today.



Did a little bit of stretching in the basement afterward, but was getting cold and hit the shower. We're going to do some yoga together a bit later, since there is no formal yoga class till next year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The 12 swims of Christmas

My coach put a lot of thought into a fun Christmas swim for Monday. Just like counting off the 12 days of Christmas, this had 12 different things in the main set. It made for a lot of writing; I filled up two of the little pages I stuff into a baggie. Numbered them, and placed them back to back.

It was a lot of fun working through the sets. Lots of different things. The only thing I didn't do was the 25 m where I had to breath every 9 strokes. That was after 25 m of every 3 strokes (no problemo), 25 m of very 5 strokes (ok), and 25 m of every 7 strokes (a bit of a struggle). I tried for 9, and my body said breath!!! on eight strokes. I got some water while doing that, and the rest of the length was a bit of a shambles.

I was sharing a lane with a lady that swims really slow, but we each had our half so it wasn't an issue. How slow? She's churning away on front crawl. We all know I have a pathetic kick. Even so, I passed her while doing kick only. Easily. I saw one of the guys from swim camp and said hello, on a 5 second break, but I can't remember his name. (If you're reading this, I'm sorry, please leave a comment, and I'll do better next time.)

It ended up being an hour, not sure how many m, then another 15 minutes of core in the dive tank. I timed it perfectly. The floaties were coming in just as I was leaving. The number is still 228. I think my days of easy weight loss are over, and I'm going to have to get serious about this.

After some breakfast I was out for a secret mission. Nearly got gezzered a few times, and watched the start of a geezering. As you exit off 14th st southbound, there is a one lane road into Glenmore Landing parking lot. I came in that way, and there is a geezer sitting patiently in the lot with her right signal on. I turn left out of the ramp, and she turns right behind me, onto the road I just left, so she is heading against the stream of traffic, though there was none at the moment, where she would soon end up facing the very busy southbound 14th St going about 80K. Somebody was going to get a nasty shock much sooner than later.

Later in the day (ie, daylight, which is in short supply here these days) I was out for an easy run, 40 minutes. I was thinking of making it an even 45, but it took a little longer getting around the block than I thought, and when I passed the house with the watch showing 38 minutes, and me getting cold, that made it easy. I did the two minutes out and back, and went inside. It was quite a bit colder than it had been in the morning, and I turned out to be just slightly underdressed. Some frost on the moustashe, but nothing worth photographing.

Just for the geeks among us, I found the sunrise, sunset, and total daylight hours for Calgary today.
Dec 21, 2009, 08:38 AM, 04:32 PM, 7h 53m 53s. Less if it's cloudy. And you guys wonder why the fake n bake industry exists up here.

Tuesday bike took a bit of working up to. I haven't been sleeping well lately so I was slow to get moving. However, once I got on I had a really good session. 2 hrs, lots of it at 90 rpm, and some of it gradually moving into harder gears while trying to maintain 90.

Then the core. That wasn't so good. In fact, it was pathetic. Only 15 minutes before I gave it up, and it was a shambles from the start. Maybe I'll have another go at it later; it couldn't be any worse.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Running with the herd

Well, sort of running with the herd from spin class. The slower parts of the herd. In fact, the very slowest part other than me. This is with my heart rate up in Katie territory, and lungs about to explode out of my chest seeking air. Everybody else loping along going chatchatchat. Well, let's just say there's a bit of poetic license there, and you can guess where. I caught one guy only because he was running backwards, and I was barely up to it. Interestingly enough, my legs weren't having any problems at all, and could have run faster. The first half of the run was high 130's bpm, and the last half was low 150's. Almost made it to the bridge, and got back to the store with a big negative split. It was -10 C (14 F) in light snow, with ice underneath it in places. Fun for 30 minutes.

Spin was the usual fun times. Katie planned a CHRISTMASS workout, with each letter representing a different set. I can't remember what they were now. But they were 2 hours worth of fun. Core was the usual brutality, with me sitting out part of the plank. Did a bazillion pushups (really it was 42) all of them from my knees

Then comes the fun part. Now Shannon will really regret not coming to class. Chocolate chip and cranraisin muffins, something like Nanimo bars but crunch and with caramel, crackers and home made antipasto, chocolate dipped strawberries, and Manderin oranges. All very yummy. This was our last class of the season, we're off till the 10th. It was fun mingling and chatting, though you had to move quick to avoid having fingers taken off; the herd was hungry and determined to nibble.

And now, some random photos from the last little while. I finally plugged my camera into the computer. It's almost like when we had a film camera. We'd take the film in to get developed, and it would be no surprise to see photos I took a year ago.

This was during the major snowstorm we had. We've never had the front windows snowed up like this.



This was one evening. I'm not sure what made me look out the back window. I think this is a mama and 2 kids. I've seen them a number of times heading into the cul-de-sac behind us. I think one of my neighbours must have the remains of some yummy flowers that they are after. Here mama is checking out our back garden.


This is what Linda whipped up one day. The cinnamon pinwheels didn't last long. Neither did anything else. That's a cherry pie with a moose on top. What Linda calls quiche of the house, and a beef tenderloin stew with lots of goodies in it.


Linda says hi to a dear friend.


Weekly Summary
Swim 2.0 hrs
Bike 6.0 hrs
Run 2.5 hrs
Walk 1.5 hrs
Core 3.25 hrs
Total 15.25 hrs

Friday, December 18, 2009

Running progress

Another beautiful day for a run. It's just about zero and sunny. This temp is actually kind of difficult to dress for because it's just on the verge of running without any winter gear. Wear too much for a sunny calm day and you'll cook if you run hard. Go light, and run a bit slower with some wind and overcast, and you'll be really cold. I could probably have gotten away with wearing two long sleeve tech shirts, but I wore a vest, Susi has one like it, over a long sleeve tech shirt, and all was well. I hate to wear too much and have to end up with my jacket tied around my waist. That just looks so tacky, like you didn't check the weather before going out.

I ran exactly the same route as Wednesday, only trying to keep a steady pace after getting warmed up. This time I got a little further. Wed was 9 K in an hour with half the run going fairly hard. Today was 9.5 K in 1:02:30, with my heart rate in the low 130's for most of the run. It went up to just over mid 130's for the last (uphill) 15 minutes. The average was 131 over the hour, and I was never breathing really hard.

My feet and legs were really happy to be running again. We were in the groove. I was paying attention to posture and stride and arms, and all that, but wasn't having to think about it to make it happen. My body was doing it for me, with occasional reminders to straighten up, or to keep the arms moving, or relax the shoulders.

If I'd brought a Gu, and there was a place for water, I could have kept going for quite a bit longer at this pace. In less than a minute after stopping, my heart rate was down 25 bpm, and my breathing back to normal for walking.

I am so pleased at how the running is coming along. It's easy to see your progress on every run. Keep track of time, run a route you're familiar with, and think about how you feel, and there you are. Swimming, if you keep track really carefully, you can see the progress, but it's harder to do. Biking on the trainer it's almost impossible to see if you're making improvements, unless you have a power meter and really keep track. There are so many variables. Is your bike in the trainer tight or sloppy? What's the tire pressure? How tight is the resistance set? How's the chain lube situation? Your heart rate, breathing, perceived effort can vary quite a bit from day to day in any given set of gears. It's hard to know if your just having a good day, or if you're really making progress.

I'm still not sure I want to talk about chafing. On the last couple runs I've been getting a small patch of chafing in a very, very unlikely spot. I don't think it's from fabric rubbing directly; I think it's from the way certain bits of anatomy are positioned in these particular tights. No, not that. I said unlikely.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My basement smelled like a pool

My swim was scheduled for Friday, but fitting it into the schedule was looking a bit complex, so I moved it to Thursday. This was something new for me, 5 x 400m with 20 seconds rest for the first two, and 30 seconds rest for the next two, and different stuff happening for each 400. I was enjoying sharing the lane with a guy that didn't swim all that fast, but was putting a fair bit of power into it. During warm up, and I really was going slow, I blew past him. After that, every time I was coming up behind him he sped up, or tried to. Didn't matter, I passed him anyway. The last set was the fun one, 8 x 50 on 1 minute. These were all 53 seconds, except the last, which was 50 seconds. I was in the pool almost exactly an hour.

On the way home there was an interesting situation in front of the Safeway, where we turn right. This right turn is notorious for being slippery. It's very common to see tracks bouncing off the centre median, and sometimes even going across the point of the triangle that separates traffic going straight from that turning right. But this guy didn't even get that far around the corner. He somehow ended up high centered on the triangular median, right beside the pole for the signals. It's as if he had stopped normally at the lights, and a giant picked the car up and moved it to the right a car width and a half.

A bit later I got onto the bike, after some debate about shuffling around the rest of the workouts. In the end I decided that it was still best to do my run tomorrow, and get the regular stuff done today. The bike workout was a bit longer than usual. I may have done one whole set twice, rather than just a couple of elements of it. I was on the bike 2.25 hrs, feeling pretty strong throughout.

I went upstairs for a quick snack after the bike. When I came back downstairs it smelled like a pool. I guess I was sweating all the pool residue off my skin. Then 30 minutes of core, including some yoga stretches. Still trying to loosen up my shoulders. The left is way tighter than the right.

Just before supper time I got the pool sniffles really bad, to the point I'm almost totally stuffed up. That's the only downside to swimming.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pity it wasn't race day

Above zero!!! Yahoo! Although it wasn't quite warm enough for shorts and a T shirt, I was tempted. I ended up wearing tights and a long sleeved tech shirt. That was just barely warm enough for when I got down into Fish Creek. It's always colder down there.

For about the first time I made a gradual build work for me. It's still not quite what the plan said, but fairly close. Close for me anyway. Plan was 10 min easy, 10 min a bit quicker, 10 min quicker still, 10 at half marathon pace, last 10 at the same pace as the second 10 minutes worth.

What I actually did was 10 min easy (~120 bpm), 10 medium (~130 bpm) then settled into a really nice stride at ~140 bpm. I lost track of time and didn't turn around at 25 minutes, but caught myself for 30. Kept going at the same pace for 30 minutes because it felt so fricking good! That and to be running outside in warm sunny weather. Did the last 10 minutes back at the 130 bpm pace, and got back to my starting place within a few seconds of 60 minutes, for almost exactly 9 K, per Google Earth.

I found a good stride right off, and had a good comfortable stride for the entire run. My legs felt relaxed and strong. It turns out I had good landmarks for the 30 minutes of the fastest part of the run, and my pace turns out to be just a hair slower than a 6 minute K (4.95 K). Keep in mind that 30 minutes included running out of Fish Creek, up the hill. Yet I was running easily, with light feet, good breathing, nice stride, and could have gone on much longer at that pace. I almost had to force myself back to a slower pace for the last 10 minutes.

For a nice bonus, I saw two deer in the park. They watched me carefully, but didn't run away. They were maybe 10 feet away. And, even better, I panicked a geezer! In Coop, he was doddering along ahead of me a bit. A lady came out of an aisle somewhat ahead of me and to my right. She was walking quietly, and fairly quickly. I was walking at my normal get out of my way or I'll trample you pace, with my wet shoes squeaking firmly with every step. A few steps back, as she and I closed in on him like sharks after prey, he heard me, and darted to the right, and mostly bumped into her, since she was a step ahead of me. I think she gave him the elbow, but I'm not sure. This time he shoulder checked before jumping out of her way, and saw me bearing down on him. He turned sideways, and tried to make himself small, while muttering an apology to the lady. Both of us sailed past. She headed for the deli section, and I headed for the cashier. Life is good.

Yoga tonight, and last week we got to put in requests for poses. So tonight shouldn't be too brutal at all. I'd asked for the pose that's a really good psoas stretch. Pigeon pose? I think that's what it's called.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On our way to balmy

Another spin session today. I was sort of wondering how it would go given what happened last time, but all was back to what I think of as normal. Chugged through in 1.75 hours, felt pretty good. Then 30 minutes of core. That got a bit shaky towards the end.

Walked to the local DVD rental store this afternoon because it had warmed up so much. It was only -10 C (14 F) so I didn't bother with hat, scarf, or gloves. It was nice being out for 30 minutes of brisk walking. Tomorrow is supposed to be just above zero. I might be running in shorts if there's no wind!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Short update.

Swim day. 100 m intervals. Three sets of them. Each with less rest between them. The second last one I essentially arrived at the departure time. Things were getting sloppy. I'm glad there wasn't more than what there was. Shoulders feeling better. Swam 1 hr, deep water running for 30 minutes.

Still cold here. The water had mist coming off it at the end closest to the patio door. Tomorrow should be nice, only -9 C (16 F), and Wed above zero! We'll be in shorts and T shirts here.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A weak and feeble spin in -wtf weather

And that was inside the store. Outside was colder.

First things first. The registry office. KK asked about it. This is stuff the provincial government used to do, but has since been privatized and farmed out. The service is much better now. These stores are everywhere. I go there to renew my drivers license, and get new registry tags for the car. I later found out you can pay speeding tickets (damn photo radar anyway), and do business incorporation stuff. However, for the purposes of this blog, I looked it up and admit to being astonished at all the things you can do there. Here's a link to the catologue (yes that word has a u in it no matter what the spell checker says) in pdf for those interested.

So, what could Julie be up to, other than the services already mentioned? It's not her drivers license because that expires on her birthday, which isn't anywhere close to now. There's vehicle registration searches and related products, Land Title searches and related stuff, Cemeteries search, registering corporations and other corporate stuff (and Julie used to own a business so it could be fallout from that), there is marriage related stuff like attachment or enforcement orders, liens, marriage licenses (though why we should pay to get married which is none of the governments business but they should be licensing being able to have children), death certs, name changes, genealogical searches, various health care insurance stuff including a gender change of all things (which is much more up to date than I thought Alberta would be) and lastly, raffle licenses. I had no idea they did all that stuff, so I learned something today. I guess, if we wanted, we could speculate what Julie was doing in the office the other day, that was so compelling it was better than digging out an eye with a spoon (why not a fork, you'd think that would work better). So guys, feel free to speculate in comments about what she was up to.

We all know it's brutally cold outside.


I decided running in that was foolish verging on stupid, so I didn't take any running stuff. However, the store we use for spin class was brutally cold inside. As in almost see your breath cold, no matter what the thermostat says. I was wearing a sweatshirt for the first half hour. My fingers and toes never did warm up, and my calves were getting a constant draught from the windows. I'd have worn my running tights if I'd had them.

Just about every time I thought about my perceived exertion and breathing, then looked at my bike computer, I was at least 10 rpm below where I thought I should be. My heart rate was about 20 bpm lower than where I thought it should be based on effort and breathing. I couldn't maintain a steady rpm at all. I'd think I was, then I'd look and I'd have drifted down. I never got above 115 rpm at all, in any gear. My legs simply wouldn't do it. Even getting to 90 rpm was a bit of a struggle. I was typically working at least 2 gears easier for any particular set, and still having difficulty getting the desired rpm. Normally given that I'd say I'd been dogging it, but I was getting the lactic burn, and my legs are tired now. So maybe they were really tired going in, I don't know. I didn't feel bad or anything, just weak and feeble.

Core was a toughie, and I backed off some of the plank stuff. It was really hard lying down in a cold store, even on a yoga mat. The muffins were to die for. White chocolate and cranraisins!!! That was worth going out in the cold just for those.

Weekly Summary
Swim 2.0 hrs
Bike 5.75 hrs
Run 1.83 hrs
Walk 1.0 hrs
Core 4.75 hrs
Total 15.33 hrs

Friday, December 11, 2009

The geezers were out in force today

How's that song go? "Hope I die before I get old" Yeah, I know where they're coming from.

Back to Thursday.
I'd been hoping to get on my bike early, but somehow it didn't work out that way. I was reading the plan, and thinking it was going to be a tough one. Warmed up, cadence work. About here I realized I wasn't terribly focused. I was wanting to settle in to a pace or cadence, and just keep going. The problem is the plan had things changing up, every minute, or 45 seconds, or 30 seconds. During the first part of the main set I was always a few seconds behind on standing up or sitting down. However it wasn't hard to keep track of the 110 rpm sets, and I finished those on the second. The gear building started taking it out of me but I pushed through. I'm glad I didn't have to go one gear harder though. Then everybody's favourite, one leg drill. 3x1 minute each. Ug. Last one was getting sloppy. Cool down. 1.75 hrs. My legs were like rubber getting off the bike, and I nearly took a spill. This was a surprise, they seemed to be happy pedaling, and I didn't think standing up was going to be a problem.

Tried the core, and the ham curls weren't curling, and I was too unsteady to do the stair steps, so I deferred core until later.

Linda's sister visited in the evening. She lives near Ottawa and comes out on business every once in a while. Duck breast in orange sauce for dinner. mmmmm.

Friday.
The theory was to run for an hour, then swim. We have to leave the house for yoga at 8:30. The pool opens at 5:30 and I was expecting the horde of high school kids at 7am. My brain is normally pretty good at scheduling this sort of stuff, but it flat out refused to calculate when I had to leave the house to make this all work.

So I'm sorry if I've messed up the plan, but I swam first. I had a lane to myself for most of it, and the girl that joined me actually swam surprisingly quickly given her crappy stroke.  600 m as 50 easy, 50 hard. Then 400 as 25 easy, 75 hard. 200 hard. 100 all out. There was some non-free stuff in between all that, plus some warm up and cool down.

I was in the pool for an hour and had an adventure. I was done the workout, and was doing a few easy lengths to fill out the hour and work on flip turns, when I remembered some advice Cath had given me about coordinating the hips with the recovery and catch. So I tried it. It was faster than I thought it would be. I forgot to tell my lungs about the potential change in timing and ended up inhaling more pool water than I've ever done. I had to stop, stand up, and cough my brains out. I guess I'm lucky the staff didn't think I was vomiting and evacuate the pool. I'll try that again another time, and think about it a little more first.

I've been doing that shoulder stretch that Sara showed us. Between that and the change of stroke my shoulders have been really stiff and tired lately. Today was the first swim in a while where I didn't get into a relaxed stroke right away.

So what do we get at yoga? Downward dog. For the entire 1.25 hours. Or so it seemed. We got through the first sun salute, and that that was all she wrote. There was a bunch of arms over the head stuff, and they simply wouldn't go. There was a twist for the legs that involved the arms being on the floor above the head, and both my shoulders and right elbow let out some alarming cracks when I tried to do it. The instructor told me to stop whatever it was, that those sort of noises aren't allowed in her yoga class. There was a balance pose that surprised me. No idea what it's called. Bend over and put fingers on floor. Shift weight and lift up one foot behind you. Then wrap both hands around the ankle near the floor. Relax. Breath. No problemo.

Then came the attack of the geezers. Yes, it was snowing. Yes, the City of Calgary is probably the worst city in North America at cleaning snow from the streets, and trying to set new records of badness lately. So the streets were slippery. Still, there are limits. When the light turns green I expect people to at least TRY to move forward. In the Coop parking lot a geezer came out of an aisle, didn't look, and turned right in front of me. Good thing I was paying attention. That geezer eased his way out of the parking lot, in the way I wanted to go. Which means a right turn onto 24th St. Then a left onto Southland. Slowly. Bastard. Right onto whatever street that is beside the strip mall, then a left into the mall. Even more slowly. Bastard! Then he cruises through, looking at parking spaces. Maybe he was a parking space inspector, but none of them met his standards. I found one, and watched as he cruised through the parking lot and turned right on Braeside Drive. Slowly, but at least I wasn't behind him anymore. What that did was put me behind another geezer on the way into the barber shop. I will freely admit this barber shop is a geezer magnet, but where else can you get a hair cut for $16?  This guy nodded at me, opened the door, and stood in it. And he stank. Cigarette smoke, body odour, sour food, and well, what food becomes. He says hi to the barber he wanted, then turned around to hang around outside frightening small children and dogs. I'd been trying to figure out which direction was upwind, and didn't think it through fast enough. At least he wasn't stinking up the joint inside till it was his turn. It was bad! But that wasn't all! I'm trying to get out of the lot afterward, and I'm being assaulted by pedestrians. I can't really fault them for walking carefully because it IS slippery and uneven, but I CAN fault them for not walking in a herd for mutual support. Then, at the bank I'm trying to deposit a cheque into the bank machine. A geezer pushes the outside door all the way open, and slowly totters in. They (gender was indeterminate because they had on so many layers) opened the door and decided to lean on it for a while, no doubt pondering if this was a good time and place to drop dead. Meanwhile there are people trying to get in and out, and there's a wicked breeze blowing right through the bank. I could hear paper fluttering. It was like a wind tunnel in there. Then I'm back to coop to pick up Linda. Holy Moly inside is geezer city. If I'd had to be doing the shopping I'd have probably slit my wrists. No, I'd be smarter than that, I'd fling myself under a full shopping cart and try to frame one of them for assault. Just to be clear, not all old people are geezers, and not all geezers are old.

I was so happy to be home again with nothing more difficult than an hour run in fresh snow, and -18 C (0 F) wind chill. Walked a few minutes, started easy, and built slowly to an easyish pace. It was sort of odd. My legs and lungs didn't want to run any faster, but my heart rate was crazy low. It took a long time to find a stride. I was really working on balance, trying to land squarely on my foot, and picking it up again without it slithering around under me. This run was down into Fish Creek, so it's downhill all the way out, and uphill all the way back. I stopped at 60 minutes, and had to walk 4 minutes to get back to my starting point. Once back at the house I stretched for 30 minutes. I looked at yesterday's core workout, honest I did. Maybe later....

Dark now, and it's not even 5pm. Snowing harder. Getting colder. The forecast for tomorrow is -28 C (-18 F) again. I don't want to know about the wind chill. We got more DVDs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

First cold hard run

Here's what I saw for weather this morning. At 7am it was still -21 C (-6 F).






I was hoping to get out after the cold and before the snow. Missed on both. It was snowing when I got going just after noon, and still cold. I wore two pairs of tights, the infamous man-bra, long sleeve tech shirt, heavy hoody, wind breaker, hat and gloves. It turns out I dressed just a bit too warm, and should have opened the vents on my jacket. Oh, -11 C is 12 F, and I don't think it was that warm here. Felt like about -15 C (5 F) or so.

Walked 15 minutes briskly to warm up, the starting an easy run for 10 minutes at Anderson and 37th. Then 3x7 hard with 3 easy after each. Hard as in not able to talk. I got my heart rate up to 150 to 155 bpm, and past that I start gasping so I slowed down a bit. The run was excellent! Legs felt good and strong. Not terribly fast, but I've no real idea of speed. I made it to the path around the reservoir and got one minute along that before turning around. There was less fast time on the way back so I didn't get all the way back to my starting point. I'm glad there wasn't a fourth set. Ran easy another 10 minutes, heart rate around 130, then walked another 15 back home. They had plowed the path so footing was good. There are still a ton of residential streets that are essentially impassable.

I was soaking wet with sweat. There was a rim of frost around my hoody and hat. My moustashe and eyebrows were all frosted up. I could barely see out of my glasses. Stretched a bit at home.

Yoga had lots of good stretches tonight, though the Downward Dog during the sun salute nearly killed me. I simply don't understand how people can say Dog is a relaxing pose. My arms are trembling and a couple times I've nearly fallen on my face. Lots of lunges, and twists and a shoulder stand. Very nice. Now I'm happy to be going to bed.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Clay Oven Indian food

Spin session today, once I worked myself up for it. Coming home after dropping Linda off I curled up with Amelia the cat and snoozed for 3 hours, then shambled around trying to get my brain going. Eventually got on my bike for 2 hours. Lots of good stuff. Mostly fun until my ipod quit just as I was going into the cool down. It does that every now and then and I have to reset it.

Then a half hour of core, all per program, except push ups. Even those were to plan - 2x(10-8-6-4-2) except for doing them from my knees. I ended up doing the heels thing as 3 x 20 seconds rather than 1 x 60 seconds.

Linda's sister Kelly is in town this week. I picked them up at the hotel and we went up to the Clay Oven. This is the best Indian food in the City, or so we think. Though the service was a bit slow tonight, and the Naan bread wasn't as good as usual. I think they were a bit short staffed. Bagnan Bartha, Lamb Gosht, and Butter Chicken. mmmmmmmm Guess what I'm having for lunch tomorrow.

It's still cold.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Still effing cold

Good thing today was a swim workout. The problem is that when you go from nice cold dry air, into the pool, the water feels like really warm treacle. Did a good warmup, going a bit longer than the plan, just to be sure. In fact it's odd, I was trying to cool down a bit so the water would feel cooler. I swim better in cooler water.

Then into lots and lots of 50 m intervals. I learned something today. It's much harder doing 50 m intervals by yourself, than doing them chasing cute Jenna toes, and trying to avoid being caught by Tish. Especially when the pace clock is essentially invisible, and the second numbers on my waterproof watch are really tiny. But that went really well. Flip turned most of it, and I think I'm getting the hang of it. It's tough watching the surface go by a few inches up, while your lungs are wanting some air. I did some very ungraceful surfacing.

Made up the rest of the hour with medium speed swimming thinking about technique, and working on the turns. Then into the dive tank for another hour, starting with 15 minutes of core, 30 minutes of deep water running, then another 15 minutes of core.

Then out into the still very cold.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Crappy footing



That's right, wind chill of -30 C (-22F) out there today. Even now, with the sun shining, -30 C. Even for us rufty-tufty Canadians, that's something to think about a bit before going out in it. Especially for a run, when you're certain to be running into the wind, dropping the wind chill even more. However, my objection isn't the temperature. I've run in very cold weather before, and will do so again I'm sure. It's the footing. We've had a bunch of snow lately, the wind has sculpted it into interesting drifts, and I have some lazy neighbours. We had a slight thaw just before all this started so there are icy patches underneath the loose snow. It's not unheard of here for people to have what would normally be a minor fall, banging their head on the ground or a car on the way down, and freeze to death. Not me.

Today is normally the day for my weekly dose of Katie-tude. She is so much fun to take spin class from, she's always up and cheerful, has the most, shall we say, interesting, tunes. She gets her kids to select them and burn them on a disc. There's about 25 kids to pick between, but I don't know how she does it. Some of them have strange thoughts about what people they think of as geezers will like. I've really liked some of their choices. Watching Katie dance on her bike to tetris by dacav 5 was quite the experience.

But I didn't really want to go out in the cold to shovel the driveway, then put the bike in the car, then drive the crappy roads to get to spin class, and then reverse the process. So I found out what the plan for the class was and did that here. Warmup, lots of cadence stuff. Added to a part of the main set, and put in a steady aerobic set of my own to drive the total time to 2.5 hours. I'm very pleased with it.

Then a half hour of core stuff, some of which I made up on the spot. And yes, it included some plank. Just because I have trouble with it, doesn't mean I don't recognize that it's good for me. Mostly ab stuff, some arm stuff too.

Then an early dinner, with Linda making chicken in a red wine sauce with tomatoes, celery, and rosemary all over arborial rice. Yummy!

And yes, we watched ALL the DVD's. So there.

Weekly Summary
Swim 2.0 hrs
Bike 6.0 hrs
Run 1.3 hrs
Walk 1.0 hrs
Core 4.25hrs
Total 14.5 hrs

Friday, December 4, 2009

Swim. Run. Yoga. Snow!

It's been a busy morning. By 10:15 I'd swum, run, and yoga'd. Regular, not Bikram. Told the instructor the story about one of my blog buddies trying hot yoga for the first time in cheap pants and what with the cut and sweat, ending up showing off her fallopian tubes. She laughed and said different strokes for different people, and that some have needed some gentle advice about clothing.

When I started it was nice out, just above 0 C (32 F) clear skies, no wind. The nearly full moon was very pretty. At the pool I shared a fast lane with a guy that swam medium fast, and I was stuck on the wall half. Somehow he was always just in front, or just behind as I came to the wall, and I'm not quite that confident yet, to be able to flip turn with the ladder and another person right there. He left part way through so I did flip turns from then on. I'm learning that if you firmly look at your knees as you turn, you don't go as deep.

I was in the water at least 45 minutes for 2100 m. Maybe more; I didn't wear a watch. Lots of drill. Lots of easy/hard. Most importantly, lots of concentrating on catch and stroke and elbows up. At the end my arms felt like they were falling off for the first time in a long time. I am certainly swimming faster and it's really nice.

From there I drove home and realized I just had time to get my run in before leaving for yoga. Quick change. It's still nice out. It took a long time to find my stride. It still hadn't come at the half way point. I was running my 3.1 K loop, figuring that twice around would be pretty close to the planned 40 minutes. Holy doodle I was slow, 22:15 after the first lap. I picked it up a bit, mostly found a stride, and completed the run in 42:15. In the meantime the wind had picked up and the temperature dropped to the point I would have stopped to put on more clothes.

Quick shower and breakfast, then off to yoga. It was just starting to snow. There were some good stretches in yoga, one of which nearly killed my shoulders. They're feeling really tight after the swim. It was snowing pretty hard for the drive home. We figured to settle in for the rest of today, and all day tomorrow, so we picked up lots of DVDs. Rome season 2 episodes 1-4, Battlestar Galactica season 1 discs 1&2, 300, Termintor Salvation, The Maiden Heist, Inkheart, and The Tudors disc 1.  Think that will keep us out of mischief?

The snow and wind is making for near whiteout conditions, though it isn't terribly cold out. I'm so glad I hustled this morning and got it all done before the weather closed in. Linda is baking cookies, some of which have to go to work on Monday. I got a mental email from Susi this morning. They're having great weather, and she had no sympathy about the snow at all. I've been thinking about her and how she did in IM last weekend. I followed her time as best I could, but I've been look at her blog waiting for the whole story. Then I realized, given the choice between lying on the beach having attractive people bringing you fruity drinks with the little umbrellas, and updating a blog, which would I do? Easy choice, and the beach girls wouldn't even have to be topless.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Linda wins the race!

Linda is so proud of herself. Every year women put on a race. No advertising. No prizes except for social esteem and bragging rights. No timing chip. No starting line, for that matter. What is this race? It's the race to get your Christmas cards out.

This year Linda went through a diligent training routine. Getting her lists prepared. Checking her addresses. Making sure a big roll of stamps was on hand. Putting a date and time onto my calendar to sign cards, and hand deliver a few where we don't have an address. (We know where these people live, we just don't know the actual address.) There were a few odd sized ones that needed to go to the post office to be checked to see if they need extra postage. And what do you know? She got them ALL sent BEFORE the first one arrived in our mailbox. Yay Linda! For the record, the first one arrived in our mailbox the day after I dropped off the last one. My buddy BJ's was first to arrive. I have to say that if it was up to me, there would be no Christmas cards sent.

We changed up my schedule a bit this week in response to the camp. Yesterday was deep water running for 45 minutes. That was sort of odd, churning around the dive tank, not thinking of anything in particular, trying different strides. The only thinking I can recall is wondering if the time should go down as swimming or as core. I'm going to call it core. I was wanting to be in the pool, working on my stroke.

I weenied out of going to yoga, but I'll go on Friday. Last night I was feeling tired enough that I wanted the sleep more than the stretching. I haven't been sleeping well the last week or so, and this looked like a chance to get caught up. I was in bed, and asleep by 7:30 pm. Even when I woke up I managed to roll over and go back to sleep again, which is unusual.

Today was a tough spin workout. 1.75 hours of fun and watching my heart rate and cadence. A couple of the sets were right up on the edge, but it felt really good after. All the core except plank was good. Managed the front plank ok, up on my hands this time, though I just barely made the times. My left arm collapsed about half way through, and I can't do it all on my right side. I'll need to work on that.

For my American friends I experimented with a temperature conversion gadget in my sidebar, but they're all ugly and take up too much space. It's easier for me to write out both temperatures, and probably easier for you to read. That way, when I say it was -17 C (1.4 F) this morning, you'll know how impressed I am with my neighbour that lives in the cul-de-sac behind our house. He rode his bike to work today. Like always.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

First post-camp swim

I was not awake last night, or even this morning. Normally I look over my plan for the next day and get myself organized for it. I figure I'm paying for it, and my coach went to the trouble or writing it out, the least I can do is, well, do it. I knew I had a run today, that was fine. It was only just before getting in the car to take Linda to work that I scrolled down a little further and realized there was a swim for today too. And that it was too late to get myself all packed up to swim at FOMC. Maybe just as well. I wasn't really with it yet.

It slowly turned into a nice day. I spent some time in the basement doing some gentle stretches and joint looseners to get ready for the run. This was the first real winter run of the season with maybe 4 cm of snow on the ground, and -5 or 10 or so. Nice and crisp, sunny. The sidewalks were pretty good, but the streets were a bit slippery.

Started very slow, and let my legs decide when they wanted to pick up the pace. The very fastest I was going was maybe my half marathon pace, very aerobic. Eased off about 10 minutes before the end of the run, for a total of 40 minutes. Worked on posture, especially the lean. Not to go faster, but to run with less effort and reduce the chance of slipping. If your weight is solidly over your foot it's not going to slide out from under you. Did more stretching after. Legs were feeling a bit tired, but not too bad.

Went over to the local pool for lunch time. My main thought was to work on my catch, keep my elbows high, and try to play with my balance by keeping my chest and head lower. Oh, and to start doing flip turns.

There were intervals for several distances, but I really paid attention to the 100's. I was supposed to go on 2:10 first two easy, then next two harder. I would normally do these in 1:50 relaxed, and I'd have to work a bit to be 1:45. Today, relaxed, thinking about stroke and form, but going easy, I banged out 1:40. Then did it again. Not breathing hard at all. Then 1:35, breathing a little harder. Then 1:31 or 32 and still not going all out.

The 150's were on 3:00. Each one was to start easy and build throughout. Each one was 2:40, giving me 20 seconds rest. The last one was a bit sloppy and I had to hustle to finish it in the same time as the others. The last 50 was sub-50 seconds, and it didn't feel like I was pushing that hard at all.

I counted strokes several times throughout the workout, and was consistently at 18. Normally that's where I start and gradually degrade to about 20 or 21. As you might imagine, I am totally gobsmacked by how much the times dropped, just by making some small adjustments to my stroke! And that's on my first try, without doing the flip turns during the workout. I did the flip turns during the warm up and cool down, during the easy strokes between the main sets, and during some easy swim after the workout. I learned that you have to be looking straight at the wall and not to one side, or you'll tumble sideways. Swam an hour total.

Given these results, I have to say the camp was a total success for me! Between my coach watching my swim a few weeks ago and fixing some stuff, and the more detailed analysis available using slow motion replay, and trying to swim mindfully to apply the lessons, I've seen an amazing improvement in my swimming. I am very impressed and pleased! There are still lots of things to fix. I've got this weird twitch part way through the pull I want to work on once I get the catch totally nailed down. Can't wait for the next swim!

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