Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 Year-End Review

Well, it's that time again. Another year comes to a close. How did it go, and how do I want 2010 to go? Wow, I've been doing this for how many years now? Do you know I've been doing this since 2005 (the blogging)? The triathlon since 2004. Interesting to reflect.

Here is 2006 and 2007 in review:
In 2006, I moved to San Diego and became a small fish in a big pond (well, okay, ocean). I got my ass handed to me, overtrained perpetually, and in the end, got into better shape. In 2007, I did my first half-ironman distance and became comfortable with volumes of 8-10 hour weeks for the first time. In 2006, that would have spelled disaster. Funny, that 8-10 is now my minimum requirement for happiness and normalcy. That line of what is "normal" keeps moving. Anyway, my volume from 2006 to 2007 basically doubled.

In 2008 (, I did my first Ironman. My volumes increased again. I was very happy with my training but I specifically stated that: "I don't think I want to increase the time of my training from this year to 2008 very much." And for the first year, in 2009, my volume was lower. So, mission accomplished. Yet, a part of me feels let down. I'm such a mileage junkie. I wanted to trump 2008 with more miles. However, I think I was fitter due to more intense and hillier rides. This is a very subjective opinion. I guess I could measure increased fitness by looking at speed but I don't feel like it. I complained in 2008 about slow swim and run times.

In 2009, I ran more than ever. Did I get faster? I would like to think so. Oh, wait. I did do a speed analysis ( So I guess I am a data junkie. Anyway, it shows I have gotten faster in tris, and the swim, bike and run from 2006-2008. Did I get faster in 2009 compared to 2008? Hard to say because I did a lot of new races (can't compare race times from different races--like apples to oranges) and my "A" race was Ironman Canada, at the end of August, and the end of the season (in which I had the stomach flu). However, I had 2 PRs, one of which was Ironman California 70.3, a major PR (25 minutes). My 2nd PR was the 10K Turkey Trot, where I was completely out of shape and just showed up for fun. So I guess my run has gotten faster. Also, I moved up in my age group, place-wise, which says something.

Honestly? I don't care too much. I'm happy with where I am. And that's all that really matters. Did I meet my goals for 2009? Sure. I completed my 2nd Ironman. That was my biggest goal. Did I get faster? Sure. Why not? I think my biggest goal was to do less. Do I do that? Not really. Also, I wished for a slower, more relaxed year. Nah. Didn't get that either. Maybe 2010 will be more stable. More routine. That's my plan. I will discuss 2010 goals in a later post but I have a 3rd Ironman (Utah) planned and then some preliminary plans to move into ultrarunning.

Here's the data for all you junkies out there (and I get 1 more week to add to all this. Honestly, it's not too far off from 2008).

Here's the 2009 breakdown in gory detail:

I see a nice, long build-up to Ironman Canada (week 39). I started training in December with a "Prep" phase. Peaked for CA 70.3 around week 18. Then, shifted over to marathon training for RnR San Diego, which was supposed to be week 27 but I suffered a hip injury and a major sinus infection. Afterwards, from week 29 until the taper at week 36 (6-8 weeks), I focused on Ironman-specific training, putting me into the perfect position for Ironman Canada. It would have been perfect, except for bad luck, which gave me the stomach flu race morning. After week 39, you can see my "off season" and then a "Prep phase" following that, which is just about where I am now.
For an even more in-depth analysis, here are the 2009 hours by sport:
What's most interesting is that I alternated between "bike-focused" and "run-focused" blocks (while maintaining the swim throughout). The Prep phase in the beginning was balanced. This was followed by a "bike" specific phase (weeks 11-15), then a "run" specific phase (weeks 20-24), then a "bike" phase again (weeks 29-32), before entering into a "Final Push" right before the taper for Ironman Canada (where all 3 sport volumes increased/or was maintained at a high level while increasing intensity as well). This allowed me to keep it interesting while actually improving my speed/strength at one of the three sports. Since biking is my limiter, I planned on focusing on it right before my "Final Push" to keep it fresh in my body.
For 2010? I plan on doing more fun workouts and caring less about volume or speed. I want to do more cross training, more trail running, and stick less to a plan. Ironman Utah will be a fun, challenging course for me but it's not about speed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taz in Memorium (Part II)--His Story

I got Taz from a pet store when he was only 4 weeks old, in the fall of 1999. I was a junior in college at Univ. Wisconsin-Madison. I would never get a pet from a pet store now but I didn’t know better. I knew nothing about bunnies. I was tired of all my fish in my aquarium dying and was allergic to cats. Dogs were not a good fit for apartment living. That’s when I saw the baby bunnies. All of them wore little black and white tuxedos. Taz was the only deep, seal brown color. The pet store guy said they were all Dutch bunnies. I later learned Taz was a Mini Rex. I held him in my arms. He was as soft as velvet. I breathed into his fur deeply. Not only did I not feel an allergic reaction, but he smelled wonderful. Of course, I could have developed allergies later on, but I was in love. He always smelled wonderful. A mixture of freshly ground coffee and something faintly sweet like cinnamon. I don’t know how he smelled so wonderful but I could breathe in the aroma of his fur all day, until I suffocated on the thick, downy, plushness of it. He was so small when I brought him home, he fit into the palm of my hands.

I fixed up his cage in the bedroom. Again, I knew nothing about bunnies. However, I had some instinct. Taz taught me the rest. It wasn’t until I discovered the House Rabbit Society, 2 years later, in search of Taz’s mate, Babs, that I was taught proper bunny care. The wire bottom of the cage seemed cruel. So I lined it with blankets and carpet scraps. I constructed a wooden box for him to hide in, pretending I was a carpenter. I gave him a little stuffed toy sheep that I got from a McDonald’s Happy Meal. He loved to snuggle with the sheep and do obscene things to it as he hit puberty, right before he was neutered. He loved that sheep. I still have it. He would eat his pellets out of his tiny bowl and then crawl inside and go to sleep; he was so tiny.
I didn’t know what to name him. I didn’t even know how to take care of him. I thought about Snickers since he made an almost imperciptable cooing noise when I petted him. Plus, it matched his beautiful dark brown color. The cooing would become louder and louder as he aged into his golden years. So loud, in fact, that it would be hard to fall asleep, or I would be rudely awakened in the middle of the night to incessantly, ear-splitting cooing. Sometimes, he would do it because Babs was licking him. Other times, he was just ridiculously happy and content for no reason. He would also do it upon getting petted. When he was scared, like when I picked him up to clip his nails, his cooing would become more like high-pitched, rapid squeaks. He would lick me frantically, as if pleading with me to put him down. I would try to clip his nails, and he would squirm and squirm. I never once accidentally got his quick. Nonetheless, his hind legs would shake and spasm, making it almost impossible for me to safely clip a nail. He never once, his entire life, bit or nipped. Anyone. Any bunny. Period. Even when Babs fought him, he would grunt and act mad, and head-butt, but never bite. Even when she bit him. He preferred to run away. I’m not sure he really knew how to bite. Most likely, he just didn’t have it in him. But he certainly loved to lick.

He was very into food. He used to jump in my lap to share my ice cream or cereal. He would eat anything. He loved popcorn. One time, he jumped into my mother’s lap and delicately but with lightning speed, grabbed a piece of popcorn out of her open mouth. It was so quick; we were all stunned. My mother is not an animal person but after the popcorn incident, she oddly enough, fell in love with Taz. He would body-slam Babs to get into her food bowl at feeding time. It was the only time he ever acted semi-aggressive, which wasn’t very. He would run across the room for a treat. He loved Bab’s anti-inflammatory medicine, which had a banana flavor. Since he was over 10 years old, I figured, what the hey, he probably needs some too. He would jump up from wherever he had been resting and sprint all the way across the bedroom, grab the syringe with his teeth and jerk on it, trying to rip it from my hands. No need to coax him into taking his medicine. When he was little, we fed him all sorts of junk food, not knowing the harm we were doing. French fries, pizza crust, cereal—he loved it all. Later, when we changed him over to hay, greens, and timmy pellets, he was very mad at me for several weeks. Even though his appetite was voracious, he never kept weight on like Babs and was always an easy keeper. I always tried to sneak him some treats on the sly. It was an easy key to his happiness.

He seemed to have arthritis in his late age. He compensated by running really fast on all fours instead of nimbly hopping. Although when he’d been younger, he could sprly leap onto any pice of furniture in the house and run up and down stairs faster than I, a feat he used to his advantage to get away from Babs when she pursued him (she was always dominant and bullying him) since Babs never had the athletic agility of Taz. He also had a benign lipoma behind his right shoulder that developed around age 7. It spread under his chin where the dewlap is on most females. It never seemed to bother him and was benign, although comically, I did see him trip over it one time. He had to kind of throw the big fat pad out of the way of his feet when he ran, which could have been part of the reason he took millions of tiny, little steps to maneuver. Despite his age and these setbacks, he got around pretty good for a 105-year-old. And when he laid down, he poofed his lipoma under his chin and used it as a pillow. He also loved to eat out of his food dish while lying down and sometimes even drink in the prone position. He loved to lay by the water bowl and could always be found sunning himself wherever the water bowl was akin to laying out by the pool.

He used to get into everything as a baby. I found out early on that he loved to destroy electrical cords. I wrapped everything in plastic tubing and secured high-risk areas, like behind the computer and tv with plexi glass. It was Taz’s mission to get into the forbidden areas. One day, he figured out how to jump on the desk chair, then the desk, then down behind the computer. Of course, once down there, he was trapped. I came home to find him stuck behind the computer desk, all our cords chewed through. I rescued him but he wanted to jump back there again. He watched me move the chair away from the desk to deny him access. I will never forget the scornful scowl Taz gave me after I moved the chair.

Another time, he grabbed a doily my grandmother had crocheted off the coffee table and took off across the living room with it dangling in his mouth. He didn’t get far. Halfway across the room, he tripped over it and did a somersault. He loved to jump up on the sofa, run crazy circles around the room, and binky all over the place. One of his favorite games in my Wisconsin apartment was to run in mad circles around the kitchen, dining area, and hallway, since it was all open. The kitchen was tiled but the rest of the apartment was carpeted. The tile was slippery under Taz’s nails. He would zoooooom around on the carpet, get to the tile, and cautiously click, click, click, as he slowly hopped over the slippery tile, get to the carpet, and zoooom back around again. Over and over. It was very entertaining. That was how he earned the name Taz. Like the Tasmanian Devil on Loony Tunes. He was so energetic as a youngster and always getting into everything. The name stuck.

He hated going outside. I got a cat harness for him. It fit perfectly. Around his neck and torso. He hated that thing. Once on, I would lead him around in the grass behind our apartment. He seemed curious and interested for a bit. He would sniff and root in the grass, graze and nibble. He would lead me around more than me leading him. He would root up garter snakes and chase them fearlessly. Then, a car would drive by, or a bird would fly over, or a plane, or any loud noise. Taz would panic and take off for the nearest drainage pipe. If I hadn’t had him on a leash, I would have never been able to drag him out. Afterwards, when he saw me coming with the leash, he stomped and ran under the sofa to hide, stomping periodically in protest. That was the end of the leash experiment.

He also hated when I went on vacation. Especially if he didn’t like the pet sitter. He hated my ex brother-in-law. He forgot to turn the a.c. on during the summer when I was on my honeymoon. When I returned, Taz was molting and very pissed off. He wouldn’t let me pet him for days. Instead, he hid under the bed and grunted every time I got close. Unless I was feeding him. One time, I had a friend take care of him in St. Louis. She did the bare minimum and even skipped a couple of days without checking on him. When I returned, Taz had torn the apartment to shreds, ripping carpet and chewing furniture he normally left alone. He had upturned his food dish and water bowls. Basically, he wreaked havoc on the place, letting me know that was unacceptable. I hired a professional pet sitter after that, and he never complained again. If anything, he seemed to love the extra affection afforded by the pet sitter. I never divulged to Taz that money was being exchanged for the attention he was getting.

Taz had a very sensitive sense of smell. If I had just washed my hands or put on lotion, he wouldn’t let me pet him. He would wrinkle his nose in disgust and turn his head away, eventually hopping away. “You STINK, mom!” I had to wait until my hands dried completely and the smell had wafted away before I could pet him. Only if I smelled like myself would he allow me to pet him. And, then, he would lick me incessantly. He loved to lick. He licked hands, my nose, my favorite was when he would push my eye shut with his nose and lick my eyelids. He was so delicate. His tongue was like a moist toilette. It felt delicious. He licked Babs and he used to lick Oscar (although he may have had an ulterior motive to get to his food—although, no, I saw him licking Oscar through the fence just to be friendly too). He believed in give and take. He licked me, then shoved his little head under my hand to get petted. Then, he pushed my hand under his chin to lick mine. And so forth. He loved to lick. Walls, the carpet, backpacks, god, he loved to lick my ex-boyfriend’s backpack. He would put his whole head into it and do it for hours. He loved to lick dishwashers, refrigerators. He loved to lick. I’ve never seen any other bunny that loved to lick so much. But when he licked me, it was heaven. It was absolutely my most favorite thing about him and his personality. He was so full of love and giving.

One time, I had a migraine. I never get migraines and didn’t know what was happening. I was overcome with nausea and had to lie down on the floor. It felt like a drill was going through my head. I must have been holding my hand to my head. Babs gets scared when I’m ill and stomps and runs away; I’m her rock; when I’m not well, her whole world comes crashing down. Taz was a caretaker. He immediately ran over to me and started licking the exact spot where the drill was pounding. Then, he laid down, pushing his little body against the pulsating spot. It gave me instant relief. The pressure. How did he know to do that? I didn’t even know. He always knew what to do. He always took care of me. When I was sick or depressed, he was extra attentive, extra affectionate.

Another time, Jason, my ex-husband, and I both came down with the stomach flu at the same time. I called 911 because Jason passed out in the bathroom. Taz wouldn’t leave Jason’s side. When the EMT guys came, I had to restrain Taz and hold him, wriggling in my arms, to give the guys room to work on Jason. Then, I got sick. We spent all night in our respective bathrooms. Taz and Babs took turns, alternating between Jason and me. Babs was upset and stomped her foot and ran away every time she saw me hurling over the toilet. Taz came over and snuggled against me as I lay on the floor, soothingly licking my forehead.

He was immaculate with his litterbox. Amazing. We had one litterbox in an enormous 3-story house in St. Louis. He loved to watch tv with us and would be getting attention, sprawled on the rug (he hated sitting in laps or being up on the sofa with us), and all of a sudden, he would jump up, run all the way upstairs into the master bathroom to use the single litterbox that was by the toilet. Never had an accident. He was immaculate. He did, however, love to chew on furniture but could be easily dissuaded with good chew toys. He was also very nimble. Had no problem jumping on chairs, tables, or running up and down stairs. His bathroom habits were impeccable, until he met Babs. She was very messy; he figured he didn’t need to be so clean if she wasn’t.
Before he was neutered, he ran circles around my feet. It means, “I love you,” in bunny-speak. He would run them endlessly. First counter-clockwise, then clockwise. I have it on video. It was precious. If Jason was nearby, the circles would become figure-8’s. Around my feet, then around his, then around mine, back-and-forth. Precious. I was sad to see this habit disappear after he got neutered. But not so sad to see the obsence treatment of his stuffed sheep dissipate.
Taz hated the smell and sound of dogs but was fearless when it came to felines. I once brought him to a friend’s apartment. She had a cat. Taz staked out the dining room table area. The cat came stalking over, investigating this new creature invading his territory. Taz, claiming his new area, charged out from under the table, grunting. The cat scampered away, confused and terrified. Afterwhich, the cat jumped onto a dining room chair where he could safely check out this new situation. Taz, of course, taunting the feline, placed himself directly underneath the chair. The cat began batting at Taz, and Taz began grooming himself nonchalantly, pretending to ignore the batting paws, just out of reach.

The only time he ever sprayed (common territorial marking for unneutered males) was when I tried to bond Babs, Taz, and Oscar. It might have worked if Babs hadn’t hated Oscar so much. Afterall, Taz loved Oscar, Oscar was aloof to the whole thing but Babs HATED Oscar. One bathroom session, however, Babs and Taz on one side, me on the middle, and Oscar on the other side, Taz circled me and Babs (his women) and sprayed both of us. I’d never witnessed such possessive behavior before. So out of character.

Taz loved Oscar. Or at least considered him a good friend. He would lick him through the fence. I tried to bond all three of them but after Oscar and Babs got into a horrible fight one night, resulting in a severed urethra on Babs, that ended all future bonding sessions. Every day Oscar bounded up to the fence so Taz could lick him. Babs, jealous creature that she is, would dive bomb Taz, bite him, and chase him away. Oscar would come over to greet Babs (or tease her) every day. Every day, she would bite him on the nose. Every day, Oscar acted surprised. Then, they would have pissing wars along the perimeter of the fence. Oscar would play with his toys by the fence and flop down by the fence, teasing her until she bit him through the bars. It was so aggravating. I think they enjoyed hating each other. It was an ongoing feud. Taz licked Oscar so much, I tried bonding sessions between just the two of them, even though Oscar was about 3x Taz’s size. Taz was so peaceable, he made it work. They would snuggle and Oscar loved the licks and cuddles. When Oscar wasn’t looking, Taz stole his food. If Oscar so much as gave him a sideways glance, Taz scampered away until Oscar was in a better mood. Oscar may have been 3x his size, but Taz was 3x as quick. They were together for about 3 weeks until Oscar started getting more pushy with wanting more and more affection from Taz. Taz started showing signs of fear, and I reunited him with Babs. He seemed relieved. His brief affair quickly ended and Babs took him back.

Bonding Taz with Babs took 6 months. I saw Babs on the internet advertised by the House Rabbit Society of St. Louis. Her name was Velvet and she looked like Taz’s twin, only slightly larger and slightly more red. I took Taz over to Joy’s house, the chapter manager. She dissuaded me from Babs, trying other bachelorettes to no avail. Taz was completely aloof. First, he just wanted to hide under my sweatshirt. Then, he wanted to do nothing but eat and fell in love with the hay in the litterbox. The other does simply stomped their feet in disgust and one-by-one, rejected Taz. Taz didn’t even realize he was being introduced to to other bunnies. Finally, Joy brought out Velvet from the sanctuary, where she had been kept because of severe cage protectiveness and biting. Babs (aka “Velvet”) fell in love with Taz instantly. She seemed aloof to me and spent the entire time pursuing Taz, trying to get him to snuggle with her and lick her as he scurried away, looking for food. Joy was impressed. This was the best “Velvet” had ever acted. Little did I know.

I brought her home and the disastrous bonding sessions began. Babs chasing Taz, the two of them fighting like dogs with hair flying everywhere and me screaming from the sidelines with a water bottle until the two were both drenched. Babs seemed to understand she was bad when she bit. Taz didn’t know what had hit him. He had been king of the castle and now, what the hell was going on? He was miserable. He lost weight and became dejected and aloof to me. I was broken hearted. I almost returned Babs. I came very close. Especially the day she took after him in the carpeted basement and I intervened. She leapt up, and hung from my pinkie knuckle. I had to shake her off. I still wear the scar to this day. I cried like a baby, not because of the pain, but because I felt like I had failed.

Stubbornly, I continued the bonding sessions, every day, religiously for 20 minutes to an hour. We went on car rides, had them in pens outdoors, in the dry bathtub, on top of the wahsing machine, and the tile floor of the bathroom. Anywhere that was unfamiliar territory. Taz would get scared, and, then, the oddest thing happened. She flipped onto her back as if to say, “I’m not threatening. Look, I couldn’t hurt a fly.” Then, Taz would flip over on his back. I decided to do the same. After I flopped over, the two began to play “King of the Mountain” on my belly. That was the beginning of the bonding. In the meantime, I read to them. Babs loved the sound of my voice, and I needed to do something to pass the time. We got through the entire Chronicles of Narnia, which I thoroughly enjoyed. After day-in and day-out of bonding sessions, I went out of town, and the bonding sessions were halted for about a week. When I returned, the two missed each other so much, that they were bonded. That was it. After that, they were inseparable. They moved in together and were never apart again. They were together for 7 years.

Taz became less neat with his litterbox, adopting Bab’s messy ways. She was always dominant and chased him at feeding times and other times too. She would nip sometimes or take out a tuft of hair but nothing serious. Lovers quarrels. They always worked it out and could be see cuddling minutes later. I chose to stay out of it. It was between them. For the most part, they cuddled and snuggled and licked each other. Babs refused to lick Taz until years later. When she did, Taz cooed loudly. She learned to give love is to receive it tenfold. They were my faith in true love. They always rode together in the car on the way to the vet. They were very protective. She would lie on top of him; it looked like she was crushing him. I would pull them apart, fearing that Taz was suffocating but he would just dive back under her belly and she would pull him close, her little front paws protectively holding him. The night Oscar died, I found them mourning in the office, lying in the middle of the room, Babs holding Taz. I had never seen them do that in the open until that night. I wish Babs had someone to hold right now. I hold her in my arms most night for a few minutes, and she lets me, something she never used to let me do. It’s the least I can do.

Taz was different from any bunny I’ve ever met, and I’ve met many bunnies. I feel so lucky to have had so much time with him. I always called him the bunny diplomat because he taught so many people how wonderful and personable and affectionate bunnies can be and what fantastic pets they make. He was my first. He taught me everything I know about bunnies. He taught me give and take. He taught me to give your love freely. He taught me how to relax. He had the softest fur of any bunny I’ve ever petted and licked more than any other bunny I’ve ever met. He was the World’s Greatest Bunny. And my Tazzer Schmazzer Mookie Bear (aka “Mookie”). God, I miss him.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taz in Memoriam--Part I

A story of his life is coming next. Until then, here is a photo memorial:

--playing with the lens cap of the camera.

--grooming Oscar; he got along with everyone.

--taking a nap behind the sofa

--out for a walk on the leash as a baby (he hated the leash but loved to chase garter snakes).

--playing with dolls.

--king of the chair.

--only a few months old in this photo.

--snuggling with his beloved, Babs.

--kissing Miss Babs.

--chomping on hay in his litterbox.

--enjoying some pettings.

--more pettings.

--giving me kisses. Taz believed in giving and receiving.

--teaching me how to rest after a hard workout.
--the photo that inspired "Super Bunny"

--Super Bunny Taz

--Taz took lots of naps. Never once, did he fail to look adoreable.

Taz (left) and the bunch (Babs and Oscar).

--Taz (left) and Babs, always eager for a treat.

--Babs (top) and Taz comforting each other the day Oscar died.

--Taz always gave me lots of kisses.

--More Taz kisses.

--He loved to watch t.v. with the gang and just hang out.
I found this from an earlier post, 3 years ago:
"this is Tazzer-Schmazzer-Mookie Bear. He is turning 7 in June. He jumped into my sister's lap to try and steal her cereal when she was visiting. Plus, he tried to climb into bed with her. He's king of the castle, not afraid of anything, and such a sweetheart that the worst he can do is lick you when he gets upset."

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Spring Chicken Ride, Euphoric Rain Ride, and Rapturous Noble Canyon Run

So I've been training again. Or trying to...that's the problem with the Prep phase. Lots of false starts. Isn't it the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics--a body in motion tends to stay in motion? Same with a body at rest, unfortunately. So I've been trying to jump start the body into continual motion again and mostly successful. It's hard to wake up early in the morning when it's cold and dark outside. Ah, winter blahs. And I've definitely not been swimming enough.

Last weekend, an old friend came into town, and we biked the weekend away. Sunday's 50-miler up Del Dios and back through Elfin Forest was gorgeous, incredibly fun, and accompanied by a small group of great people that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting. We entertained each other as we toiled up Del Dios with various topics--favorite childhood toy (My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, etc.), favorite Halloween costume (the most humorous being a Snuggy with Care Bear ears), and random nicknames for each other (Spring Chicken?). Random but completely hysterical in the blitzed-out state you get while trying to zone out the hard work of a long climb.

This weekend, too, did not disappoint. It was precipitated by a nasty virus that threatened to leave me completely bedridden and unable to complete my weekend activities. Luckily, 2 days of rest allowed the fever to pass, and by Saturday, I was ready to attempt a bike ride. Rain was in the forecast but I called its bluff. It's San Diego afterall. It doesn't ever really "rain" here, right? I showed up for the TCSD club ride in Del Mar, only to find out it was cancelled. It was just me and 4 other nutballs. The other nutballs waffled but I egged them on. "Hey, it's not raining yet!" I convinced them to start, although they threatened to turn around as soon as they felt a drop. "But after it starts raining, and you're already wet, you minize well finish, right?" They looked at me with raised eyebrows as if to say, Who IS this crazy chick?

We started off down the coast, chattering away. Me, chattering? I know, I know. Quite the anomaly. Although it was misty, the ambient air was warm, as if insulated in a cloud. I felt giddy after my 2 days of bedrest. It just felt good to be healthy again. We reached the Carlsbad Starbucks, the 15-mile mark. We decided to keep going. Ah, the daredevils were we! Like that Seinfeld episode where Kramer test drives the car until it has no gas left...and keeps driving. We made it to the Oceanside Harbor before turning around (the 20 mile point). We were victorious. We were going to do 40 on a day when everyone else had stayed in bed!

First, the headwind hit us. I hadn't realized we had been sailing north on such a strong tailwind! Tricked again by Wind's tomfoolery! And, then, the skies opened up and the rain began pouring. Dumping buckets. We were soaked within minutes. I could no longer see through my sunglasses. I removed them and tucked them into my jersey. Seeing was still a challenge with my contacts but I managed to peer down the road with the one-eyed-half-squint. I put my head down and went to work. I began to enjoy exerting physical effort against the elements, and the feel-good euphoria began to snowball. Before I knew it, I was zipping down the coast against a headwind in pouring rain in pure and maddened ecstasy. I looked back, and no one was behind me. I waited for a few minutes. Finally, my miserable wet friends caught up with me but I irritated them so much with my senseless exuberance and peppy pace that they finally waved me on. I took off in glee. It made no sense but I absolutely loved the final 10 miles of hard pedaling against the wind and rain. I saw no other cyclists on the road. I took a sick pleasure in knowing I showed up and rode while everyone else stayed in bed. And I liked it! I felt happy for the first time all week and relished in the long-awaited emotion. I earned that happiness.

Sunday, I braved the cold mountains for a 12-mile run in Noble Canyon . I started at the top and began running down, freezing in the 40-degree (with much colder wind) weather (at altitude). Rationale? Well, Ironman Utah will be at 4,000 feet, and the run is sadistic. Strategy? Lots of HARD trail runs at altitude, of course! Which, around here, basically means Palomar or Laguna. Nice that San Diego has some mountains, eh?

The trail was narrow, rocky, and treacherous. And I LOVED it. I flew down at an 8 min/mile pace, stopping briefly to cross over 2 very full creeks. My feet flew over and around the rocks. I felt like I was dancing. I stayed relaxed and let my feet do the work. I was warm, and my quads, abs, and upper body were aching from all the work. I was invigorated by the sights--the vibrant reds, greens, and silvers blazing from surrunding bushes in the chaparral. The vegetation changed rapidly as I descended--cold, shadowy forest with pine trees, some mud--to nothing but slippery rocks with steep cliffs on either side and cacti, then meadows of crimson buckwheat dotted with manzanita, vainly showcasing their twisted, mahagony branches. Little yellow birds flitted from bush to bush. A large surprised hawk sluggishly soared to a nearby tree after I passed a hair too close. In the distance, a grazing doe ran for cover. I was 100% preoccupied--mind, body, and soul--with the run. I was focused mentally with full concentration on where to put my feet. One misstep, and I risked a sprained ankle. My body was working, working hard. And I was completely captivated and overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, and smells.

I passed a group of mountain bikers, struggling to navigate over the rocks and creeks on the way down. They must have been a little emasculated to be chicked by a runner! At the bottom, the sun peeked out between the clouds, and I removed my gloves and rolled up my sleeves. I was sweating. I smiled and nodded to a walker, a couple with a dog, a pair of mountain bikers, but other than that, I reveled in the solace of my solitary running.

After running 6-miles down at breakneck speed in pure delight and glee, I realized with dismay at the bottom that I had to run 6-miles back up the mountain. At mile 8, I began to feel tired, hungry and thirsty. I quickly downed my supply of water and Cliff Blocks. The wind picked up, and the sweat on my arms quickly chilled my skin. I rolled my sleeves down and pulled my gloves back out, thankful I had dressed in layers. My legs were achy and tired, and I had to use more willpower to pick my feet successfully over rocks without tripping. There were a few close calls, a few steep ascents where I walked, but I kept on moving. At last, I found a rhythm where I was mostly shuffling, not quite running but not walking either, and making good progress up the mountain. My breath came quickly now as the air thinned. My body was working hard, and exhaustion was around the corner.The last 2 miles were excruciating but I knew I could make it. I can always run 2 more miles. My legs felt wobbly and rubbery. As if to remind me how tired my legs were, I completely forgot to pick my feet up over a wild rose bush and instead, trudged right through it. I don't know if it was the fatigue or the cold but I didn't even notice the blood running down my legs until I got home. Ah, proudly earned war wounds.

And then, it was over. Seemingly as suddenly as it had began. Where had the last 2+ hours gone? A run so completely intoxicating I think I found nirvana. I was completely exhausted, completely exuberant, and completely victorious. The runner's high I felt at mile 1 is still with me even this morning. Last night, I just felt fuzzy and numb and happy. After making it back home, I ate and ate and ate before passing out at 8 pm to sleep soundly for 11 hours. This morning, I am tired and VERY sore but still full of happiness. Today is a rest day (from exercise) but I'll be back at it tomorrow. I think abundant volumes of exercise is key to my happiness.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

How Much is Too Much?

I remember 6 years ago, when I first started running, thinking a half marathon was nuts. An insurmountable distance. A friend of mine was training for one in Memphis, and I was in awe. I was in St. Louis and thought I could only run 3 miles. The first time I completed an entire lap around Forest Park (about 6 miles), I was exuberant. My fishpond had just expanded.

Then, I did my first half marathon. Me! 13.1 miles. All by myself. What an incredible feeling. I started doing sprint triathlons. I could wrap my head around the Olympic distance but that was it. Those people that did Ironmans? Nuts! Jump ahead to 2008, and there's Rachel, doing her first Ironman. Me! 140.6 miles. That's crazy!

After 2 Ironmans, the distance doesn't seem so crazy anymore. My threshold has been bumped up. My fishpond? Now, it's an ocean. Anything seems possible. So now, I'm thinking ultrarunning is in my future. I dream of doing 100 mile trail runs one day. When you do an Ironman, you get to see the sunrise, and then the sunset. After it gets dark, I feel rejuvenated. The stars come out, and the moon rises, and the Milky Way glows, and it's spectacular. But in a 100-mile run? You get to see the sunrise, then the sunset, and then the sunrise again the next morning. Now, the normal reaction would be to cringe and say, "Ugh!" But if you're like me, and you get chills and think to yourself, "That would be an incredible experience!", then ultrarunning may be in your future. My Moby Dick? The Great Western day, one day.

Meanwhile, David Horton, who set the world's fastest record for running the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 60-some days ( Now HE is crazy!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Ironman Utah Training Has Commenced

Monday was the official beginning of a new era for me: Ironman Utah training. I hadn't planned on doing an Ironman in 2010. Then, I found out that they were going to have an Ironman in the beautiful city of St. George. I had always wanted to run the St. George Marathon (held every October). The area just calls to me. Besides, Zion is only an hour away. When I found out they were going to have Ironman Utah in St. George, I was one of the first to sign up.

My horse, George, died in January of 2005. Horses have always been a part of my life, and he was no exception. He was my best friend, my teammate, and my partner. We shared some wonderful times together: competing in shows, jumping cross country in the snow, bucking exuberantly in the chill of the autumn air beneath a canopy of orange-leaved maples, galloping through plowed cornfields so fast that I could no longer feel his feet hit the ground and my eyes forced shut by the stinging wind burning my face.

When arthritis forced George's retirement, I continued caring for him at a nearby barn with green pastures and lots of other horses to play with. He was like a big puppy dog; the barn manager would let him roam free to graze all day, and everyone smothered him with attention and treats. He neighed repeatedly every time he heard me enter the barn, even before he could see me. He licked me constantly and everywhere--hands, arms, chest, face, ears. He loved children. I taught him tricks: shake hooves, nod "yes" or "no", peek-a-boo, and bowing before an audience (he was quite the ham). He played tug-of-war with the other horses, using a stick or ball. His intelligence was unlike any other horse I have ever met; I swear he could understand every word I spoke. When he no longer enjoyed going out to the pasture and was having a hard time walking, I made the difficult decision to put him down. It was one of the hardest decisions I've every made, and it weighs on me to this day.

While I was grieving, a flock of mourning doves sat shiva in my backyard (a 7-day period of mourning in the Jewish tradition after the death of a loved one). It was January, it was cold, there was snow on the ground, and I hadn't filled the feeder in months. In my shock and grief, I was oblivious to the tens of twenties of birds in the yard, until I walked from the house to the garage. All of a sudden, hundreds of doves flew up into the air at once. The air was so thick with doves, I could feel the wind from their beating wings on my face. I was comforted by their presence and felt a strange calm fill me. I knew George was okay; he was in a better place now, in a place with no pain. I filled the bird feeder every day. The mourning doves (funny, I had always previously believed they were "morning" doves), kept me company for about a week. Then, as quickly as they had come, they were gone, despite a fully stocked bird feeder. Their disappearance reminded me of how amazing and mystical their company had been. To this day, whenever I'm feeling doubtful or jaded, I remind myself of the mourning doves that sat shiva with me, and I am filled with hope.

After George died, I decided to take a hiatus from horses, vowing to return to them again one day. There was a giant void in my life. Then, I discovered triathlon. It has been an incredible journey, and I don't know where my adventures will take me next. When I found out there was going to be an Ironman in St. George, I felt a calling. I am doing this Ironman in his memory. The fact that it is one of the toughest (if not THE toughest) courses in North America makes it all that more special for me. Ironman St. George. Could it be more perfect?

My training has commenced. I am filled with excitment. I love Ironman training. I know that no matter what happens with my life between now and May, I have that Ironman (God-willing, as long as I'm healthy and not injured). Having that on my calendar comforts me. I have the stability and positive-reward system of my training routine. Ah, Ironman training. Coming to the rescue again.

Below is an overview of my 22-week training plan (click on the image to enlarge it to make it easier to read):

Happy Training!

--from the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot last week as I run down the chute. Yes, I'm going anaerobic. Did you know I PR'ed for not just this race but also my 10K time?! Whoo-hoo!!!