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Whence Comes the Energy Redux

24 Jul

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That is a picture of Lake Michigan, taken during my run this morning. My first solo run since the first week of July. And it’s hard for me to even count that early July run as an actual run because it was too short and I had to stop every block for traffic and I felt like crap and it was raining, etc… Honestly, I haven’t been running for almost six weeks now. The last time I logged anything into Training Peaks was, I think, the first week of June. Sorry, Coach.

I went out on Sunday with a friend who is, like me, just getting back into the swing of things after taking some time off. He ran a 200 mile Ragnar last month and needed some time to get his legs and mind back. He was the perfect person to go out with for an easy trot. He’s an obviously experienced runner, born of a family chock-full of running phenoms (his uncle held a world record for the fastest 10k run by, like, an 8-year-old boy or some such craziness) and I could tell that on any other day, if we were both in peak condition, he’d have made me work. Hard. But it wasn’t any other day. It was Sunday. After a long rest period. And we were both happy with an easy, conversational pace and a pleasant 40 minutes along the lakefront.

I had no plans to run this morning but the minute I woke up, I felt the urge. And not only the urge, but also the ability. As in: I felt like I had the power to get up, get dressed and go for a run. The flesh was willing and the mind was strong. Anyone who has ever been active for any length of time knows that it’s a boon when the body and mind are in sync. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes your mind is OK but you’re body is wiped. Sometimes your body is fine but your mind is like, “Fuck you. It’s 5AM and it’s raining. We are staying in bed.” In either of these instances, it’s normally possible for one to override the other and you get up and you get out and you do your thing.

But when both mind and body go AWOL, it’s really hard to motivate. This has happened to me before. Actually it happens more regularly than I think I’ve ever been willing to admit. And most of the time, I muscle through. Why? Because…

Because?

Because I fear what will happen if I don’t. Which is what? Probably nothing. Nobody has money riding on whether or not I’m going to place at the next sprint tri on Key Biscayne. I muscle through because I fear what others will think of me if I don’t. Maybe people will think I’m weak. Maybe people will think I’m lazy. Maybe people will think I’m not a good athlete. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Who Gives a Fuck?

Obviously I do. Or I have. In the (not so distant) past. So for the last month, I’ve been trying to worry less about what my not-training “means” to other people (and I’ve been through enough therapy to know that, at the end of the day, it means NOTHING to other people) and more about what I can do to feel better. So I went to see this acupuncturist/chiropractor/herbal doctor and settled on a plan to eat clean, take a boat-load of supplements, sleep when my body was telling me to sleep, and focus on being a playwright. So far so good. Ish.

When I woke up this morning and felt the desire to run, I couldn’t fight it. I’ve been listening to my body about other shit, so why not listen to it when it asked me to move? I wanted to run. And that made me happy. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of the house so quickly. I was up and out the door in about seven minutes. Just enough time to pee, dress, strap on my Garmin and go. I ran pretty much the same route my friend and I had run on Sunday. Down towards the lake and then along the lakefront and then back. Right around 4 miles. And that felt fine.

For the last, oh, two years, every time I’ve gone out for a run, I’ve had some kind of time and/or pace goal in mind. 10 minute warmup then 1 mile build to lowest point of zone 5, then 1.5 miles all out, then cool down to zone 2. Or 30min at 10K pace + 15 seconds. Or 90 minutes in HR Z1-2 NO ZONE 3! This morning, my goal was to go out and enjoy running. Funny how goals change.

But now I’m on the couch, under a blanket, with my laptop on my legs, writing this blog post, feeling my eyelids getting heavy. I had a smoothie immediately after the run that included frozen berries, almond milk, 1 tsp maca powder, 1 tsp Omega oil, one B complex, 2 multi-minerals, 1 probiotic and a scoop of Perfect Food.  Then I had a cup of mate and two gluten free waffles with sunflower butter. So…where’s the energy?

Why do I want to take a nap at 11:42 in the morning? What am I not doing right? Is this STILL caffeine withdrawal? Should I have ignored my body this morning when it begged me to get out on the road? Did I really so exhaust myself over the course of the last six months that it’s going to take another six months to get my energy levels back up to what they were? And really, what were they? Have I ever really had any sustained energy? Or have I just been faking it? The truth is, I have been tired for the last ten years. But how is it possible that I’ve been training and competing in amateur sports that whole time? Why do I feel alternately great and crappy? Energized and fatigued? Calm and anxious?

These are the questions I’ve got rolling around in my brain right now. They’re sharing space with the questions I’ve got about Oedipus and narcissists and the drama of family dynamics and how to be an adult relating to other adults. And I have to work very hard to make sure that the questions I’m asking about my health don’t completely take over that space; overpower the questions I have to be asking about my work and my writing and my personal life. But this is tricky because those questions all probably, in one way or another, point to the same answer.

I know it’s not just about coffee and it’s not just about gluten or dairy. It’s not just about booze or casein or yeast. It’s not just about migraines and balance issues and yo-yo dieting. It’s not just about hay fever or eating too much soy. It’s not about pestides and GMOs and soil depletion and how none of our food has any nutritional value anymore. Well, maybe it’s a little about all of that. Honestly though, I think it’s far more likely that this is about me, and so many other young American women, fighting to hit one or two or twenty unattainable goals and making ourselves sick in the process.

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Easy as Pie. Sort of. Not Really.

27 Mar

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The pie chart above represents my workouts for TODAY.

Not for the last week or the last couple of days. TODAY. In a single day I did 30 minutes of strength training, went for an 18 minute open water swim, biked 2:12 hrs (including one hour that was just going back and forth over a bridge several times), and finished it all off with a 43 minute run.

I really can’t believe that anyone ever trains for a full Ironman because this is what training for a half is like. I also really don’t understand how anyone does this while working a 9-5 job. And I have the utmost, UTMOST respect for anyone who tackles this kind of endeavor while raising kids. Holy hell. I am so freaking lucky. And it’s kinda nuts that it takes a day like today to make me realize that.

Some of you out there are probably thinking that all of this makes me the opposite of lucky. “Four hours of training,” you exclaim to yourself. “That bitch isn’t lucky, she’s DUMB. Or at the very least insane.” And you may well be right on both counts. But I’m still grateful. And maybe it’s the overwhelming surge of endorphins rushing through my body right now but I just have to say thanks to the universe. Not only do I have the arms and legs and organs and overal health that makes it possible to even consider doing something like this, but I also have a great job and my independence and a team of training partners who push me and make me want to get out there and push myself. I also have friends and family who think that this is even moderately cool for me to be doing it.

I also have great weather. I mean, really? REALLY, FLORIDA? Really? Today? The weather today? Did that actually happen? Was it actually 45 degrees with no humidity this morning and then 70 degrees with no humidity and cloudless skies and like, zero wind when we were out on KB this afternoon? Was the water actually that blue? That clear? That flat? Really?

I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’m a little concerned about how I’m going to feel in 90 minutes. When whatever this is wears off and I go back to being grumpy or I just fall out on the couch in front of whatever shlock reality TV show is clogging up the airwaves tonight or my heart explodes or I have to eat two sweet potatoes. That last part would actually be pretty nice. And there are two in the oven right now so it could happen.

I don’t know how to end this post. I wish I could end it with pie. Sweet potato pie. I could. Hmmmm.

I won’t. I’ve seriously eaten so much sugar today it’s a little obscene.

OK. I’m going to go take a shower. And a breath.

Triple Training and Chocolate Redemption

13 Mar

As the title of this post implies, today turned into a triple training extravaganza and I’ve also found a way to redeem myself from the pudding debacle of last night. I got up at 5AM for strength training, did a little work before (and after) the sunrise, took a power nap and then headed out to the Key around noonish for a bike ride made up of race taper bursts (Race! Taper! Bursts!) meant to get my muscles firing a little without totally fatiguing them before the (first!) race (of the season!) on Sunday. I must be excited. Look at me throwing those exclamation points around like I’m getting paid to do it.

I knew we’d be hitting the water after our bike but I didn’t have any idea we’d be doing damned near a mile this afternoon. I was thinking more in the realm of 15 or twenty minutes but the instructions were to swim five buoys down and 5 buoys back and that all added up to around about 1300 meters. The water was blissful though–despite a pretty aggressive current running against us on the way out–so that made things a little nicer. Unlike last Wednesday, when it was completely black in there and I’m pretty sure I bumped up against a shark at one point (this is unlikely but what I touched was hard and round and while it was probably something man-made, I’m sticking to my story), today the water was crystal clear and sparkly. I kid you not. With my tinted goggles on and the sun hitting it, just so, it really looked like there was fairy dust on the water. Although maybe I was high coming off the bike ride.

I’m trying to get better about siting and doing it efficiently so that the action doesn’t bring my stroke to a dead halt. I did stop a couple of times but on the whole I’m feeling exponentially better in the water these days. I’m able to control myself and my movements and switch back and forth between strong kicking and strong pulling so when I start to fatigue in one area, I can deploy the muscles in another. Breathing is also getting better and I’m able to push through the burning in my shoulders now whereas at this time last year that feeling was enough to make me stop.

There were about five of us in the water and we managed to stay together in a relatively tight pack, which was nice. I think we ended up swimming the distance in just under 33 minutes. Not setting any records but it felt good. Well it felt mostly good. I felt pretty bad when one of my teammates (who also happens to be one of my students–don’t ask) decided to sneak up on me in the last fifty meters and grab my leg. Of course, I spazzed and yelped and jumped out of the water (the same way I did last week when ‘I touched the shark’) and then I turned around to discover the little rat bastard laughing his 22-year old head off at me. I don’t understand why people have to be lame like this when they know other people are iffy about sea creatures.

All in all a good day. I’ve been exceptionally hungry, of course, which is cool because I can tack on some extra calories over the next few days and, more importantly, a few extra carbs! Lord Jesus, it’s a fire! I have been seriously craving sweet things lately–most notably chocolate, which is odd for me as it’s never been my thing. Now, of course, I’m not planning to binge on chocolate and sugar in the days  leading up the race (it’s only a sprint, after all) but I figured it’d be cool if I snuck a little cacao into a snack or two between now and then, just to satisfy the craving. And besides, cacao is actually really good for endurance athletes. Especially if it’s mixed with maca, which mine is.

So this afternoon, I was looking for a fat to add to my afternoon snack and I realized I had a whole bag of sunflower seeds just taking up space in the fridge.

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I decided to make a chocolate sunflower butter since I really dig nut butters but can’t eat most of them due to my headache sitch. This butter is so easy to make if you have a food processor and it is SO MUCH CHEAPER to do it yourself than it is to buy a jar of sunflower seed butter at the store. I bought that 9 oz bag for $3.00 at the farmer’s market. It will easily yield 3 1/2 cups of butter.

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Here’s what to do–oh, and I made a small batch (about 3/4 cup yield) just to see how it would turn out but you can double or triple quantities if you want to make a whole pile of it: I tossed 1/2 cup (or about 2 oz of seeds) into the work bowl of my Mini-Prep and I let ‘er rip until the seeds were ground to the texture of coarse meal. The I added 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of cacao (you can use regular old cocoa powder too) and 1 tsp of agave (substitute whatever liquid sweetener you prefer–I know the jury’s still out on agave). Then I let the processor go until the seeds released their oils and the whole mess got to the consistency of slightly chunky peanut butter. This is a pretty dry butter but it should still be spreadable as long as you grind it long enough. About 3-5 minutes should do. When it’s done and packed in a jar, it looks like this:

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And on a spoon it looks like this:

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And on the same spoon from a slightly different angle, this:

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It is absolutely delicious and in small quantities (2 teaspoons is around 53 calories, 4g of fat, 3g carbs and 2g of protein), it’s not too horrible for you. I had it with pear slices but I’m sure it’d be great on toast or slathered on a banana or as the star of a SB&J or as the base of a bake-free cookie or faux truffle. I could also see this being a hit with little kids who suffer from nut allergies. Give it a try and let me know how you like it best.

 

On Time and Chocolate Pudding

12 Mar

It’s been a boring day so I don’t have much to report. Except I did go on a plant-buying spree and spend some time in the garden. Oh and I made a quick chocolate pudding (recipe below). Oh and I returned some library books and did a 400 meter swim test (14 seconds faster than last time!). I guess today was actually pretty full. Whatever. Instead of writing a whole big thing, I’m going to link to an article I just read on the USAT website entitled Fitness Isn’t Always a Linear Progression.

The article spoke to me because I was just bitching to the Commander about my last time trial test on the bike and how I was only .6 mph faster than the bike test we did when I was just back in January, weighted down by holiday fat and still riding my road bike. I was especially frustrated because I’ve been doing this whole High Intensity bike training program with him and I expected to be way faster than I was.

The article basically demystifies why we do what we do when we do it during an endurance training regimen. I read this and realized that I’d never really asked any questions about the logic of training phases. I mean I know the basics but in general, I pretty much just do what the Commander tells me to do. It’s what makes me eminently coachable: my willingness to just do what I’m told because I assume that the person telling me to do the thing knows more than I do. This is also one of the things that makes me eminently easy to walk all over in romantic relationships but that’s a whole separate post.

I’m lucky in that, over the many years I’ve been participating in amateur sport, I’ve had great coaches who know of what they speak. It’s been easy to give over to their authority. In athletics, proof is in the results and I’ve always been happy with my results and the results of my teammates. However, it’s always a good idea to be educated in regards to any endeavor so for that reason, I’m posting a link to the article. The big take-away from it is this, I think:

In our sport consistency is the key to growth. There is no one magic workout that is going to set you ahead of your competitors, but instead a steady diet of hard but manageable workload is what is going to keep you improving. In reality triathlon (or any endurance sport for that matter) is a very “blue collar” sport. There is no (legal) way to get around the fact that you need to put in the work to improve. So get out there and put the trust in your coach or your training program and let them carry you to a new season of personal bests!

And I mean, once again, I’m choosing to focus on what I have NOT accomplished as opposed to what I HAVE accomplished. My bike time was faster. It’s not like I got slower. And also, as stated above, my 400 time has been steadily decreasing between January (8:45) and today (8:17). Also, I’ve been getting way faster on my runs right off the bike. BECAUSE we’ve been focusing on cadence during the HI training sessions. So now, when I get out of the saddle, my legs just wanna go go go! So really, I’m living this article and need to cultivate patience and understand that the more time you put into training, the less time you put into the race.

Now to the pudding recipe. It isn’t great but if you’re craving chocolate and short on time, give it a whirl:

Quickie Chocolate Pudding

2 cups  unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp sugar (I used coconut palm but you can use whatever you prefer)
2 tbsp corn starch
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp salt
1 pat of butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions

Whisk one cup of milk with corn starch to make a slurry. In a sauce pot, whisk together the remaining milk, sugar, cocoa, spices and salt. Bring to a simmer and then add the slurry. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Run your finger across the back of the spoon. If the track stays clean, no drips, the pudding is done. Strain over a bowl to eliminate any lumps and then stir in the extracts and butter. Pour into 3 serving bowls. Cover exposed area with a small sheet of waxed paper or parchment or plastic wrap, then cool slightly and chill until cold. The pudding will continue to thicken as it cools.

About 150 calories per serving, 5.6g total fat, 1.5g sat fat, 21.2g total carbs, 10.2g sugar, 2.2g protein.

Tears for Fears

7 Mar

Yesterday I nearly cried during my hour long computrainer session. I’m just putting it out there because this is a blog and blogs are for honesty and I know that some people out there will respect my decision to admit something so mortifying. I like to think of myself as a tough cookie; a cookie that doesn’t crumble as easily as some other cookies. I’m like the ginger snap to most people’s day-old chocolate chip. You really gotta sit on me hard to make me break. OK, enough of that already overly-extended metaphor.

When I was boxing, our coach used to say that his girls didn’t cry after fights because we’d gotten all our tears out during training. And that was the truth. There were a lot of tears shed in the gym locker room after rough sparring sessions. But when tears came back then, it was always because I had performed poorly or let somebody whip my ass. Tears came when I realized I’d given up in the middle of a round or I’d gotten scared off by someone bigger and stronger than me. Tears came because I felt sorry for myself; like I’d let my teammates down.

When tears come during endurance training, for me at least, it’s less about having been beaten and more about facing the possibility of being licked. Yesterday’s workout was hard. It was hard from beginning to end. But at some point in the middle of the session, I thought, “Fuck this, it’s too hard.” And then I thought, “No come on, Edith, you can do it.” And then I was like, “Are you insane, no you can’t. And you don’t have to. You don’t HAVE to do this. No one is forcing you.” And then I thought, “You don’t have to but you CAN.” And then it went like this: You can’t! You can! You can’t! You can! I hate this! I love this! This is pointless! This will make you stronger!

But that whole inner dialogue isn’t even what prompted the urge to cry. The urge came right after the 6th (of 12) 30 second, 300 watt interval was over and my 4 minute recovery began. My recovery was at 150 watts, which is only 25 watts less than my hardest interval from last Friday–when I did 8 x 4 minute intervals at 175 watts followed by 3 minute recoveries at 100. Forget about the numbers. What it all means is that my recoveries yesterday didn’t feel like recoveries. They felt only moderately easier than my main intervals. So after killing my legs for 30 seconds, I realized I wasn’t really getting a chance to rest. And that’s when I thought I was going to lose it. That was when every hard moment of my life and all my fears of failure popped up in front of me like a brick wall.

I don’t know what happened. I didn’t cry. The urge passed. I finished the workout bloodied but unbowed. Is this the shit that makes you stronger? Or is it self punishment for some unknown crime?

Blood, Butts and Glory

12 Feb

The title says it all. Over the last few weeks, there’s been some bloodshed, there’s been a lot of saddle soreness and there has been a spot of glory. I’ll go in order.

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The Blood

So I’ve been doing this high intensity Computrainer bike training series with the Commander. I committed to the five-week long endeavor because  a) I’m performance addicted; b) I feel compelled to work overtime now that I’m on the God forsaken Shadow Unit; c) I have this sweet new ride and; c) I’ve seen my swim and run times decline precipitously over the last year while my bike times have remained somewhat consistent. That’s not entirely true. I’ve gotten nominally faster  but not to the extent that my bike times are truly impacting my overall finish times. I decided to make the commitment and thus far, I’m glad that I did. Although the training sessions are grueling. FAR MORE GRUELING than any training sessions on the road. Working on a trainer (see above set-up) is way more difficult and after two testing sessions, the Commander has designed a training protocol that leaves my legs feeling liquified for several hours after I’m done. But on to the blood.

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The deal includes two blood lactate tests. We already performed one (see above blood lactate testing set-up) and discovered that my zones have been pretty much what we thought they were. My bike zones are a little lower than I thought they were, my run zones are about the same. Still, it was pretty cool to get the exact numbers. Now that I have accurate zones, I have a really good sense of how hard I’m working and whether or not I can push myself a little more or pull back a bit. I’ve been out on the road several times since I started the High Intensity training and I’m already feeling a difference–mostly on inclines (not that we have a lot of those down here) but also on the flats. My most recent testing data shows an obvious improvement. I went from a 10K time trial at 18.9mph in the middle of January to a 16K TT at 20.4mph just a few weeks later. Now, I did buy the new bike so that might have something to do with it. But I’m thinking the combo of new bike and intense training will get me to my goals this season.

The Butt

That brings me to my butt. I have no pictures for this section. Sorry. The “bottom” line is I need a new saddle STAT! The one that came with StarBuck is not going to cut it. I don’t know how to express what I’m feeling without being crass so I won’t bother. Those of you who’ve ever ridden a road or TT bike for an extended period of time now what I’m talking about. It’s more uncomfortable than I could have possibly imagined and I fear for my future genital health. So I’m going to make the switch to an Adamo road saddle as soon as I get my tax return. If not sooner. ‘Nuff said.

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The Glory

Despite an hour-long leg liquifier last Friday, I managed to run a PR at the Chapman Partnership Run Wild 5K on Saturday, win my age group (1st of 90!!) and get 2nd overall women! That’s me up there with two Miami Dolphins cheerleaders (WTF?) Posing with those two brought me back to my boxing days when I couldn’t understand why they’d put ring girls in for girl fights between rounds. Don’t get me wrong, they were totally nice but I would have much rather had a picture with the 2nd and 3rd place runners. At any rate, I was psyched with my performance especially since not 16 hours before I’d been grinding away at 300 watts for 12 thirty-second intervals with four-minute “rest” intervals at 100 watts between. I was on the fence about whether or not I’d race this race or just try to enjoy myself. Apparently, the second option is never really an option. I did a long warm up before the race start (about 35 minutes) and I highly recommend this to everyone before a 5K. I’d heard tell that this was the way to go but had never tried it.

The last time I ran all out at a 5K was September 2011, right before I really started training with Alien Endurance. I ran a 23:17. I managed to pull off an age group win at that race as well but got horribly sick immediately after. Like balls to wall sick. Couldn’t move for days. It was awful. My best 5K training time last year was 22:40-something so I was hoping to beat that but my 5K TT when I got back from the holidays was a shabby 24 minutes and change. So I really had no idea what to expect from myself. I ran that long warmup super slow with a few little pickups. The pickups had my HR spiking and my quads burning so I wasn’t sure about my capacity for speed once the race started.

But there’s something about race day. The way your body just takes over and the gun goes off and your muscles fire and you just do what you’ve trained to do. I went out way too fast. I glanced at my Garmin about a quarter-mile in and I was clocking 6:38 or something absurd like that. Absurd for me, that is. I realize that isnt’ absurd for some people. I felt really good, which was surprising, but I didn’t want to screw myself in the last mile so I decided to calm down a bit and try to get the pace up to around 7:30. I did that and my HR was hovering in high Z4, which felt good. Breathing felt good and legs felt good. I felt good.

At the half-way point, I picked it up a bit and brought the pace down around 7:09-7:15. The course was a lovely, loopy jaunt through the Miami Metro Zoo. After the race, everyone assured me that they’d seen giraffes and elephants and other such creatures but I hadn’t seen a damned thing. I was too busy frothing at the mouth and focusing on the few ladies in front of me. Right after the mile 2 marker, I decided to kick it into high gear. I’d passed one chick and had my sights on another: a super lithe professional looking older woman I’d seen warming up at the start line. The chick looked crazy elite and was literally floating through the air. When I passed her, I was a little shocked. I later discovered that she is 60 years old and a professional marathoner. She was amazing. But as I passed her, I heard a guy call out to her, letting her know that she was 4th. So I heard this and was like, “he can’t mean she’s the fourth woman. Because if she is and I’m passing her then I’m the third woman, which makes no sense at all.”

There was one more woman up ahead of me but I could see that she was hurting and at that point I was feeling really great. I checked my Garmin and saw I had about a three tenths of a mile left so I decided it was time to just burn what was left in the tank. I kicked it up, got down to a 6:50-something, which is way faster than I thought I could run, and blew passed the last lady. I got through the finish chute at 22:24.

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I have to say, I was pretty pleased with myself. I know 22:24 is no elite finishing time but I felt like I paced the race perfectly and managed to leave it all out there in the last mile. The first place gal finished in 21:08, I think. I wonder what I would have done if I hadn’t had that bike training session the day before! In the end it doesn’t matter. This 5K has me super excited for my tri runs this season and I really love seeing speed gains over the course of the years. At my first ever 5K (the 2006 Country’s Midnight Express in Columbus, Georgia) I ran a 27:24. And I was only that fast because there was a BBQ sandwich waiting for me at the finish line. It took me five years to get my ass back into gear and I’m glad that I did. First place out of 90 women feels pretty awesome and second place out of about 500 feels even better. Maybe even better than a pulled pork sandwich. But let’s not push it.

StaRbuck

24 Jan

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Here she is, my new best girl: StaRbuck. I figured my ride deserved a name worthy of the fastest gal in the galaxy and so she got it. The capital R in the middle of her name started out as a typo but now I like it.

StaRbuck is a 2012 Kestral Talon Tri (Ultegra version) and I got her for a song. She is a step and a half (maybe more like three steps) up from Titita (with whom I am reticent to part) and I have ridden her twice since she arrived. What a totally different experience. Here’s a picture of me riding in aero for the first time. I look like a dork but the bike looks sweet. Because she is.

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But look at those wheels and how they spin!

That is all for now.

Oh and my ass (along with everything else down there) feels like it was beaten with bat wrapped in sandpaper. But that won’t last, right?