Thursday, May 29, 2014

I would not like boring shoes, thank you.

I laughed pretty hard when this sponsored post popped up on my mobile Facebook feed:

I said out loud, "NO! I would not like the boring shoes, thank you!" Sensing defeat, they tried again later that day with this dramatic improvement:

It was a tiny bit closer but still oh so far! So then a few days later, a third try:

Still, I thought, no thank you. But I *was* in need of two new pairs of running shoes (to rotate) as all of mine were well beyond their useful life and I hadn't had a new pair since last summer. I was pretty excited about the new yellow, orange, and purple Kinvara 5s and picked those up at our local Runabout Sports in celebration of my return to running. To those I added a pair of the Kinvara 4's (on sale, yay).

So take note, THIS is what "I think I might like:"

And I will still buy them at my local running store.
And I will add stretchy laces, with the help of Saki:

One thing about running, it gives you unfettered access to fun shoes in bold colors. Sure, the brightness help with visibility on the road, but running shoes, and running clothes more generally, give us the chance to break out of the doldrums of boring conventional clothes. If I could wear running clothes and shoes every day, I would!

Oh wait, I think I nearly do! These are some of my every day shoes.

And don't forget the fun socks...

Just wear whatever makes you run happy...

...and faster if you happen to like that sort of thing!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cycling Double Header

This past weekend I participated in two local cycling events that were at one time collectively known as the "Cycling Double Header." Saturday I rode in my fifth consecutive Wilderness Road Ride and Sunday I volunteered for the Weight Club sponsored aid station at mile 28 of the Mountains of Misery century ride.

The Wilderness Road Ride

WRR is a supported, untimed ride with options for 29, 58, and 79 mile routes. It goes along part of Daniel Boone's Wilderness Road and on beautiful roads of our New River Valley and along the New River. I did not think there was any way I'd be ready for this considering my first bike ride after my layoff was May 14 and the ride was just 10 days later. But I did a pretty decent group ride of 20 miles on May 21 just before the Ride of Silence and realized I should have no problem doing the shortest distance 29 mile WRR option.

I was happy to see Mark Long, the chief organizer of the WRR for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He's raced at ITU Age Group World Championships, he's an Ironman, and a marathoner and ultramarathoner. Mark exemplifies joy and gratitude for the sport and he generously offers encouragement to others.

The real motivation for the ride? That might just be the 7-layer bars at the aid station. Several of us discussed how important this tradition has become, and how much we look forward to that special treat that we probably do not even come close to burning off!!

soooo happy to be back out with Roo!!!

Mountains of Misery

Early Sunday morning I met up with Kristen and Jordan Chang to load up food and supplies to drive about 45 minutes to set up and staff this Mountains of Misery aid station. We were joined by Sarah Abbott and Deb Christman plus our aid station shared the Craig County Library parking lot with bike mechanics from East Coasters, a ham radio crew, and a few SAG vehicles.

We got set up pretty gosh darn fast: tent raised (thank you Solar Connexion), tables set, coolers filled with Heed and ice water, bananas and oranges cut, the first round of peanut butter + jelly sandwiches made, and cookies, pretzels, and sun chips set out. Jordan brought music, I had flags, and Kristen made a poster.

before the bike mechanics got non-stop busy

ham radio team

Kristen prepping sandwiches during the calm before the storm...
when peanut butter could be spread perfectly edge-to-edge.

Then we saw the first of the 500-some riders come through. Two giant packs zoomed along bypassing our stop, making the left-hand turn faster than I ever would ever have dared. Soon others began to stop in. At that point, I did a few different things. First I borrowed a shovel from the gas station to clear gravel out of the intersection in front of our area. Then I held a few bikes for people.

Then this (below) became my view for 85% of the time that riders were coming in. Bread. Lots of it. The cyclists probably spanned about 90 minutes from the first to the last rider. We made a boatload of PB+Js, often with one of us on PB duty and another on J duty.

For all my efforts, I earned a blister. I sacrifice for my people.

It was a little crazy but SO much fun! We were a very efficient team and the riders were very gracious and thankful. I did enjoy catching a glimpse of the gorgeous bikes and some entertaining jerseys - South Park, tuxedo, plaid... I saw a few Go-Pros and learned a trick about propping your bike up on a pedal at a curb. Somewhere in that big group of riders was my vascular surgeon Jesse Davidson, which I still think is extremely cool!!! He's done the ride for many years.

We had things cleaned up and packed up by 10:15 am and returned to Blacksburg by 11:15. I can see the appeal of that ride and I am really proud of my friends who did it - Justin H, Matt P, Curt N, Mark P, Sarah Z, Eric W, Chris P and others I am apologetically blanking on right now...

Next up on my busy volunteering calendar: Off the Rails Sprint Triathlon in Roanoke, VA next Saturday! In the meantime, I'm working on my return to fitness and speed for a July return to triathlon!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ride of Silence - Radford, Virginia

(this and most pictures in this post are from Laurie Buchwald)

Wednesday I participated in our local Ride of Silence, one of 300+ such rides that took place across the US on the same day, at 7 pm local time. Last year over 12,000 cyclists joined in a Ride of Silence, from all 50 states and 26 countries. The slow, silent group ride honors those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways and serves as a reminder that we all share the road.

I had not participated in this prior, but this year I was intent on being a part of it.

The ride began with remarks from local bicycle advocacy leaders and the Virginia Bicycling Federation's Vice President, Tom Bowden. We heard from a rider who had a terrible accident as a result of a known problematic and unleashed dog. We were asked to set good examples and to sometimes ride in "normal" clothes like "normal" people to further encourage good community relations!

(where's Waldo?)

We were given the rules of the ride and then we lined up behind a police car to begin. There were maybe 120 riders of all ages on all sorts of bikes!

We rode at about 7 mph, which takes quite a bit of concentration and a lot of time on the brakes.

It was indeed very quiet. And peaceful. The silence was most evident as we pedaled along the bikeway, next to the New River, and away from the noises of traffic. I thought to myself how much noise we would collectively generate had we all been in cars. I thought about our vulnerability on the roads and wondered why an area cyclist recently had been deliberately run off the road? I also wondered what kind of person would drive by a dear friend, a wrecked bicyclist, and shout uncaring things out the window when he was down. I have yet to meet a cyclist who could be so mean-spirited.

It's hard to be a mean-spirited cyclist. Cycling puts you in the moment, leaving no room to dwell on the chaos of life or toxic people. I laughed silently when I conjured up a picture I'd seen recently that said "only bicyclists know why dogs stick their heads out the car window."

Cycling is therapy, it's transportation, it's freedom, it's happiness. But sometimes it's also tragic. This ride, with the ghost bike of killed cyclist Fess Green, was both a reminder of the dangers and a celebration of the community. I'd encourage others to take part in (or start one!) a Ride of Silence in their community next year.

Safe, happy cycling this long holiday weekend and always. Be careful out there!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Forgoing Team USA / New (tentative) plan for 2014

After some thought, I have decided to forgo my opportunity to race in Edmonton this year on Team USA. There are a few reasons for this.

Financial. My out-of-pocket expenses for diagnostic procedures and my "thromboendarterectomy" surgery are over $2000. That's not an insignificant chunk-o-change for us to absorb. I estimate that expenses to race in Edmonton would come to at least $3500 by the time I factor in race registration and uniform ($500), lodging ($1000 if I share a room for the USAT package), food and incidentals ($600), and airfare for me ($1000) + bike ($400).

Scheduling / Logistics. USA Triathlon Nationals are August 9-10 in Milwaukee, Worlds are August 26 - September 2. That would be two major trips in three weeks and feels like too much to ask of the family (including Oma who takes over for me when I am gone) particularly right at the start of the school year.

Readiness. I would need to register/commit by the end of this month, and I can't predict where my return/recovery will put me three months from now. I think it's better not to have that pressure this year, to take a slightly more relaxed approach this season.

Long-term balance. I want to remain in the sport and enjoy it for many many years to come. Racing last year with the constant stress of my leg problem took a bit of a toll. I think I need to focus now on getting re-energized, staying healthy, and regaining confidence. Toward this end, I plan to take advantage of some local events and add more road races into the mix. I want to do the things I have passed up the last few years with such a focused race schedule - 5Ks, the Draper Mile, the sprint triathlon at Claytor Lake, and the Hokie Half Marathon. This is my proposed race schedule for the year, assuming I feel OK moving forward. (Dr. Davidson said I should be "firing on all cylinders" by the end of June).
I explained to Coach Jim that I'd rather have a plan and need to change it than to have no plan at all. This gives me things to look forward to, but I will not hesitate to delay/cancel if needed.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The real-life LinkedIn happens on the roads, trails, water, and in the gym.

I've poked fun at LinkedIn before, and even though I'm on it, and I recognize its potential value, I realize more and more the *real* way many of us "link in" with people is on the roads and trails, in the water, and in the gym. Today was a classic case!

My friend and swim group lane-mate Jilian put out a call for those interested in a sunrise hike to McAfee's Knob, a scenic mountain-top rock outcropping that overlooks a lush valley. Me and three others said yes to meeting up at 4 am to drive to the trailhead and get to the top by sunrise. I didn't know the other hikers, but as I left my house at 3:55 am, I found it odd that another car was coincidentally leaving the house down the street. A new family had just moved in and I'd not had a chance to meet them yet.

So of the hikers was my new neighbor Erin! What better way to get to know Erin and fellow hikers Korey and Daron than by hiking single-file up a dark mountain, chatting all the way.  We all have kids and enjoy active lifestyles that run the gamut and we have commonalities in work and community.

When it got light enough to turn our headlamps off, I got my first real look at everyone. It's not often that you engage in conversation with folks for an hour without really seeing them, and how interesting that it never mattered or even occurred to me.

We left the parking lot at 4:41 and made it to the top at 6:21 am. The sun had just cleared the horizon and we made the most of the photo ops and took in the beauty of the distant mountains and the valley below.

with Jilian...who made this happen!

This hike joins a growing list over the last six weeks that fall into the category of "things I would not have done had I been in training." I see that I need to leave a little more wiggle room in my life for some spontaneity like this because this sunrise hike with new friends was very special. My friend Gail suggested this picture represented making it through the dark and starting a new day. Indeed!!!

Later in the day (after a nap), I headed out for a walk/run (5 x 2 min), on yet another route I'd last finished in tears. This time I finished very happy...a new day, a second chance.

Speaking of....BIG congratulations to Kelly Williamson for winning IM Texas today!! It's her first Ironman victory, and comes eight months after her external iliac artery repair surgery. What a comeback and THEN some!!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Swim, bike, run, week one!

Yay! I started back to a bit of real swim/bike/run this week, beginning Tuesday...exactly 6 weeks and a handful of hours post surgery.


I headed out Tuesday on the Huckleberry Trail for a 45 minute walk with a plan for 5 x 1 min of running. I was going to go without Trixie, but in the end I took her, and she did just fine.

About a mile in there is a tiny hill where I used to "test" myself to see if I was still having a problem, and it would deliver a resounding confirmation of YES you are still screwed up. So I could not resist starting my first bout of running up that little hill. I headed up, waiting (expecting?) that bad "feeling" of shutdown to come. When it didn't, and I felt fine, I unexpectedly burst into a sobbing mess of tears, just so happy to feel I could begin to answer the question:

Am I fixed? 

I allowed myself to think maybe yes. My feet were flying and so was my soul. I came back to a walk and diverted off to a flat loop that had been the venue for many frustrating runs. I repeated these short bouts of running four more times. I had my Garmin on, but I wasn't looking, and it turned out I had been dipping below 5K pace. I ended up with maybe ten minutes of running. It was too fast (very much pointed out by Coach Jim), not smart, but I felt amazing.


Wednesday I headed out onto a flat section of road for 30 minutes of easy pedaling. I felt really good both sitting up and aero. The best part is that I could feel all my toes the whole time - no numbness. I was a little sloppy on the road though, not super straight or smooth.


This morning I woke up and my legs were both sore, maybe the left a bit more than the right, but at least it was both. I suspect I am paying the price for my unsanctioned "sprints" on Tuesday. I headed to the pool and saw Coach Tom and the swim group (they are looking good and swimming faster). It will be a few weeks before I am ready to rejoin them. I swam 1000y and that was plenty. I am fairly certain they have put heavier water in the pool. I shared a lane with friend Jane and I kept swimming too close to the lane line and hitting of the little things you don't have to think about when you swim every week!

The Virginia Tech track team was at the pool too because the campus pools have already closed for the between-semester break. They have a whole water workout they do and they clearly all knew the routine without a word being said.


It will be a while before I feel confident that I am OK and fixed. I am constantly on high alert for anything that seems off and I remain slightly skeptical even while moving positively forward. The only thing that will really give me answers and confidence is time. I'm certain I am better off than before. And most importantly, I CAN swim, bike, and run. So whatever this body ultimately hands me to work with, I will work with, gratefully. 

The last six weeks have been really good for me in so, SO many ways. But I am happy to be returning to the sport I love.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mom Day Half Marathon (walk) & Kid-Made Second Breakfast

We are not big celebrators of particular "days" but I have to admit this was a pretty nice Mother's Day. I was up early (first at 3 am ugh, then for real at 6 am-ish) and kicked off the morning by folding two loads of laundry.

WAIT! It gets even better! Hard to believe, but it DOES!

After first breakfast and coffee, Trixie and I set out with a goal of walking/hiking a half marathon on the trails. OK, that was my goal, but she's game for anything. We warmed up with some goose chasing, then shifted our attention to looking for early spring Mother's Day flowers in the forest. They were offered to us in colorful abundance!

After an awesome high-energy, discomfort-free hike/walk/amble (and soak in Poverty Creek), I returned home to these amazing kids and this beautiful sight...

...second breakfast prepared entirely by Spencer and Grant. We enjoyed quiche Lorraine, fruit salad, scrambled eggs, and cinnamon apple toast. MMMMMMmmmmmmm. It was absolutely delicious and extra nice to have it on the front porch on a beautiful day.

Last but not least...Happy Mother's Day to my beloved mom (who I talk to nearly every day) and to my big sister Kristen who is an awesome mom to my nephew and nieces! I dug through my archives and found this:

My dad is a very happy guy, but he looks a little perplexed in this photo!!

I hope this blog will start to get back on the triathlon track now - back on the bike and in the pool later this week!! That should be interesting. I haven't had 7 weeks away from swimming since I started this sport five years ago. Yikes!