Category Archives: Running and Cycling

The year in strength and stretching

My goal for last year was to do at least 52 strength workouts – one for every week.  I was surprised to see that I actually achieved this.  I did 74 Peloton strength workouts.  It’s possible / probable that I may also have done a few more on my own.  I stopped all strength while I was struggling with my IT band injury as I thought the strength was possibly exacerbating my injury, so I thought perhaps I wouldn’t make my goal.  I also didn’t do any strength workouts during our month in Virginia.  However, I guess I must have been more enthusiastic than I remembered the rest of the time.  At $17 / month, I’m paying $2.50 per workout, which I’d call an excellent deal.  As we age, strength and flexibility deteriorate without active maintenance.  As someone who is neither naturally particularly strong nor flexible, I figure it’s worth a little effort and money to attempt to slow the decline.

I also had a goal to do 26 stretching workouts, or one every other week.  I did 8 Peloton stretching workouts.  I also stretched 15 more times, for a total of 23 stretching workouts.  My goal of 26 was very modest, and I didn’t even manage to achieve that.  Still – 23 is better than nothing!  I truly despise stretching and doing it even 23 times was pretty torturous.

What about this year?  I think my strength goal was reasonable – 52 weeks, 52 strength workouts.  I did my first one tonight; 51 to go.  After 74 strength workouts last year, I don’t feel particularly strong.  I suppose if I hadn’t done them, I’d be even weaker.

I’m going to up the ante and attempt 52 stretching workouts.  I feel ridiculously inflexible, and I think it’s not healthy.  It’s bad for running, bad for skiing, bad for basic function, increases risk of injury.   Sitting all day is just not ideal.  But there’s nothing stopping me from doing a quick 10 minute Peloton stretching session a couple times a week.  So here’s to 52+ times stretching in ’23.  My lack of flexibility stands in stark contrast to L’s extreme flexibility.  She is not really naturally flexible and is walking talking evidence that hard work works on just about everything, flexibility being no exception.

Best gifts for runners 2022

I just read a New York Times wirecutter article of gifts for runners.  Got a runner in your life?  Here’s my list.  It’s better than NYT’s in my, of course, completely unbiased opinion.  (No, I’m not fishing for gifts, I promise.)

1.) Lululemon Fast and Free 28″ – the best running tights out there.  Yes, at $140, they’re obscenely pricey.  (I linked to some that are on sale for $59 – 99.)  But if you run a lot, you’ll get your money’s worth.  I figure I run in tights about 100 times per year, and I will wear my favorite tights for probably 2/3 of those runs.  I will probably splurge on the fleece-lined version if they ever go on sale.

2.) Flyout Wool Half Zip by Oiselle – the best running shirt out there.  In terms of running shirts, if your giftee runs in temps from the high 30s to the low 40s, you should look for a long-sleeve true half zip shirt.  Not a quarter zip!  Never a quarter zip – it must go AT LEAST halfway to the wearers waist.  Thumbholes and watch window are nice perks.  The Brooks Dash Half Zip is also a good option.

3.) 26 Marathons by Meb Keflizighi and Scott Douglas.  I read A LOT of running books.  I pretty much read any one my library purchases, and then a few more on top of that.  26 Marathons is a cut above.  It’s a great book for a runner about someone who is easy to admire.  We can all learn a lot by channeling Meb in our careers and passions.  The audiobook is also excellent.  Note that non-runners may not enjoy this book.

4.) OK, NYT got this one right.  I do love my spiky massage ball.  Runner or no, if you have sore feet, you may want to try one of these.  I keep one at my desk and use it at work and another in the bathroom to use while brushing my teeth.

5.) GU Roctane Energy Gel variety pack.  You may want to ask your runner what type of gels they prefer, or if you use gels, but these are high end and tasty and variety is the spice of life.  Your runner may also enjoy a Honey Stinger “training kit” variety pack.

6.) I think Balega makes the best running socks in the business.  My personal favorites are Balega Ultralight Performance Noshow Socks.

7.) If your runner doesn’t already have a copy, any of Shalane’s three running cook books are a good option.  Her most recent book is Rise and Run – breakfast recipes for runners.  (I own all three.)

8.) For safety, it’s most important to be visible.  Far more runners are killed by getting hit by cars than by getting attacked by psychos.  I wear this reflective vest if I run in low light.   If I ran in the dark often, I would upgrade to this light-up vest.

9.) Really want to spoil your runner?  Independently wealthy?  I love my running watch, the Garmin 255S.   (You can buy it with or without the music feature.)

Triathlon race report

I did my second triathlon ever, and first in five years over the weekend.  I was so nervous about the open-water swim the night before, I couldn’t sleep.  I was also mentally exhausted from worrying about H’s trip back from NYC.  (He had some minor issues but was really worried just because he was traveling alone with two young children.  I worried along with him.)  Everyone ended up getting home super late, and I had to be checked in at transition by 7:00 am.  All this to say, I was feeling pretty unenthused about the triathlon on Friday night.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to back out at such a late stage.  Friday night, I got everything ready for both me and B.  Getting stuff ready for one triathlon is a huge pain, since you need to not only prepare for THREE sports but also to transition between the three sports rapidly. Doing this for TWO people was just a huge pain.

After waking up more or less hourly throughout the night, I was up at 5:45 to get ready for the race.  I headed to the local park the tri was in, and things were naturally chaotic, but after 15 minutes or so I was parked.  Transition was pretty information for the super sprint, without any assigned places, and I got my stuff set up and made friends with the first time triathlete set up next to me.  I then located another mom friend of mine who was also doing the race.  Chatting with her made me feel much better.  This is always the way for me at races.  I’m freaking out until I get there and find some people to talk to, and then I feel better.  The awful pre-race anxiety really deters me from big and difficult race, though.  It’s just so unpleasant.

After waiting and waiting and waiting – my wave was nearly last and was delayed by 30 minutes – we were finally off.  I was actually amazed how good I felt during the swim.  I passed most of the people in my wave and didn’t feel like I was trying particularly hard.  I *wasn’t* trying particularly hard.  I swam strong but paused every few strokes to have a good look at where I was going.  My wave consisted of women 40 and up, and it was much more low-key than the last tri I did, where my wave was a deep water start and included young and middle aged men.  During that start, I got clocked in the head quite hard, and it really set a negative tone for the whole swim.  This time, we all sort of strolled into the water, and gradually got going.  It was nice.

I’d decided to take it easy in transitions, and you can see me strolling out of the water here.  I look none too thrilled but I was mainly trying to avoid the rocks.

I got pipped at the finish line by one second, so maybe I should have strolled a little faster.

According to Strava, I swam 494 yds at 1:59 / 100 yard pace.  That includes a slow water entry and exit.  I think the wetsuit helped a ton, but trying to get it off during transition was a huge hassle.  Garmin clocked 4:23 for the first transition and I was sweating bullets trying to get the wetsuit over my watch and the chip.  (Yes, probably should have removed those first.)

I got my shoes and socks on and strolled some more with my bike and then finally heaved myself on and got going.  The first mile or so of the bike was narrow and twisty as we wove out of the park and it wasn’t really possible to pass.  Then we got going.  I had looked at my notes from my last tri and noted that I was destroyed after 17.5 mph on the bike, so I was trying to keep my effort more moderate this time.  I ended up average 15.8 mph, so I think I did a good job balancing working hard but not killing myself.  The course had a few hills which was unexpected since it had, I thought, been advertised as “flat.”  Things weren’t too congested and once I found my pace I mostly tracked behind this man.  Who was 78!  So awesome.

It was definitely a bit hot on the bike.  And it seemed to go on forever.  I was racing, after all, and an hour is a long race, especially compared to a 10 minute swim.

Finally the bike was over.  Again, I took my time racking my bike, taking some water and Gatorade, and getting my shoes on for the run.  When you bike and then run, it’s called (in triathlon parlance) a brick and for good reason.  My run splits ended up being 8:48, 8:25, 8:05.  I didn’t go to the well.  I could have gone faster, but it was hot and the ground was rough and I just didn’t want to make myself sick.  However, a women in my age group ran by me right at the line, so yeah.  I wish I’d gone just a little faster.  Oh well.  I was actually fourth in my age group, but #1 set a world record in the swim.  Eg – she either didn’t swim at all or only swam part way.  And #2 had no splits for the swim or bike and a very slow run split, making me think she skipped the swim.

I kind of love my trisuit!  I was afraid it would feel hot, but it didn’t really bother me.

After all this, I was more than a little bit tired, but it was time for triathlon number 2.  Well, almost.  After an hour or so of hurry up and wait, it was time for B’s tri.  She was VERY nervous, but like me, once she got to the startline and saw all the other kids, she was good to go.  She lined up right at the front.  That’s her in the wetsuit looking thing, which she actually wears for swim practice as well since she has no thermal mass and gets cold too easily.

Once they got going it turned out the “swim” was really a water dash.  OMG.  It would have been easier for them to swim than run 100 yards on the rocky beach.

I don’t have any photos of B on her bike, but she said it was her favorite part of the race.  She does love biking.  She wasn’t such a fan of the run.

The “run” was half a mile, which is actually kind of a long way for a 7 year old who’s already done the rocky water run plus a cycle and running around in and out of transition.  Nevertheless, B sprinted it in and was all smiles afterwards.

By the time B was done, we were well and truly exhausted and staggered home to rest and recover.  I highly recommend a tri for kids and for adults, but not at the same time.  If B ever wants to do a tri again, I think we’ll pick one I’m not participating in.  Personally, I think I’m good for another year or two.