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Exploring

Saturday, October 30, 2010

DH (dear husband) decided to run this morning instead of joining me for cycling so I headed off to the rendezvous point wondering who else would show up. Elliot and his son Daniel, both fit young cyclists (Elliot is young at heart!) braved the chilly morning which promised to bloom into a gorgeous, windless, sunny day. With a game plan of riding between 40 and 45 miles, we set off.

Daniel had to turn back after a few miles, a bad cough compounded by the chill. That left Elliot and myself…

This has happened before. Both of us have spouses who like regularity, routine and are careful planners. Both of us frequently gaze down an uncharted country lane and think,” I wonder where that leads?” Both of us can’t always follow that impulse. But every once in a while, we are in the right place at the right time to just go EXPLORING!

So at a fork in the road I reminisced, “Do you remember that time when we went right instead of left?” Elliot did. “I think I remember the route.” We took the road less traveled and as we came out on a busy intersection and prepared to head to a nearby gas station for a break, I looked across and mused, “I wonder where that road goes?” Elliot was game. “Let’s find out!”

And so on it went. Part of the road was rough, the lack of rain causing the soil to heave and the pavement to crack. Parts of the road were newly paved and a dream to ride, overhung with live oaks and dappled with their shade. We encountered a dozen new doggy friends, and none of them were chasers! I am a decent navigator so we were never really lost—I had a good idea, more or less, where we were. At least we knew what county we were in and what nearby town we would run into eventually if we didn’t find our way back.

But we did! We did find our way back! And our round trip ended up being 43 miles which fit our game plan to a tee.

Every week we ride the same routes. We see all the other cyclists, riding the same routes, and we love it. It’s fun to realize that the distance that used to be daunting is now easy, or notice the seasonal changes on the route we now know like the backs of our hands. But once in a while, gaze down a new road and dream…”I wonder where that goes?”

  
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Race Report

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The best part of the race report is that all my team-mates and I had a safe, fun race at the Firethorne Triathlon. The water was a brisk 73 degrees so I got to use the wet suit and had a pretty good swim. I managed to stay on course (didn’t go “out to sea!”) and didn’t get kicked! I finished within seconds of my target time. (I tried a new product called “Foggle” which is an anti-fog wipe for your goggles in an individual foil packet. Worked great!)
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The bike leg—Ah, there’s the rub, literally! Legs felt great, lungs felt great, but I couldn’t get the speedometer up where it should have been. Thinking to myself, “Darn, should have checked my brakes!” Sure enough, after the race was over I checked and the rear brake was rubbing. I know better and really should have checked before transition closed. Serves me right as I came in at 4th place in my age group. “Coulda, woulda shoulda had third” except the person pointing the finger at me is ME!
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The run portion at Firethorne is perhaps the prettiest I’ve done. The first mile is on the walking/jogging trail around the lake. Shaded, beautifully landscaped, flat…what more could you ask? The second and third mile were concrete, gravel trail, and the finish on concrete. I clocked myself at finishing in 29:40, including a dash to the portajohn! The official timepiece didn’t agree and has me averaging 10:10 a mile. Oh, well. Time for a new watch!
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The race food was great—pasta salad, pizza, subway, as well as the usual bananas and bagels. Spark people were looking over my shoulder—I had the salad and sandwich, skipped the pizza. A little lower GI upset made the trip home exciting—“find a bathroom, NOW!” Maybe I over-carb loaded? It can happen!

So, with all my experience, I still made a fairly serious mistake, but overall had a good, fun race. You better believe the brakes will never go unchecked again!

  


Joys of Trail Running: Avoiding/Overcoming Obstacles

Friday, October 08, 2010

My son and I went to Brazos Bend State Park to run and get the lay of the land for our upcoming Half Marathon Trail Run in January. The park is touted as the Home of the American Alligator and signs everywhere warned not to feed or approach the gators. We were hoping we might see one or two as we ran along Elm Lake Trail, or around 40 Acre Lake.
My son, the much faster runner, was far ahead of me and took a wrong turn. I wouldn’t have caught up with him except that he had spotted a 5 foot gator in the water and was tossing sticks near it, hoping to incite it to move. We watched the languid creature and then made it back to the main trail.
I caught up to him again, only this time he was warily working his way down the far side of the path, a monstrous gator lying ominously close to the near side. “I think it’s dead,” he commented hopefully. I wasn’t sure. We snapped a photo with my phone and inched our way past it. Then we noticed it blinking its eyes! Not dead, only napping!

We will encounter obstacles in our path. Some will be physical, like the gator, or a fallen tree on the trail: some could be health or injury related; still others could be our self- doubts or second guesses as we gauge the steepness of that rocky trail, or the fatigue in our quads. But facing the obstacle, having a plan, knowing when to back off and when to take a smart, informed risk are important skills we will develop.
Justin and I decided to sneak past our obstacle, and now we have a fun picture and story to share. Once I made my way cautiously over a fallen tree, only to find, just on the other side, a gorgeous display of crimson poke-weed berries cascading down glossy green leaves. These are things that make trail running so much more rewarding than getting my mileage on an oval track.

  


Joys of Trail Running: Seeing the Big Picture

Friday, October 01, 2010

I have always enjoyed trail running but now that I have committed to the Brazos Bend Trail Run (13.1 miles) I am doing most of my training off road. There are many wonderful aspects of trail running and a few drawbacks that I thought I would explore, and ponder some life lessons along the way.

I read an article about off road running that made quite a point about keeping eyes on the ground a few feet in front of you to prevent falls. This is generally good advice except for the spiders across the path! That’s right; big banana spiders that carefully construct their webs across the path, not dreaming that the first runner of the morning is doomed to face-plant into the sticky mess! I had such an experience a few days ago. As I ducked and squirmed to get away from the arachnid I could see it on the edge of my cap. The cap and spider went flying as I made my escape!

Maybe restricting our vision to the path directly in front of us is too limiting. Maybe getting the big picture: spotting the spiders, low-hanging branches, oncoming runners, and so on, is as much a part of our experience as avoiding the rough places and pitfalls on the path. And then there are the glimpses of beauty that we would miss if we never looked up.

We do need to keep our focus on our immediate goals, but not at the expense of the big picture. So I went 150 calories over today. When I look at my summaries for the week I see that the trend is good. Most days I am right on target. New habits are being formed and I am being honest with myself. That’s my big picture. How about you?

  


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