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Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Week in Review from Africa, Wisconsin

It's hot - Africa hot - in Southern Wisconsin this past few days. Now I know, all you hardcore folks that live in the land of zero-scaping are rolling your eyes at that, but it's truly no fun to workout outside. Really, its not so much the heat as the humidity I guess. Anyhoo, humidity cranks up the whine for sure.
We have spent much of the week in the pool. Mike is making good progress in the pool. I just hang around swimming laps. My run/bike has suffered a little because the swim is a different kind of cardio. Tuesday was SWAT group, and we got a nice big bike in there, but didn't do the run leg since it was getting really late. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday were all swim nights. Thursday, I had planned to do a brick but I ended up taking my Maddy dog in to the vet with a sore paw. It ended up she had broken off her toenail way down deep inside the paw and then had not come off all the way, creating a huge wound. She had a little minor surgery, got a gimongous bandage, some antibiotics, and pain meds and we were home again. That pretty much killed any big exercise plans - Maddy needed some TLC, so we just took a quick swim and came back home.
Friday, I got home from work and felt like taking a nap, but instead took off on a run sheerly out of guilt. Here are just a few of the things I learned:
1) Half a jar of dill pickles and some deli ham do not make a good pre-run snack.
2) a bag of red sports beans and gatorade don't go well on top of pickles and ham.
3) If you jiggle that mess up repeatedly, it makes you feel like barfing
4) if you haven't ran in almost a week, don't try to do one of your long routes.
5) Swimming needs to supplement your other cardio, or your other cardio suffers.
6) If it's really hot and humid out running sucks butt more than usual.

I did not barf. I did however run really slow. It was painful slow and I never really did find a groove. It has been a long time since I needed to bargain with myself to finish the run and Friday was one of those runs. Had to keep telling myself - you CAN get to the corner, just make it to the church, OK you can walk that hill but then you have to get going again, just finish the mile, just make it one more block, one more driveway, one more barking dog, and so on.
lesson learned: make more time for running, especially if you plan to run a 1/2 marathon in 6 weeks.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pomp and Circumstance, the Indiana version

We left Friday morning for Muncie, Indiana to attend my graduation ceremony from Ball State - our family in our car and my parents following us. It was a pretty good trip, with a brief issue south of Chicago where we had to have one of the tires fixed due to an embedded bolt (it took less than an hour to fix, so it was really barely a blip on the radar screen.
As you can see from the picture, we were very happy to arrive in our hotel room! We went to dinner at the Olive Garden and then drove around the campus trying to get acclimated to where we needed to be in the morning. Mike and I had planned to get a run in on the BSU campus, but the tire stop put us behind so we decided to forgo it. We went back to the hotel and messed around in the tiny pool and hot tub, then went back to our rooms to get some shut eye.
Indiana is an hour ahead of Wisconsin time (something about them not observing daylight savings time or something) so I was struggling to make sure we were getting up at the right time and getting out the door.
After a night of TERRIBLE sleep on a tiny pull out couch, we were up at 0530 WI time- ouch. We got some breakfast in us and got ready. The flyer I got in the mail about Commencement said I had to report to line up at 0915, so I was there early enough for that - found out too late that I could have reported as late as 0955 and still been on time - not sure why I needed to be there so early but whatever.
Since I had done my entire degree through distance ed and transferred credits for UWW and BTC, I had never officially been to campus as a student nor had I met any of my classmates except through email. I found myself standing in line chatting with a lady who I eventually figured out was one of my fellow RN to BSN nurses, Claudia Scoggins. I don't think there were any other distance ed nurses there to meet which was too bad. It would have been kind of cool to chat and put a name with a face after nearly two years of emailing and discussion board posting together. That really was the only downside of doing the online degree - there is just not the personal touch of meeting real live people in person.
The ceremony was long, and the key note speaker chose an obscure topic (language extinction ). It was pretty cool to see all the rituals like the hooding of doctoral candidates and trying to figure out what the various regalia (sashes, hats, cords, hoods, etc) meant. It was a long ceremony, and I know my kids got a little bored, but I hope they got something out of it or at least a little motivation to get there themselves.

The campus it self was gorgeous, all brick and glass looking. We got a lot of nice pictures afterwards. We took a bunch in front of the "Frog Baby" fountain. My mom says when she went to college there that people would go rub frog baby's head for good luck before a test. Now he was moved outdoors and made into a fountain. You can see frog baby in the background to the right of my son Nick.

We also took some pictures in front of a little fountain at another part of campus. My mom gave me a little photo album with pictures in of my sister and I splashing in this same fountain when we were really little, so it was kind of cool to recreate that.

This picture is of me and my mom. What you can't see is that there is a HUGE pricker bush behind the sign. I am basically standing on the middle of it. OUCH.....

This is my dad and I. He has a picture that looks a lot like this from when he graduated and I was really little, standing next to him in his graduation gown.

My dad cut short a fishing trip to Canada to come to this. He drove two days by himself to get back in time and then drove another 5 1/2 hours from Janesville to Muncie. How cool is that?
I know this was a really long weekend for my family and I appreciate everyone coming along and being so supportive. We drove through my mom's hometown of Elwood IN on the way there and back. I got to see some of the Elwood highlights and share them with my family, which was cool for me. Brought back a lot of good memories for me and made a few new ones too.
Also a big thanks to my sister and her family for looking out for my screwy dogs. I know that was a huge deal and I really do appreciate it.
Got in a quick 5.1 miles on the bike trail last night when Lucas was at Passing League. Felt good to get out there and get moving again. I hadn't had time to get any exercise in since Tuesday, so glad to get my butt going again!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Are you for real?

The past few days have been interesting.

1) I still cannot seem to get the magic marker off my leg from the tri on Saturday. My theory is that my skin is sooooo dry that the marker soaked through to the bone. (does anyone have a secret trick to getting that crap off??)

2) Due to #1 and the fact that all my work and social clothes are either cropped pants or short skirts, people have had some really strange comments about why I have numbers on my leg.

Here are a few:

- while out to eat at the Speakeasy with the tri club Saturday night, a sweet young boy (who looked about 12 but was probably more like 16) who was seating people asked me why everyone had numbers on them......"Is it like a concentration camp thing?" Sadly, he was completely serious. I took a big breath in and explained that we had all done a triathlon that morning, they write our race numbers on our legs and arms. He said "Oh" and was obviously processing the info, then he asked "OK. Did you finish?" I just looked at him and stopped talking since I was getting nowhere. he was very cute, but very dim.

At work several people commented on the numbers.

- "Why would you want to do a triathlon? It's so much work......." (Exactly the point, beating obesity one mile at a time
- "How come you didn't wash it off?" (Umm yeah..... why didn't I think of that?)

-"was that your finishing time?" (Yeah, they write your time on your leg.....wth??)

So, what the strangest comment you have gotten?

Monday we took a super slow bike ride with the SWAT folks - lots of stops and then one guy spoked out and had to wait for the SAG wagon to come get him. Got rained on and chased by a dog. Not really my favorite ride, but whatever we got out of the house for awhile.

Tuesday was SWAT practice. I went to work at 0600 forgetting it was Quarterly QA meeting day. We meet at 4 to accommodate our medical directors schedule (who by the way did not show up) SO did not get out of work til 5. Practice starts at at 5 at the pool so we were late and I was quite possibly the most ornery person ever. Got like 400 yds in, then biked out Afton Rd and back cranking out my frustration. Took a short (2.25 mi) run on the bike path loop and called it a day.

Tonight, we did some necessary errand running so not really much time for exercise, but that's OK.

Tomorrow, who knows..... big run after work? Maybe a big bike? Maybe I'll bike tomorrow and do a big run Friday morning before we take off for Indiana. We'll see what the mood is, plus I gotta pack still........

Figured out today I should have enough credits (and a 4.0 GPA) to qualify for "summa cum laude" honors at graduation. At last, the compulsive A student thing pays off...... (my study motto has been "nothing less than perfection is failure"---- basically driving myself crazy is just my thing).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Party Like a Rock Star- the Janesville Triathlon Report

First off, I should probably apologize to you all for leaving you hanging in suspense for so long for my race results. I am sure no one has gotten a THING done today waiting on me to get this report written.
This has been a very busy week trying to wrap up all the details of my last week of assignments and papers to be written for school. As of last Sunday, I had only to write up 6 lengthy written assignemnts, take 3 tests and a final exam for my last 2 classes (Community Nursing and Intro to Theater), and write a large, involved project paper for my last Nursing class. I somewhow managed to wrap it all up. At about 2100 tonight, I finally submitted my last paper which ended up being 25 pages of written work and more than 40 hours of writing and research. I am exhausted and my brain is completely numb, but sending in that last paper is my last task for completing the requirement for a B.S. in Nursing from Ball State University. Graduation will take place next weekend in Muncie Indiana. Even as tired as I am now I could cartwheel around my entire yard to finally be done. For this last 2 classes this summer I have entirely lacked in the motivation department, so I am ecstatic to have finally finished up. I might even try to find time to read a book that I did not purchase from a textbook library.
And now for the moment you have all been waiting for .............. (drumroll please) ........ the race report from the Janesville YMCA Triathlon yesterday. The day started well. I got up, got dressed polished off some cranberry oatmeal and tried to move the slow men in my household out the door at a reasonable time. (have you ever heard that women were slow? the opposite is true at my house.... I sat in the car waiting for everyone else to come outside when it was time to leave)
Mike was obviously on the verge of a nervous breakdown and watching him made me nervous for him. My mission was to remain as calm as possible and try to de-escalate his anxiety by being calm and comforting myself. So we drove down to Lions Beach, unpacked our stuff, picked up our packets, got marked, and set up our transition areas next to each other. We talked for a while to the SWAT members hanging around, said hi to my sister and her kids, chatted with my mom and some friends and before long it was time to hit the beach.
Mike and I stood together. he was in wave 7, I was in wave 9. After some race instructions we couldn't hear, they started us off. I watched folks swim out in heats of 30. It didn't seem to look all that far and they had a lane marker strung out to the turnaround buoy. I saw all kinds of chaos out there - breast strokers, sidestrokers, backstrokers, and some unidentifiable strokes. With the small waves, it looked like the takeoff was going to be manageable. I got Mike into the water and watched him swim out. It hit me then - I was going to do this and Mike's fate was in his own hands now.
As I waited for my heat, I worked myself up into a real lather. I lost sight of Mike and got worried. Then I started worrying about myself. Before long we took off. The water was cold and I was worked up. I got kicked in the chest as we waded out to where I couldn't touch anymore. I started out with a breaststroke, but when I tried to put my face in the water, I got panicky. I couldn't see a thing. My heart raced, I couldn't catch my breath and I was freezing. Mentally I tried to calm myself as I tried to move forward. It took me until I reached the buoy to finally gain control of my faculties. I found myself stuck between a freestyler that was weaving all over and I couldn't get around and a chick doing the elementary backstroke. On my right the weaver was ramming me, on my left the elementary chick wa kicking me like an eggbeater. I finally swerved way out and got ahead of them, hopefully for good. The last half of the way back I found my groove. By the time I realized I was close, I stood up and I was only in water up to my knees. I ripped off the goggles and cap and started running up the beach. I couldn't find anyone I recognized but I could hear the SWATs screaming my name. Man, they sure know how to make you feel like a rock star. I was looking around for a face who could tell me if Mike was out of the water and someone shouted "your husband just got out - he's maybe a minute ahead of you!" I was so happy to hear he was safe and had gotten the swim done. I ran up the beach and tackled him in transition with a hug and a peck and got to getting the transition thing done.
Here is where I dicovered I had not remembered to prep my shoes. I fought with the ratchet on my bike shoes, unable to get the quick release to release and let me get my Flintstone feet into them. They finally relented and I got them on, I picked up the gloves and threw them on the ground, threw on my belt and took off.
The bike was awesome and I got to pass folks right and left. one guy pulled up to me about halfway through and said "If you didn't notice I was just drafting off you for a while." He sat on my wheel and really started to piss me off so I took off ahead of him every time he tried to keep drafting. what an ass. I finally told him to stop it and took off. I was trying to see his number to report the draft, but I never was able to get it. The bike was really windy and the course was backwards from how we practiced, but I still knew it and felt really comfortable giving it all I had. I love the bike and I knew it was my only shot at making up time.
I got back to transition and started power changing. In the picture below I was asking the SWATs and my family type folks where Mike was. They said I just missed him and I remember saying "Now I'll never kick his ass!" and my mother kidding me about saying ass. I hollered back that if she had been listening better earlier she could have heard me say the F word. I remember hearing Lucas say "Oh my God I just heard my gramma say ass."
On that note I took off and laughed to myself all the way up the street. i was so twitterpated I forgot to grab my Garmin for the run off my handlebars. and my Ipod. RATS! that made for a long run with no tunes for cadence control and no idea how fast I was going.
The run sucked, plain and simple. I.HATE.RUNNING.
but it was the last 4 miles of the race so I sucked it up and went as fast as I could stand. People passed me right and left anyway, men, women, children, turtles, you name it. Trying to amuse myself without and Ludacris to listen to, I searched for a phrase to describe getting passed by so many . I remembered a RWOL post lamenting getting "chicked" at races (passed by women) and decided my version was called getting chiched and dicked. I approached the turn into Lions Beach preparing myself mentally to be able to see the finsh line and then get redirected out another mile before actually finishing. Whoever designed that has a cruel streak..... it was helpful to know I just had a mile left so I gave it all I had until I got to the finish. Final time on my watch 1:51:00, -about 10minutes for the swim shore to shore, 51:00 on the Garmin for the bike, and the rest was run and transition time. it was about what I had figured on, a little too long for the run but that is so variable from day to day that I just take what I can get. There were people behind me so I was not last, which is alwasy good.
Got packed up and headed home after some visiting, feeling pretty good about the whole thing.
After a while Martin called to tell me I took second place in the Athena group, with Allison in first place. So now I was not only an official traithlete, I was also sporting some bling. Sweet.
My brother in law Jeff and his brother Brad did the tri too and kicked butt. We went to a party in the afternoon at Brad's house, then joined the SWAT team at the Speakeasy for dinner. What an awesomely fun day. I had a blast (and I think I ate one of everything, but who cares? ).

Now for the thank yous -
Thanks to Mike for helping me work so hard
Thanks to my boys for coming to root us on and take pictures
Thanks to my sister Michele for spotting Mike on the swim and helping him feel comfortable in the water, for supporting us, and all the million things she does to help us out and support us on race days

Thanks to my mom (pictured) for coming to cheer us on.
(Just in case you didn't know it, my family totally rocks)
Thanks to the SWATs for the support during practice times and for rolling out the ROCK STAR treatment before, during, and after the race. You have no idea how much that means to me and how motivational it is to have a cheering section.
Thanks too to all of you who read me and sent encouraging words, help, and support.
And let me not forget to thank the academy..........
(if I forgot to mention anyone, I didn't mean to)

here are the results: 170/224 overall, 2/3 Athena ---> swim- 10:50 (135th) bike+T1- 54:24 (109th) Run +T2- 46:15 (194th) = Final time 1:51:27

What I learned:
- I need to practice open water swimming........ alot.
- I can't forget to prep my shoes again. undo the bike shoes, untie the double knots on my running kicks.
- Do something different with the Garmin and Ipod. They make a big difference on the run
- swim 2 minutes faster than Mike so next time *I* win............ (you listening big guy? Bring it on!)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Think Buoyancy

Tomorrows the day.
This week we have worked hard on swimming. in between trying to help Mike out a bit when he is in the mood for some observation and suggestions.
I have been swimming about a mile a day in 400 yd increments. Sometimes its the breast stroke, sometimes its my bastardized version of the TI freestyle, which I have adapted for my personal comfort level. 400s range from 8:50 to 10:55 and it doesn't seem to make a lot of difference if its free or breast time wise. So...... I plan to swim whatever feels good tomorrow, bike hard, and keep it together on the run. Oh yeah - and I plan to enjoy myself and have fun - sometimes I forget that part.

In other news, I found out my sister is the newest member of bloggerland. You can stop by and check her out here.

After a little big sister pressure, we have tentative plans to do the Danskin Womens triathlon next year. A very fun, ladies only sprint tri in Pewaukee. I know this is very unlike me, but I may have been a tad pushy suggesting it, but I am excited she is considering it........ maybe Tracy feels like making it a sister threesome?? Hmm?? You listening?? Bueller.......Bueller...... Bueller.....Bueller...... (seriously though - think about it..)

Be sure to send some buoyant thoughts Mike's way about 0800 tomorrow. My boy's freaking out a little, but I know he'll be just fine and probably kick my ass as usual.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Confessions of a Former Lifeguard

As a child/teenager, I swam all the time. I was on the swim team and swam endless laps for hours and hours, practicing my meet strokes- fly and back - but also doing my share of freestyle. I worked many summers at Rockport Pool lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons, and guarded lap swimming at Rock County Pool in the winter and did my fair share of laps at both of those jobs just for fun.
So, I had it in my head that now, after almost a 20 year hiatus from swimming laps, I was going to get back into the pool and be able to kick out 400 yards of freestyle like it was nothing.
Um, yeah. ... about that.....
A- I am pushing 40. I no longer have a 16 year olds swimming ability.
B- I haven't swam laps in 20 years and I can tell
C- just because I can run 10 miles and bike for hours, that does not mean I have the breath control to tolerate tons of swimming without losing my breath.

When we started swimming laps for SWAT practice a couple weeks ago, I realized I probably had some issues with swim endurance. I decided as long as I was starting over with lap swimming and Mike was learning to swim the right way using the Total Immersion model, that I would learn to swim using the TI method too. Then a) I can help Mike with drills and b) I might pick up some skills to help me with distance swimming if we ever get to Ironman or half-iron distances where I will need the technique to conserve energy on the swim.
The TI learning curve has not been as quick as I had hoped. We have 2 pool options. We can go to the YMCA and swim in the indoor pool where it is relatively quiet but has a short pool so doing a lot of turns. OR we can go to Rockport Pool which is an outdoor Olympic size pool, but there is limited lap swim times and they integrate the lap swim with open swim most days. This week we mostly have gone to Rockport because the pool is quite long so seems to more closely simulate open water swims because there are less turns (I know, not exactly the same thing, but it is in my tiny head). Today, I went to lap swim by myself and was set to do a few more TI drills. After a couple of unsuccessful laps, I focused on other swim strokes. It was 90+ degrees F today and I think every dirtbag in town was at the pool for the simultaneous open swim. Little kids were crossing through the lanes. Gangster wannabes were cannonballing off the side. Kids splashing around was creating a lot of turbulence. It messed me up. I was trying to practice underswitch and zipper drills and I was drifting all over the place and couldn't get in a comfortable place in my head.
So I decided on a plan B for next weekend's Janesville Sprint Tri. If I am not feeling comfortable with a 400 free in open water, I will do the breaststroke - that is an easier stroke for my to control my breathing, I can sight myself forward easily, and I feel very comfortable with it. So..... today I scrapped the TI drills and swam a mile of breast stroke. my 400 split was 11 minutes which I am OK with. The whole mile too 44 minutes. I just have to survive the swim. I can make up time on the bike and I can't do much more with my run. If I can do that I should be pretty comfortably in the middle of the pack.
The Duck Toilet Triathlon is a go and I have a swim plan. Excellent. (and shame on me for not practicing sooner).
Any other thoughts out there on my game plan? Flaws in the thought process? Let me know people, that's why I confess all my sins to you...... :-)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Turtle vs Snail 10K

This morning Mike and I joined several other SWAT members in Milton for the 25th running of the Milton Optimist Club's Independence Day 10K Fun Run. It was threatening to drizzle on us but managed to clear up enough that it stopped before we had to spend much time outside.
We started near the back of the pack, which is where I belonged for sure. I got about 100 yds from the start and my shoe was untied already - awesome. I was then DFL once I got tied back up, being followed by the ambulance bringing up the rear. I quickly passed 2 older ladies in front of me who were chatting it up. Then I passed a guy wearing knee socks and 2 knee braces that was roughly 70 hobbling along. Before long I had passed another pair of joggers, one of whom I work with (secretly very fun). I kept at it and slowly inched up on people as they began to run out of gas.
About the end of mile 2, the first runner started coming back at me. The first guy was this guy that we see all the time running by our house into the country. He is tall, wiry, Jamaican looking young guy with a flowing loose Afro that I nicknamed The Gazelle last summer. He makes running look so effortless it's sick. He had to be running at least 5 minute miles and he looked like he was exerting no effort at all, just out for a casual jog. Guys like that are my hero - they just make it look so easy.
The halfway turnaround seems to be where I get to start taking people at the 10Ks. I get ahead of the people who start to poop out after the first mile, then I just wait for the the 5K mark to start passing people again. I look ahead at people that I see starting to do the run/walk thing and I know that pretty soon if I keep my steady pace, I am going to get ahead of them. Once I have them in my sight line I name them. Well really I number them. Today I met numbers 1-15, which coincides with the number of people I knew I beat to the finish line.
10K is a long time to be alone reflecting on your thoughts, and I gave myself the giggles at one point thinking about how this "race" of the slow folks must look. I got a visual of the Rascal scooter run down from Seinfeld. I finally decided it must look like a race between a turtle and a snail. As the snail oozes along inch by inch, the turtle moves slowly, speeding up and then stopping to catch its breath from the effort.
As I neared the finish, I saw "Fifteen" ahead of me. She was just out of reach, which pissed me off because she was one of those run/walkers too. It really sucks when you are giving all your effort and you can't catch the WALKER for goodness sake! She was a high school age girl and when I did get ahead of her a couple times while she walked, she let me get 5 or 10 yards ahead of her then she would run a while til she was ahead. We kept at that a while. Then I turned a corner and saw the SWAT folks milling around way up ahead on the approach to the finish line. I thought to myself - SCREW that I am not letting the walker girl beat me to the finish in front of all these fast folks I know. I took off in front of the girl as fast as I could go and managed to pass her and stay ahead. As I passed the SWAT folks, they cheered and clapped, and Tawnya did a little dance in the road that made me laugh all the way in. They are just a fun group.
They had plans to ride bikes to Lake Ripley then do an open water swim and bike back. Mike's knee was bothering him and I didn't think it was particularly wise to marinate his open wound in lake water so we deferred that part of the day.
I don't think there are any official results posted anywhere, it wasn't chip timed or anything like that. I had a time of 1:07:40, if any really cares. You can view my run here.
Hope y'all have a safe and happy 4th!

Monday, July 2, 2007

MTBs return

Tonight Mike and I did another Monday Mt Bike Ride with the Velo Club beginners group. It actually was just Mike and I, led by Larry and Janet. I guess maybe with the holiday coming up the group was kind of sparse. Mike went off into the single tracks with Larry and Janet and I took off on our own.

Janet did NOT try to kill me tonight. I know usually I report her homicidal intentions by dragging me through the single tracks, but tonight she cut me a break and we worked instead on confidence. We started on the wider grassier trails and gradually made it in towards the meatier single track stuff deeper in the woods, but she would do a quick run through some single tracks, then take a loop through some wider trails. That was perfect for me - just enough single track to get some practice in, yet not so much that I got flustered with it and started making stupid moves and worked my panties into a bunch. Once I get all twitterpated I might as well pack it up and go home, and I never got there tonight.

Larry on the other hand apparently was fixing to kill Mike. (you didn't really think we would BOTH have a good night at the same time did you? What would we have to gripe about then?? SHEESH!)

I should also mention that I am nearly done with my last 2 classes and will finally graduate from my program in a couple short weeks. I had a near miss with papers this weekend though, so I made myself a little nervous. There were 3 MAJOR papers due before the class ends, one due each week. Well while I had some time off last week, I spent a lot of my time working on 2 of the 3 papers, not so much (or at all really) on the third one. Well - long story short- I was doing them in reverse order and I realized Saturday like at 9pm that the one I hadn't started was actually the one due Sunday by midnight. I stayed up til 2AM working on it Saturday, then got up at 6:30 Sunday to work some more. By about 2PM, I had a finished product to submit. Voila! Somehow I managed to pull the paper out of my ass, which apparently was where I have been storing my brain lately.


I need something new to obsess about for a change.

Hills are your friend

When I first started biking with my friend last summer, she and I would complain about the hills. She has been biking far longer than I, and she would tell me that anytime her husband hears her complain about hills, he tells her "hills are your friend." It didn't help her love them any more.
I have taken that phrase on as my new mantra while road riding. While I am climbing, I repeat to myself over and over "hills are your friend, hills are your friend." Until I get to the top. It has not helped me like them any better, and sometimes you can still here me griping about it under my breath.
While Mike and I were riding this past Friday and Sunday, I began noticing that hills are becoming much easier. I am feeling stronger and faster and I notice that I can go up them much easier, even pass people along the way. Hills really ARE my friend I guess. Not my best friend mind you, more like that one friend whose calls you duck whenever you can, the friend that you have to be careful not to spend too much time with if you can help it for fear of a togetherness overdose- but your friend all the same.

The other thing I have found useful lately is a little drill from our new SWAT friend Martin. I will credit him as the the founding father of "The Dog Shit Drill." Basically, you practice bringing your feet all the way around the pedal stroke one foot at a time, more in a motion like pushing your foot forward on the downstroke, and like scraping dog poop off your shoe on the upstroke. I think the intent is to teach you to use all of your power around the whole pedalstroke, not just the downstroke to hill climb.

Despite all this great advice and practice, if I don't watch it I still find myself mashing it up in the big rings. Not sure why I can't break this habit yet- I am trying though. I'm just not a shifter- its more comfortable to pedal hard and slow than spin it easy and fast. Makes me feel faster I guess.

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