Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Training? What training?

So, after Saturday's long swim, my desire to finish the week with a longish bike fizzled and I just didn't.

Monday I did a 30-minute open water swim with Su, which was only notable for my complete and total laziness. I just didn't feel like swimming. Not exactly quality training.

Yesterday I did manage to get motivated to run late in the day - it was very warm here, and since I'll definitely be running my Ironman marathon late in the day, I figure I need to train when it's hot (unlike last year, when I did all my running at 5 or 6 a.m.). It was actually quite pleasant to feel all that warmth surround me. I think I'm going to try to run more frequently after work - maybe I can take Gabriel (my seven-year-old) out on his bicycle and I can run. Knowing how he rides, though, that'll be a speed workout!

Today I did my intense bike ride with the Cascade group. We did a new route; I led on half of it, but there were only five of us total and three of the guys wanted to POUND. Like, we advertise the ride as "strenuous," meaning 18-21 on the flats - but we were doing 23-24 mph instead. So it was some work for sure, and they lost me on the hills, but I pushed hard throughout the ride and they never got too far away. I haven't ridden since last Thursday, but I felt strong.

But in general, it's a rest week, and I'm feeling a lot like resting. And fortunately, I haven't felt a lot like eating! Yay!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Longest swim ever

I got my volume in this week by not swimming much - just 45 minutes on Friday outside, no pool swimming. So I needed to get a big swim done yesterday.

I met my friend Su at 6:45 a.m. for a 90-minute planned swim. The water is still freezing - okay fine, 63 degrees - but it was a gorgeous morning with the sun rising over the lake. It was good to be outside.

We swim buoy-to-buoy between these four buoys about 75 yards off the shore. It's been measured with a GPS device under someone's swim cap, and also on Google Maps, because you can see the buoys in the satellite photos of the lake - and people believe that if you swim eight laps of the buoys plus the out-and-back part to get to the first buoy, it's 2.4 miles. The Ironman swim distance.

I figured in 90 minutes, I should be swimming the full Ironman distance. So I started out thinking, just eight laps. It's not so bad.

The first three were over pretty quickly; I've been doing three each time I swam outside this year, and last year three laps was my most-frequently-swum distance in the lake. The fourth lap brought me halfway done - it was like 47 minutes in, so my timing was pretty good.

But then boredom set in. I think swimming is so mental - there's no one to talk to, not much to look at, and it's just you and your thoughts and your rhythm. Sometimes I think about work or my family or stuff going on outside of training. Sometimes I imagine the rest of the race: what it would be like to exit the water, head to T1, etc. And sometimes, I just count strokes. Counting strokes is especially effective if I am bilaterally breathing.

So once I got to five laps, I realized it was the longest swim I'd ever done in open water. Everything on top of that was extra, right? I started thinking about quitting. But then I remembered what Gordo Bryn said: "You can always quit later." It takes me about 12 minutes to do a lap; so when I finished six, I said, "Well, what's 12 minutes more? After all, I have to stay in the water for Su. I can do 7 laps."

And when I got to seven - the clock read 1:21 - I said, "Well, I have to swim 8 for my Ironman distance. And I have to stay in the water for nine more minutes anyway. Guess I'll finish it out."

Rounding the last buoy on my way back to the first, then back to shore, felt amazing. No pain, no tiredness, and finally the boredom had slipped away. I didn't stop to check my watch at the first buoy; just turned and headed in to shore. When I did stand up at the edge of the water, my watch read 1:34.

I forgot to note this yesterday, but I started wearing earplugs, and it's made all the difference in my ability to bilaterally breathe in open water and my lack of dizzyness on exiting the water. I'd never worn them before, but they're really effective, and not all that uncomfortable. So I might end up wearing them for the race. I did, however, get the post-swim runny nose for the next four hours, which I hate. And I woke up this morning with a runny nose, so I might be getting sick. Yuck.

And in other news that's relevant to my new life as a not-fat person, I went shopping yesterday and got a ton of cute new things - all from the teenager department of Macy's, because I'm a dork and shopping where "adults" buy their clothes kinda freaks me out now. One of the things was a ridiculous prom-type dress (knee-length). I didn't even try it on - I was paying for my other purchases, and I saw this pink and black lace thing tossed on a counter. I asked John to go pick it up so I could see what it was, and I could just tell it would a) fit me perfectly and b) look great. So I got that, too. Now I just need an occasion to wear it...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Nearly done...

...with my high-volume week, and I'm feeling pretty good!

In fact: This looks like my highest-volume week for the rest of my training. The schedule says 16 hours; I'll actually be around 19 when I complete all that I have planned for the weekend.

Then most weeks for the rest of my training will be 14 hours, not including yoga.

Today I swam in the lake. It was slightly warmer than last week, and by halfway through the first lap (maybe 1/6 of a mile) I felt warm enough to stay in the water forever. So that was nice.

I ran at lunchtime, and it's the warmest day we've had I think so far this Spring (of course it's only 65 degrees or so). It reminded me how I need to do more running later in the day, when it's hot. There will be no whining from me about heat on Ironman Canada, because I will have trained in heat and I will be ready for it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A memory

I didn't want to run outside at first. This was just over three years ago, and I remember running 1.1 miles downhill to Grasslawn Park from the Pro Club...then turning around and having to walk up the beginning of the hill on the way back.

My heart rate was in the 180s; I poured sweat; my legs felt like lead. I looked away from the street in hopes that no one driving by would recognize me - the fat girl trying to run.

This morning, I mapped a ridiculous route. It took us from the Pro Club on the border of Redmond and Bellevue all the way into downtown Bellevue; then to Medina, Clyde Hill, Hunt's Point, downtown Kirkland, and back into Redmond.

And despite my high training volume in the early part of this week - despite the hills of Bellevue (don't believe the elevation profile of the route - it's way wrong) - despite the distance - I didn't even question whether I could do it.

I did it joyfully, too - I honestly felt like dancing and singing the entire way. I felt light and light-hearted.

Nine miles in, I said to Nancy and Sarah, "Hey. I'm going to be an Ironman."

I love runs and rides like this - where I feel Ironman is so within my reach. I've had the opposite, too - but more and more, I feel this way. I can do this. It's going to happen.

They looked at me like, "Duh!"

And I replied, "Come on. Sarah, you knew me before. Where did I come from? How did this happen?"

Maybe it was always there, dormant under the layers of fat. Or maybe it just developed organically as I experienced each new thing - a completed 5K, a 5-mile run, my first 50-mile bike ride, and so on.

Either way, I hope I always remember what it was like to not make it up that hill way back when. I want to cherish that memory as a starting point - recognizing now that I can only imagine what the end-point will be. There's always something bigger - and I just believe so much now that whatever it is, it's achievable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hangin' with the big boyz

The last two weeks, I've weenied out of my Wednesday intense bike ride.

I forgot what my excuses were - oh wait, I remember. Two weeks ago I overdid Monday and Tuesday so was too sore on Wednesday, and last week was a weird day because I had to drop off my car at the dealership and just got busy at work. But it's all a bunch of excuses, anyway.

And this week, since I skipped the Monday ride I'm supposed to lead, leaving the other leader to do it, I figured I really had to show up.

My commute this morning was a good test: I rode in and instead of doing the longer, gentler hill I went for the puke fest that is Kamber Road. (Okay, so if you look at these links, the longer, gentler one looks harder. Well, it's NOT. Kamber reduces me below 5 mph; on the other even in the steepest parts I can do 7 or 8 mph.)

But even Kamber didn't kill me. In fact, it was surprising okay. I can't use the word "easy," because I doubt it will ever be, but it was fine. I'd do it daily. Which is different from last year, when I said once I'd done it, I would never do it again. (And that was on the road bike!)

So anyway, I bike-commuted 15 miles to work, and since it went well, decided I had no reason not to meet the guys for the "strenuous" lunchtime ride - average pace on the flats = 18 to 21 mph.

We chose a hilly route, as always, but I was surprised to find myself hanging quite comfortably with the guys on all the flats and downhills. (And I definitely noticed a difference riding the tri bike on rollers: I keep my speed so much better so I barely have to do anything to sail up the next part!)

The uphill was a different story. I wasn't far behind, but I was definitely behind. However, I took no rest at the top of each hill.

All of it felt okay - My legs didn't feel sore or tired. I was just annoyed that I was behind. I asked Albert, the ride leader, why. His theory was that I just don't have the power of the bigger, more muscular guys - but on the flats, I also don't have the resistance. I guess that makes sense.

It was tough, though, not to give up on the big climbs. There are so many excuses: I'm a woman, I'm smaller, they're better. But it doesn't have to be that way! And today, I really didn't give up - I pushed to the end and felt good about it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Running in the jungle - and cycling in the urban jungle

I got this bee in my bonnet sometime yesterday about running for three hours today. It was totally NOT on my schedule - in fact, I only had an hour of running plus strength training today - but I wanted to run, I had people to run with, and I just wanted to do a really long training day today.

So, I did. I met Nancy and Shona at 6 a.m. for a trail run for an hour. Shona showed us a new route, and it felt like a rollercoaster! Lots of little ups and downs, and then lots of jumps side to side to avoid horse poop and big puddles. And mud - lots of mud. I was pretty dirty when we were finished.

I felt really strong and solid the entire way - and I was supposed to meet Tosha at 7 a.m. back at the club. Well, at 6:48 we were still about two miles away from the club. Nancy and Shona told me to go on without them, and I basically ran at just under my 5K race pace or so the rest of the way - which was largely uphill. I felt like a champion, though, when I reached Tosha.

We promptly turned around and went back the way I'd come, doing a couple of miles on trail but the rest on sidewalk. It was a social, chatty run, which was fabulous because I was fading a little and I hadn't seen Tosha in a while, so it was nice to catch up.

At noon, Erick and I went out, heading back for Bridle Trails. Right when I started out, my heart rate was elevated, and it really never dropped back to 'normal' or expected levels. It was okay - especially once we got off the sidewalks and onto the trail - but I was clearly showing the effects of 12 miles earlier in the day.

Towards the end of the run, there's a fairly significant hill. Erick decided to show me up and basically sprinted it. It was humbling, to say the least - and kind of demotivating. Had he (or anyone else) been behind me, I think I would have pushed hard to prove how tough I can be. But since he dropped me like a rock and I knew I couldn't catch up, 18 running miles into my day, I sort of gave up a little. It reminded me of this article I'd just read about women who mountain bike, and how they often watch instead of participate when they go out with the guys because they feel like they'll never be as good, as strong, as whatever. Well, that didn't help motivate me any more at the time, really, but maybe next time it will.

Then...well, because I'm a little insane, I decided to leave my car at work and bike home. The evening commute is so nutty. There are just so many cars on the roads, and they're all turning or doing weird stuff, and every time I ride I feel like I have to avoid all these obstacles and react really quickly to changing conditions. It's kind of nice - I feel like riding during commute times actually helps me build more technical riding skills.

I also fear for my life about once every 10 minutes or so - like today when I was going straight and a pickup truck coming the opposite direction wanted to turn left into me. I yelled, "Aaaah!" (fortunately, the truck's window was open) and it stopped and didn't hit me. But..."Aaaah?" What in the world is that??? How about "Watch where you're going" or "Cyclist coming through" or something? Just...scream if you think you're going to get hit by a car?

I guess it was effective. I got home safely.

And tonight I feel really, really good. I've got some muscle soreness, but not a ton - hopefully tomorrow I'll still feel okay! Two more big training days, then Friday will be light, then a big Saturday, then off Sunday, then I'm on to a rest week. Yay!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back to FitDay

So...I've been a very bad girl. And the scale is the proof.

I know there are some mitigating circumstances...okay, that's a horrible excuse. My weight is up like five pounds (and that's from my maximum acceptable weight, not the weight I want to be), and on my body, that's significant and I need to fix it. Not tomorrow, not next week, NOW.

What's so frustrating is that when I swim and bike and run and do yoga, I feel so strong and sometimes even pretty fast! It's like my body doesn't realize it's carrying some extra pounds - it should be less responsive, but my training is helping despite the damage I've been doing.

So, it's time to undo. I'm back to meal-tracking on FitDay and I'm back to daily weighing.

It's a very slippery slope. It would be so easy to be fat again.

Today I managed to stay away from the candy, drink only one cup of coffee, and stay under 1600 calories. That's good.

Tomorrow will be harder: I have a lot of running planned, and it will inevitably make me hungry.

But if I can perform like this with a few extra pounds, I just have to keep in mind how much better I can do without them.

This is part of the problem, though: it's the "good enough" mentality. I can't allow myself to just settle for "good enough" when I know I could do better.

Time to get serious. Wish me luck.

Oh, and in terms of training: I mostly took today off and just did hot yoga. I woke up kind of stiff and sore, especially in my hamstrings, so I thought it best to take it easy. See? I'm not that insane!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Out for a joy ride

Today I volunteered to lead a ride for the Cascade Bicycle Club. They have a weekly training series for their long event rides, and this week they were doing 65 miles with a starting point near my house. I needed to get a long ride in, so I figured I'd volunteer while I did it.

I rode "sweep" - the last rider - for the moderate (14 to 16 mph) pace group. There were four different groups; mine was the third. Therefore, my job was to make sure anyone who fell behind, had mechanical problems, or needed to stop had the map and knew the group behind us was coming and he could join it.

Well, I chose that pace group because John was with me and I wanted him to be comfortable, plus I was a little tired from last night. It turned out that the pace was incredibly easy - I felt strong and happy - so I was chatting with John and everyone else around me.

About 40 miles into the ride, we stopped at a scenic point. And this guy goes up to my co-leader, Albert, and right in front of me starts telling him that I'm not doing my job as sweep!

"You've got this girl whose out for a joy ride and not doing what she's supposed to!" he said. He was angry! "Someone got a flat back there, and she didn't stop to help!"

Albert tried to explain that it wasn't my job to stop and help; it was my job to make sure she was okay and could fix her flat herself (which is the responsibility of every rider; carry your own equipment and be able to take care of yourself if necessary), but he was MAD. Which, in turn, made me mad.

Fortunately, we were facing a three-mile hill climb, so Albert had me take the stronger climbers and race it to the next rest stop. Pushing hard uphill - and COMPLETELY dropping old bitter angry man - cheered me up.

Old bitter angry man did have one thing right, though: I was out for a joy ride. I always do it for joy. If I lead a ride, it's out of the goodness of my heart - I get nothing out of it, especially when the route is already set. If it ever becomes a chore or work, forget it!

I was so proud of John, too. The slower pace helped him to stay even in terms of blood sugar and level of effort, and he was only tired at the very end (when we have to climb the horrible hill by Danielle's house). So he had a really good time, too, and today's ride made me confident that he can do the longer stuff we're planning for later in the summer. Yay!

Couple of quick notes about weather/clothing - I need to start doing this more often so I remember what to wear for different conditions instead of always guessing: the temperature was about 50 degrees this morning and didn't warm up much the rest of the day. It sprinkled all day. I wore my pink running hoodie and BikeGirl skirt, light gloves, light booties. No leg warmers. I was a little cold when starting out after the stops, but otherwise okay. Had it rained heavier, I would have wanted a jacket. I'm sure if we were riding a little faster, I wouldn't have wanted the jacket.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Bikram yoga, painting, and dancing

Today was a surprisingly good day!

After the big exercise week, I really wanted to go to yoga this morning. So I traded hours of my afternoon painting John's new shop for a 90-minute hot yoga class. However, the only class that fit into our day was the more traditional Bikram style (versus power yoga, which is what I usually do).

Well, I've been meaning to try Bikram. Danielle doesn't like it, but she thought maybe its structure would appeal to me.

In Bikram, you move much more slowly through the series of poses. holding them longer and doing multiple sets. It was actually okay for me - I didn't love it, but I certainly didn't hate it. I burned about as many calories in the 90 minute class as I do in the 60 minute power class, so it was still decent exercise.

So then I had to meet John and the kids to paint. I totally didn't want to.

However, once I figured out that I could drive my new car with its rockin' stereo into the shop and hook up my Zune to the stereo and play whatever music I wanted all afternoon, I quit whining about having to paint, started singing, and spent the entire afternoon making the new shop look great. Honestly, it's such a good thing - John started his business a year ago June 1, and already needs a bigger space! I'm incredibly proud of his success.

In the evening, the kids went to John's parents' house, and after all my singing all day, I felt like dancing. So John and I got dressed to go out - I even put on makeup, my like maybe once-every-other-month thing, and we dropped the kids off. We weren't totally sure where to go, but we started with dinner in Issaquah at a brewhouse with a couple of beers, then we headed over to West Seattle to meet up with John's brother for a couple of drinks. Two moijtos later, I was ready to dance.

We went to a club in Pioneer Square that was playing techno, but kind of weird stuff - like, '80s and '90s pop songs remixed in. Some of it was cool, some of it kind of freaked us out. We didn't really feel like we were the oldest people in the club, but I'm sorry: if I danced to it in high school, I just can't dance to it now.

We continued drinking - vodka and Red Bull now - and had enough to really let loose on the dance floor. Eventually, though, I turn into a pumpkin, and since I was going to lead a Cascade Bicycle Club ride the next day, we needed to get home.

And I'm left with one question: do the calories I burned dancing equal the calories I consumed from alcohol? Please tell me yes!

But either way, it doesn't matter - it was just so much fun, and I think we're going to have to do it again. I'm 32. I'm not dead. :-)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bike to Work Day and trail running!

Today was Bike to Work Day - of course, it's Bike to Work month, but today's the day that companies do cool stuff for cyclists - like feed them breakfast and give away a bunch of stuff!

So John and I biked in from the kids' school (actually, I biked from home to the kids' school, because there isn't enough room in the new car for two bikes, two kids, and two adults - we haven't gotten a rack yet). It was a really good ride - I was surprised how good my legs felt, even up the big hill, and generally felt strong and happy.

I rode the tri bike with the new (pink) Speedplay Zero pedals. It was really, really hard at first to clip in (though easy to get out). Eventually I got it so I could get in right away - you kind of have to twist your foot down on the outside and hope something catches. Supposedly those pedals take a while to "work in" - but I think after today's ride I'm feeling confident about riding it in the city (where you have to stop and start a lot). I wanted to first do a ride alone or only with John, who wouldn't get annoyed or drop me if I was slow to begin again after stopping at lights or whatever because I wasn't clipped in.

So Microsoft did a big breakfast, and John joined me for it. Starbucks Verona coffee. Yum yum yum. And a breakfast sandwich, and some fruit. Plus some food in bar form for later.

The morning was sunny but kind of cool; maybe in the high 40s. I only got warm going uphill. But by noon, it was in the mid-60s and gorgeous. I had brought my running shoes and clothes all the way from home in my backpack (in addition to my work clothes; thank goodness I had work shoes already in my office!), so I decided to head out for a noon run (and thereby finish all my run hours for the week! Yay!).

A co-worker joined me, so we headed up the hill-repeat hill, then beyond it to Bridle Trails State Park. The park is pretty much a rectangle, so even though I don't know where all the trails go, I know what streets border the park, so I figured I could find my way back to work eventually. My co-worker had never run in Bridle Trails, but promised he had a good sense of direction.

We ran west, choosing paths that seemed the most west and north, since we entered the park on the southeast corner. I just love running in there - there are little hills you scramble up and down, and twisty-turny paths that really activate all the muscles in your legs to keep you stable. I don't like the greater risk of turning an ankle or whatever, but it's actually worth it. Plus, it was a lot cooler in the park with all the tree cover. By the top of the hill-repeat hill, I was HOT.

We made it to the official park entrance, which is approximately at the northwest corner of the park. Then we headed on a different path back. Part of the fun was not knowing exactly where I was; it's so easy to get turned around in there and not be sure which direction you're going. There are marked trails, but I don't think they're marked well - plus they don't go exactly where I wanted to go.

I was just so happy running on the trails. I need to find a trail marathon to do. Plus I need to learn how to run 100 miles on trail so I can do the Western States Endurance Run. (Yes: I do think that wanting to do Western States qualifies me for being insane.) I also think I run faster on trail than I do on pavement. Maybe it has something to do with the uneven terrain - I don't get into a rhythm that progressively slows the longer I'm out, because I'm always jumping and twisting and just moving in more interesting ways than the sidewalk allows.

Anyway, it's like six hours after running and I'm still on a runner's high. What was I saying a few weeks ago about being afraid to run? WHATEVER!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Today I had a two-hour run on my schedule.

Guess who met me at 5:15 a.m. to take it on? Nancy and Sarah (who PR'ed together in Vancouver in the half marathon two weeks ago).

Oh yeah. I've got really, really good friends. Especially since that length of a run - for the distance they're racing right now - is completely unnecessary. Maybe not even advisable (they're doing some more half marathons).

But they read this, so I shouldn't say that. I'm just so appreciative to have them. We were talking today about inspiration, and they both said I inspired them to get more into running.

I met Nancy in the locker room. I had just run 12 miles on the treadmill, training for my first marathon. She had a locker near mine. I was kind of whining about 12 miles on the treadmill - I had to change treadmills every three miles so I wouldn't kill myself.

Nancy said, "I used to run outside, but I haven't had anyone to run with. You wouldn't want to run at 5:15 a.m., would you?"

Oh yeah I would. Anything to get off that treadmill! And so a running group was born.

I've known Sarah longer than Nancy. We worked together a few years ago, and when I was doing my weight-loss program, she was pregnant and still working out. So she was gaining weight while I was losing. (And all that working out while pregnant put her right back to completely-hot-that-woman-never-had-a-kid state, even though I've seen the little redhead to prove it!)

One day last year, after Sarah was back to pre-baby perfection, she decided to start training with me for triathlons, and we did Lake Sammamish together. Sarah used to think she was a sprinter only. She says I said to her, "I've see you run. You're built for distance!"

And she believed it, and started running with me and Nancy.

Both Nancy and Sarah were runners before I was, but Nancy wasn't into racing and neither woman was into distance. It's cool for me that I helped them discover that joy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No, I don't need a loaner car

I really needed to swim and run this morning. And I really did not need to bike - I'll be biking tomorrow, Friday, and Sunday and will be way over on bike hours for the week.

And I had to drop my car off (yup, the new one) at the dealership for a little bit of work they promised to do.

So, what did I do? I packed like 17 bags of clothes, for everything - running, cycling, swimming, and yoga (because I really wanted to do yoga, as much as I needed to swim and run) and went to bed early. I got up at 4:20, dressed in my swim stuff, and drove to my office. I dropped my bike and bags of bike clothes and work clothes there, then hit the pool at the gym.

I just did a short set of drills - 1500 yards in 30 minutes - then headed out to yoga. Yoga was really fun - the Wednesday instructor is just amazing. Then I had to drive back south to drop off the car, right after peeling off my sweaty yoga clothes, adding them to the wet swimsuit, and donning running gear.

The dealership was like, "Can we get you a loaner car?" and I was like, "No way! I'm going to run to work!" They said, "No, really, we'll pay for it, we have no problem getting you a car." So I was like, "Yeah, I get that. I am going to run to work today! And I'll bike home if my car isn't ready."

So they're like, "But how far is it?" I said, "I think it's about six miles." Their jaws dropped.

I rolled my eyes. I can run six miles in my sleep, I think. Once I convinced them I really didn't want a car, I took off.

Running through a downtown area of a city kind of sucks during commute times, but once I got out of downtown and into neighborhoods, it was a great run. I chose a hilly route and pushed hard to the top of each hill, then coasted down. And just about an hour later, I showed up in my office - happier than usual, too!

Unfortunately, I can't bike home because I have to pick up the kids. But I'll bike to get a car from John, and I'll bike home tomorrow, too, when I don't have to get the kids.

Man, I love being fit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

First open water swim - and a faster run

Okay, so I know it's May 15. And I've had open-water swimming on my calendar since May 1.

But I was away the first week, and frankly, it's just too cold here to swim outside in May! Really! This morning, it was 45 degrees when I left my house (and only 50 when I got out of the water).

The water was warmer than the air, though - but not by much. Maybe 60 degrees.

But first: I met the girls at 5:30 for a run. Kathy has been focuson on speed, so she asked if we could run a 9:15 to 9:30 pace instead of our usual 10 to 10:30 meander. All the girls were game.

For some reason, I started out first and set the pace. I just ran harder than usual - maybe a 10K race pace or so.

Kathy says for the first 4.5 miles or so, we ran at an average 9:20 pace. And Nancy says overall we did a 9:28 - both of which rock (and it makes sense that Nancy's time is slower, because we branched off and nearly all of the remainder after we split from Kathy was uphill - some slight, some steeper, but all UP).

So that was good - I felt fine the whole time. I didn't really WANT to run like that - my body is quite comfortable with a 10-minute mile - but I know I have it in me to run faster. I mean, I guess I have to know that, since my half-marathon PR is 1:57 and I really don't imagine running a half-marathon slower than that again (unless for deliberate reasons - friends, it's at the end of a half-ironman, etc). But since most of my running is long, slow stuff, sometimes I wonder if I'm losing the ability to go faster. (Not fast - with a 5K PR of 24 minutes, I can't claim speed!)

Then the swim. I got to the water, met the other crazy triathletes who needed to get in the lake this morning, and pulled on my wetsuit. I stood there in the morning sun, getting warm.

I put my little swim booties on, but realized I forgot a colored cap and only had a nylon one. Oh well. Still gotta swim.

I was the first in the water - and though it was a little shocking when the water got into my zipper, it didn't cause me to lose my breath. I was okay. I motioned to the guys to come in, and I took off for the firt buoy.

Immediately I noticed my feet were colder than I thought they should be. They were colder than my hands, and my hands weren't covered! So that was weird. But my face was okay - I wasn't putting it all the way in the water at first, but once I got a length down, I could put my face in the water properly.

I did three laps - which comes out to exactly one mile - and it took me something like 45 minutes with stops. Not so much to rest, but to look around, check for water skiers, see where the other swimmers were, etc.

And I got out of the water feeling pretty hard-core. Nice!

Now I've got to do this two or three times a week, and for longer distance. But the first time of the year is the hardest, right?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Almost enough to make me stop wearing pink...

But not quite.

Less than 1.5 miles into my bike commute this morning, I got stung by a bee.


Surely I deserved it, because my mouth was open criticizing my husband for eating an apple fritter from Starbucks before we rode to work, and consequently he was making me ride faster than I felt like riding on a Monday morning (to make up for the lost time at Starbucks). On second thought, maybe he deserved it for eating that apple fritter, not me!

Anyway, the bee stung me just inside my lower lip on the left side, and like all bee stings, it pinched at first while I brushed the bee out of my mouth, then I caught my breath and said to myself, "This isn't so bad, maybe it wasn't a bee," then the pain comes and my eyes fill up with tears as I pull the bike over to the side of the road and try to breathe until the pain dissipates.

Then it swells up, and this time, because of the location, it makes it difficult to talk and I keep biting the swollen part of my lip.

Super-fun. And it totally threw me off for the rest of the ride.

We did a different route from Friday's commute, this one coming in at 15.5 miles (Friday was 12.87). However, today it only took 1 hour, 6 minutes of riding, and Friday's shorter ride was 1 hour, 2 minutes. So this route, though longer, was less hilly and consequently we could ride faster. Or maybe fewer stoplights. Probably both.

I still have a lot of riding to do today - lunchtime ride that I lead, plus possibly a commute home unless the body shop finishes with my Lexus today (it was hit a few weeks ago in a parking lot). But actually, if the body shop finishes, I still have to ride there. So it's definitely a bike-heavy day.

Let's hope the bees find real flowers, not me!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day indeed!

Look what my dear hubby gave me for Mother's Day:

Hard to tell in this picture, but yes - it is pink. Now all my music goes with me EVERYWHERE!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My new love

I fell in love today. That's the second time this year. It must be a record for me, or something.

And what did I fall in love with? The last time, it was my bike.

This time, it's my new car!!!

This is a car that fits my lifestyle. It's all-wheel drive, so it's good for skiing and boarding. The back seats fold down, so it can fit lots of stuff. It has built-in satellite radio, so I can have good commercial-free music.

And best of all, it's ORANGE. (Yeah, I know, not pink, but seriously, orange is my second-fave color and for a car, probably my first-fave.)

It's a Nissan Murano, in case you didn't know.



Jessi invited me to join her coach and other athletes on a three-hour ride this morning. I was incredibly nervous, but I wanted to do it. I knew it would be a nice butt-kicking.

And it certainly was! We did 41 miles of finding big climbs, then enjoying fast descents. In the beginning, I hung with the group as if I always rode with them, but once they warmed up, it was clear I was the slow rider. And that was okay - I didn't get dropped (much) - city riding helps with that, because they get caught at street lights and stuff - and it really wasn't until the end of the ride where that was happening enough that there was a very real possibility that I couldn't keep up. Fortunately by then, I knew my way back. But even then, I could still see the group - I'm not sure how far back I was in distance, but it felt like with some more training and working with them, I'd be able to keep up pretty soon.

It's good for me to get almost dropped, though. Usually when I do my long rides with my friends(the groups I put together), I'm not the strongest rider, but I can be the most motivated. But that gives me some leisure to slow down on hills, take rests, wait for other riders to catch up, etc. On this ride, I had to be on my game the entire time. And frankly, it's been a while since I've done a three-hour ride where I really had to be on it - only the Wednesday Cascade club rides come close to that, and that's only an hour and half at most.

So I'd like to ride with them again, for sure. Now I have to figure out how to work it in with my "social" rides - John wants to ride with me and I've got other friends I want to see on Saturday mornings. Maybe every other week or something like that - either way, I'm so thankful to Jessi and her coach Jill for inviting me/letting me come along and giving me an excellent workout!

(Now I might need a nap, though!)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why do I tri?

Someone asked this question today on the email alias for triathletes at my company. I know I've said all this before here, but it's been a while, and it was a good reminder for me that there is a reason I do all this training and stuff. So here's what I wrote back to the alias.

I was overweight my entire life. And it didn’t matter too much – I felt like, well, other people are athletic. I am a straight-A student and can conquer anything academic.

But then, after I had kids, overweight turned into obese. And a girl who didn’t care too much about her appearance couldn’t even look at herself in a mirror any longer – I didn’t recognize myself, and I didn’t want to see what I’d become. (It got to the point where I wouldn’t even look in the mirror to brush my hair – I’d just sweep it into a ponytail and not have any idea what I looked like day-to-day.)

Then I watched a few friends go through the amazing transformation that the 20/20 program offers, and I decided I wanted that, too. It took me months, though, to work up the courage. I knew doing 20/20 would mean being weighed, photographed, measured, and all kinds of awful things.

In Feb. 2004, I took the plunge. One of the first things I told my personal trainer was, I am never going to run. He agreed that was okay.

But then that March, I decided to try running on the treadmill. I was “running” at 4.2 mph and my HR was in the 180s. I thought I was going to die. But eventually, it settled down…and I “ran” for 2.5 miles that very first time.

I signed up for Danskin that week. I’d seen a co-worker’s race number up on her wall, and it always seemed so inaccessible to me. But Danskin was in late August, just when I’d be finishing 20/20. I figured if there was a time to do it, that would be it – it could be a celebration of my success.

I didn’t start formally training for Danskin until mid-June; I needed to continue to focus on weight loss. But once I did, my workouts felt so purposeful. It was no longer exercise – it was TRAINING, and training offers a structure and goals that really appeal to my program manager personality.

Completing Danskin was a massive accomplishment, and it opened a door for me into an athletic, physical world that was now as accessible to me as the academic world. The next year, I did a couple of sprint triathlons and focused on my first full marathon. And then last year, I did a couple of half-Ironmans. There’s always another goal, something bigger, something left to prove.

This summer, I’ll prove how strong I am at Ironman Canada. I don’t expect to finish fast, but I fully expect to finish with a smile on my face, and another goal accomplished.

This is really bigger than triathlon – triathlon is huge, but it’s not everything. I’ve got a pretty significant list of things I want to do at some point. The Western States endurance run. The Death Ride. Climb Mt. Rainier.

But now, thanks to triathlon, I’m positive I can do these things. I know how to set goals, create a plan, and execute – regardless of whether it’s graduating from Vassar with honors or doing a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run in one day.

Morning commute

This morning was pretty much as perfect as a morning where I need to go to work can get.

No alarm; woke up naturally just before 6 a.m. I helped John get the kids off to school, then we biked in to work together!

It was a gorgeous morning, clear and cool, and we had just enough uphill riding to stay warm - and enough downhill to be super-fun. Although, I only hit 41.4 mph on the biggest descent, because John was in front of me and I was getting too close. Usually he bombs all the downhills, so I had him go in front. I had to yell at him, "Go! Go!"

When we were at the top of the other side (it's a valley, and you get so much speed going down that you're still coasting above 20 mph when you reach the second peak), he said, "I thought we weren't pounding this commute?" and I had to explain that we wouldn't pound the uphills, but we ALWAYS pound the descents in good weather! It's our reward!

I wish I could ride home, but I need to get my truck home somehow and pick up two kids. Somehow I don't think the tri bike is going to cut it.

Oh! Other news! I got new pedals - Speedplay Zeros. In pink, of course!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Spring rocks

First, let me just say how crazy - and rockin' - Nancy is.

She PR'ed in the Vancouver half marathon on Sunday, and still felt up to doing 1 hour, 45 minutes with me this morning. How cool is that - and how lucky am I!

We left the club at 5:15 and did a huge loop - 10.25 miles in all. Though we both felt a little tired and sore, the sunlight so early in the morning perked us up, and we had a lovely run.

I skipped my weight lifting today mostly because my legs - especially hamstrings and quads right at the knee - are still kind of sore from earlier in the week. And it also gave me a chance to get some "girl time," as my daughter calls it, with Aleks. I've been feeling a little off since I got home from Germany, and it was a nice relief to hang with a friend and not have our heart rates be up above 140. :-)

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I felt like I'd gotten a lot done at work. So in the late afternoon, I made the decision to bike home. Lately, I always keep a bicycle in my office, partly to tease me into riding, partly so I can consider commuting home. Today it worked out perfectly - I was able to leave at a reasonable hour, and I didn't have to pick up the kids.

I chose a somewhat convoluted route home to avoid traffic and get as many rockin' downhill parts as possible, because a huge climb no matter which route I took was inevitable. Today I took my punishment in the form of Lakemont Blvd.

The cool thing about Lakemont is, if you start to question why you're riding that hill, all the alternatives suck even more. Or are fabulous, if you like a sufferfest. So I just pushed on at something like 47 rpm - horrible - and 5.5 mph.

Then again, coasting at 40 mph down the other side doesn't suck one bit.

I actually made it home in 1 hour, 9 minutes (1 hour 3 minutes of riding time). Normally at that time of day my commute takes between 45 and 60 minutes. So I maybe didn't save time, but I didn't waste much - and I arrived home in an excellent mood instead of stressed out from traffic and gas prices!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I knew it

Woke up incredibly sore this morning. I decided to swim and do yoga.

It took me about 300 yards to warm up and feel like I could actually swim. My chest and shoulders are sore, though, and I could feel them the entire set (2000 yards).

Hot yoga was extra-hard today, too. I could barely do the low push-up that we do about a zillion times, and I got dizzy a handful of times. I followed the class for about 45 minutes, then for the last 15 took a lot of breaks to allow myself to recover.

I guess hitting it so hard Monday and Tuesday after being off for a week - and drinking, and not sleeping, and not eating properly - is probably not the right way to train.

I did skip my intense bike ride. I knew there was no way I could keep up with the group today. And I feel incredibly guilty, too! I know I will make up the hours this week, but when I plan to work out and don't, I really give myself a hard time. I need to cut that out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ouch! Overdid it a bit

You know it's going to be bad when you're already sore before the next day! (Yeah, but I do love it.)

So...yesterday, first day back after a week of little formal exercise, felt good at the time. But today, I'm pretty sore. If I laugh, my obliques and other abdominal muscles hurt. And my triceps - those tricep pushups in hot yoga! - hurt, too.

How do I celebrate my soreness? With 30 minutes of strength training (all muscle groups, plus as much abs as I could stomach, pun definitely intended), an hour and 10 minutes of running the trails with the girls, 45 minutes of hill repeats up the steep hill I wrote about a few weeks ago, and top it off with a bike commute home.

The cool thing about the bike commute, though, was that I averaged 16 mph (which, when you factor in all the streetlights, turns, etc, is pretty darned good) and I passed dozens of cars stuck in traffic. Yay wide shoulders! But boo Bellevue - it sucks. There's no reasonable way to get from my office to the roads with good bike lanes except for using the sidewalk, which I'm fairly opposed to.

The hill repeats were super-fun, too, because it was sunny and warm and my heart rate never exceeded 176 - and even that was only at the very end. I did four repeats, then back up the other way towards my office. So in all I climbed five significant hills.

We'll see how I feel tomorrow. Maybe a solid night's sleep will fix me and I'll be ready to go again. I think I'm going to repeat the Monday workout, though, of swimming at 5, yoga at 6:30. It makes sense given how I feel right now.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A perfect morning

So I learned something cool this morning: When you get used to 3 or 4 hours of sleep, getting a full 6 feels amazing! I pretty much jumped out of bed at 4:30 ready to go!

I know I had said I was going to bike-commute to work, but later in the day I decided I was really missing hot yoga and it would probably be good to swim, too. So I hit the pool at 5 a.m., swam 2000 yards, then headed over to yoga.

There was a new instructor at the yoga class, so it was kind of hard to get into the flow. But I burned a ton of calories - I think I'm dehydrated (because I've been drinking a ton of water and not really having to go to the potty).

I did need my bike at work, though, so I asked John to bring it, and I drove over to his shop and swapped my car for my bike (ha ha, there's no gas in my car either!). I had packed my clothes for work in a new backpack, so I headed out on the tri bike.

I decided to take the shortest yet steepest way to work, just to see how it would go with both the new bike and a backpack. Last year, when I first rode this hill, it merited its own blog post. But today, it was pretty much nothing. I mean, it was a hill...but it ended really quickly and I never felt like I was going to fall over. SWEET! I'm so much stronger on my bike now than I was last year.

At lunchtime, I led the Cascade Bike Club ride. Only one rider showed up, and I knew he could ride harder than the advertised pace (he's stronger than me), so I just rode my route and let him come along. It is a gorgeous, sunny day - and I put in lots of hills (ascents and descents, good rewards). It was a taste of summer!

I'm still feeling pretty darn fabulous. Work is actually kind of fun, too! See, routine isn't that bad!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

One last ski day...and congratulations!!!

Last week, when I was telling Danielle that maybe I'd go skiing while in Germany, she said, "Come on! Isn't ski season over?"

And at the time, I thought, she's right. I should put away the skis and snowboards and focus on cycling and all of our fun spring and summer sports.

But then I had that incredible day in the Alps. And today was closing day at Alpental, our local ski area. So this morning, John, Gabriel and I hit the slopes for one last time.

The snow was fairly awful; gluey and really uneven, with moguls everywhere. We did a few intermediate runs and then played for a while on the beginner slope, on the jumps that got me good a couple of weeks ago ( can't remember if I wrote about that, but I fell a few times).

This time, I think thanks to my practice in the terrain park on Tuesday, I didn't fall on the jumps. I also was able to ski the moguls okay.

We only spent the morning there. At noon, we took off...and when we got home, finally put the skis and boards to bed for the summer.

On our way home, I bought a new backpack. Tomorrow I begin bike-commuting to work! YAY!!!


Okay, so, big congratulations go out to my girls, Nancy, Sarah, and Wendy - all of whom (I think) PR'ed today in the Vancouver Half Marathon! I'm so proud of each of them. Nancy went from someone who said she wasn't interested in racing to signing up for something like 4 half marathons this year; Sarah used to think she was a sprinter, not a distance/endurance girl and has certainly proven herself wrong, and Wendy is dealing with a 75% torn rotator cuff and still pulled off a fast half marathon! Way to go, ladies!!!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Home and tired

I'm back home now. Aren't transatlantic flights amazing? In the oddity of time zone changes, I left Amsterdam at 1 p.m. and arrived in Seattle at 2 p.m. So today is a 34-hour day.

It was super fun, but I need to get back on my regular eating, sleeping, and exercise schedule. I'm surprised how well I've done without sleep, but now it's time to get back to normal.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I'm a weenie

I had an opportunity to wakeboard yesterday, and I couldn't do it.

It was kind of cold outside. I have only tried it twice before and was pretty bad at it. And this wasn't even behind a boat - it was attached to a cable that goes around a small man-made lake. Oh, and I would have had to wear a swimsuit and wetsuit in front of my co-workers.

I figured either way, I was getting teased - either for sucking or for being a weenie and not doing it. I chose to be teased for what I didn't do rather than what I did.

It was actually fun to watch the guys who did wakeboard go - and there were a couple of really good locals that were exciting to watch, too.

Other than that, it was a fairly easygoing day. We thought about going out to a club, but ended up staying in the hotel at night and chilling out. I got a little more sleep than I had the rest of the week.

This has been a fun week, but at this point, I'm looking forward to getting back to normal. Regular sleep and exercise sounds good. And I really miss my bike!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Out here all night, out here all day

Apparently there is a Beer Festival like every season or something in Munich. So last night was another beer drinking night.

I had a new plan, though: just one stein. I drank it with our dinner (of sausages, potato balls, chicken, and humongous pretzels) and refused anything more.

The beer festival was like a county fair, without the animals and stuff. It had a bunch of carnival rides and midway games. As soon as we finished eating, we were ready to hit the rides.

It's been a long, long time since I went on rides like that! John doesn't like them, and my kids are too little for them yet. So first we went on a giant slide - Joe, Erick and I raced. I lost. I claim it's the 45 to 85 pounds they have on me.

Then we went on some crazy ride where we're harnessed in and it swings up in the air, upside down, back down towards the ground, and just all over the place. It also has fountains of water, and at one point, the ride brought us low enough that the water was in our faces! I kind of thought we were going to choke on all the water, because I was laughing hysterically as I was getting wet, but we were fine.

We went on twirly rides and a ferris wheel and those huge swings and a few other things. I felt like a teenager! Because it was a Wednesday night, the place was pretty empty - so we didn't have to wait and could just run from ride to ride like kids. I kind of want to go back tonight. :-)

Then we returned to the beer tent and live music. I still didn't drink, but as people were starting to get up and dance on the benches that surrounded our tables, my companions seemed to look to me to get it started. By then I didn't feel the effect of the beer any longer - remember, I didn't drink that much - but I felt so revved up and happy that I had no problem. I got up on the bench and figured out the rhythm to clap in time with everyone else. (Seriously, I have a lot of trouble clapping. Not my talent, for sure.)

My getting up on the bench (in high heels to boot - I had to be really careful with my dancing so I wouldn't fall, and I did slip a couple of times) convinced the rest of my table to get up - so we danced for a few songs until the band was done playing.

Then Noah, who says he wasn't a frat boy in college but I'm not sure I believe him, starts singing "Hey Jude." Apparently that's a thing from his college days, and one of his college friends had met us at the beer festival. So we started singing, and actually got a whole bunch of other tables to sing along for a bit, too.

Everything shut down fairly early; we took the subway back to the hotel. No one was quite ready for bed, but we weren't ready to go out, either. We decided to get a couple bottles of wine and chill out in someone's room. So that was cool - we hung out until about 3 a.m., when I was pretty close to falling asleep.

I didn't get exercise yesterday, though (other than walking and running around the carnival), so I really wanted to run today. I convinced Erick that he didn't need more than 4 hours of sleep and he should meet me at 7:30 for a run.

This morning was gorgeous again and we ran for about an hour and five minutes. I didn't eat before we ran, so it was a little tough - I definitely had an elevated heart rate and I even got a side stitch for like half of my run. But it was fun anyway. I just love all the trails through the nearby English Garden - it's HUGE - and the sidewalks are wide and streets are pedestrian-friendly.

When I got back to my room to shower and get dressed, I put the TV on because it plays music. I found myself dancing and singing along while drying my hair - how weird is that? So far this week, my sleep looks like this:

Friday, Apr. 27: 5 hours
Saturday, April 28: 0 hours - but I lost 9 in travel
Sunday, April 29: 7 hours
Monday, April 30: 5 hours
Tuesday, May 1: 3 hours
Wednesday, May 2: 4 hours

So...that's a total of 24 hours of sleep over six nights, averaging 4 hours per night.

Why do I feel so good? So normal? I've also had less caffeine than usual and way more alcohol.

I hope it catches up with me when I get on the plane in Amsterdam and fly (business-class, of course, yeah baby!) home for 9 hours or whatever and I sleep the entire way. I'm having fun being awake!!!

(post title courtesy of the song "Out here all night" by Damone)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Skiing in the Alps, Pizza in Italy, 220 kmh on the Autobahn

One of my co-workers, Joe, is pretty much the most avid skier I know. So when he found out he could go on this trip to Germany with our group, he set out to discover whether we would be able to ski while we were here.

Yup - just about an hour away, high in the Alps, a ski area was scheduled to close on May 1 - the very day we had off for sightseeing and whatever. SCORE!

However, other people persuaded me that Germany had had a very poor ski season, the ski area would likely close sooner than May 1, and skiing probably wouldn't happen. So I didn't bring my ski pants or gloves. I did bring my jacket and sunglasses, though.

Joe brought all of his gear (except skis and boots, of course - too much to lug) and was totally serious about going. And if someone is going skiing, and I have the day off, well, everyone knows where I would be.

We met for breakfast at 6:30. The car rental place was supposed to open at 7. Well, it's a national holiday - so it was closed. Strike one!

We hopped in a taxi and went to the train station. We could have taken a train, but a car-rental place at the train station happened to be open. We got a BMW 320S Limited. Now we get to drive on the Autobahn!

The car had a navigation system. We named the voice Ingrid and plugged in the general area we were headed to.

I wasn't really interested in driving, even though it was a hot car and a six-speed. On the way to the ski area, Joe got the car up to 230 kmh. No speed limit is amazing - kind of liberating and sickening all at once.

We found the town outside the ski area easily, then pretty much followed the road until we could see the train and cable cars that went up to the ski area. We took the cable car up - at times it was like we were scaling a rock wall, way above the tree line, and it was amazing and beautiful and a little scary.

The ski area - Zugspitze - is actually a bowl at the top of the mountain. I suppose more of it is open when there's snow, but it was probably 65 degrees and the snow was soft, spring stuff. At the top, there was only one actual chair lift and the rest were T-bars, which I'd never done before. We rented skis, and I hit the slopes in my jeans with running tights underneath for warmth. Joe thought it was warm enough to go gloveless, so I used his.

We hit every lift on the mountain that was open. They were all pretty much blue and green cruisers, so I had fun trying to go fast and keep up with Joe (which isn't actually possible, but I tried). We soon discovered, though, that the most fun to be had was in the terrain park.

Joe is pretty good, so I figured I'd just watch him and take pictures.

Then he convinced me to try a small box. All I had to do was ski straight onto it and jump off.

The first time, I was terrified and didn't come close to landing it. In the pictures, I look okay heading onto it, but then at the end I got scared and leaned back and landed on my bottom.

The second time, I almost caught myself before falling. But that time something cemented for me, and I knew I could do it if I tried again.

The third try was perfect. I landed it and skied right off. Sweet!

Then Joe suggested I try a small rainbow box. He promised it was easier. And I landed that my first try!

My second try, though, was a disaster. I fell off the side. The thing is, the photos from before I fall look like I was trying to go sideways, so it's sort of cool.

Joe was doing a larger jump and a much larger rainbow box, so pretty much for the rest of the day we took turns taking pictures and video of each other in the terrain park. The ski area was fairly empty, so it wasn't embarrassing at all.

At one point, Joe told me to go faster than I ever had over the rainbow box - so I got some speed leading up to it and basically launched off the first half of the rainbow into the air - and landed upright! It was amazing!

So at the end of the day, we decided to go to Switzerland. Joe thought it was just over one of the peaks we'd been looking at all day.

Well, let's just say our mental map of Europe wasn't as good as we thought. We bought a map, and found out it was Austria that was over the peak, not Switzerland. So we figured we'd go to Austria.

Joe drove while I studied the map. I realized we were actually pretty close to Italy, too - we could go straight through Austria and be in Italy in another hour or so.

We decided to have dinner in Italy.

How insane - and cool - is that???

So we drove at crazy speeds (when allowed...and the entire part in Italy was subject to speed limits) to Bolzano (also known as Bozen...everything in this part of Italy that we saw was in German and Italian). It was the biggest city we thought we could reach in a reasonable amount of time.

Once there, we were hungry. But Joe didn't have decent clothing - he had a base layer, board shorts, and his ski pants - so we knew we couldn't go anywhere super-nice. Plus, it was close to 9 p.m. and we wanted pizza in Italy.

We parked the car and walked around for a while, not finding a pizzeria. Finally, we jumped in a cab, said to the driver, "Buona pizza?" and that we wanted to be close to where we were. "One kilometer?" he replied. We agreed, and he drove us to a pizzeria. He also called over the manager as we were exiting the cab. I can understand Italian - can't speak it very well though - and I know he said that we were English speakers who wanted good pizza.

And OH. MY. GOODNESS. The pizza was incredible. Seriously. I had a pizza with roasted peppers; Joe had a pizza with salami; I also got a mozarella caprese starter. Everything was absolutely perfect and delicious. We got a bottle of wine, but only drank one glass each (plus a liter of water each) - and the restaurant let us cork the bottle and take it with us.

The drive back to the hotel - 282 kilometers by now - was a little rough. It was 11 p.m. and we were tired. We drank some Red Bulls we picked up at a gas station and tried to find something to talk about. But it was not happening.

Finally, we pulled off to get gas and go to the bathroom. When we came back to the car, Joe handed me the key and told me to drive.

I asked if he was tired; he said no. He said he really wanted me to drive.

I really didn't want to.

But I felt like it was not fair to expect to be driven around all day, so I got behind the wheel and started the car.


Driving woke me up immediately. That car is freaking awesome. It was so smooth and quiet and just plain FUN to drive! I perked up a ton and said THANK YOU to Joe for letting me have the keys.

And then we got into the sections where there's no speed limit. Driving as fast as I want on super-straight, flat highways was incredible. I had to work into it - first getting accustomed to 140, 150 kmh, then moving up into the 160s and 170s. I ended up finding 170 pretty comfortable - that's like what, more than 100 mph - but I was able to push my speed at one point up to 220 kmh. That's FAST.

And it felt so awesome.

It was pretty much the most perfect day I could have had. Everything just came together - the car, the skiing, the weather, the traveling.

And now, it's time to work. That's why I'm here in Germany, right? Right? :-)