Friday, March 31, 2006


A lady kindly offered to take my picture today, when I stopped my bike at an overlook. I wish we'd placed it a little better, without that bush on the right, so a person can tell it's the Grand Canyon behind me. She knew something about biking. Asked what supplies I carry for flats. Knew what an air canister is. Asked how well my helmet mirror serves its purpose. And offered to take my picture with the bike. Only a biker would know to ask this.

Here's how my training week has gone:

Monday: 60 minute run. The batteries in our GPS had conked out so I didn't measure. I went more slowly than usual, since at 7,000 feet elevation I don't have the breathing power I do down on the ground. But it felt like a good effort, and I figured it was probably 5.5 miles, by how it felt. It was 45*F and cloudy, very nice for running in shorts (yes, my cutoffs) and t-shirt.

Tuesday: 60 minute ride. Again, I took it slow and easy. Used my granny gears a lot --- like, a whole lot, because there were many long, slow inclines, and I still haven't got my "mountain lungs" (I've read it takes 3 weeks to produce enough additional red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen after a significant altitude change.) 13.1 miles. It was about 40*F, with rain showers and a little sleet, and enough wind to make it nasty. I wore tights, a longsleeved shirt, knit full gloves under my bike gloves, earmuffs under my helmet, thin wool running socks which proved not to be adequate -- my feet got wet and very cold -- and a wonderful rainsuit I got about 10 years ago for $6 at Goodwill. Longsleeved full-zip jacket and long pants with on-off leg zippers, it's thin flexible vinyl of some sort, lined with nylon tricot so it doesn't stick to you, with vents in secreted places (behind pockets, under a back yoke). It's made by Izod, which my son-in-law tells me is a well-known manufacturer of outdoor gear. And my blaze-orange hunting vest over the whole costume for visibility. I was actually too warm in that whole outfit, except my feet, which were ice blocks.

Wednesday: Rest day, and a good thing, because there was snow, sleet, and hail off and on all day.

Thursday: 60 minute ride. I went the way I'd run on Monday to measure it and found... well, I'd thought it was 5.5, recorded 5 miles to be conservative, but discovered the run was really 4.6 miles. That works out to 12:40 pace. This means the altitude slowed me down by 2-2.5 minutes per mile, although it felt like a normal effort. Today's ride was 14.1 miles in an hour, a mile farther than Tuesday, and I only felt I was suffocating about twice. 45*F, cloudy -- tights, sweatshirt, orange vest, wool hiking socks. A little too warm, but my feet were good.

Friday (today): 75-minute ride. Again, lots of granny gears because this was an "easy, just getting in some miles" day. I didn't challenge myself on hills, or push, tried to stay in gears that would keep me going easy at about 80-85 rpm. (Count for 15 seconds and multiply by 4... I don't have a cadence computer. Yet.) It was easy and comfortable and I still made 17.6 miles in 75 minutes, averaging 14.1 without undue effort. Only felt "suffocation mode" once.

Tomorrow is a rest day. Sunday I'm schduled for an 8-9 mile run. I have pinpointed my turnaround for 9 on the bike. I have to do it early because Sunday we are also taking my monther back to Phoenix (5-hr drive) to the airport. We'll stay overnight with Steve's sister there.

It is so beautiful here, running and biking. Overlooks to canyon vistas, pine trees, desert junipers, snow patches, crisp fresh air, hardly any traffic .... everything we didn't have in Arizona. Oops, this is still Arizona. Well, everything we didn't have in Apache Junction and Mesa. I loved hiking in the desert and up and down its rocky mountains, and biking on flat roads, but, well, I like trees lining my roads and on my hillsides. You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Well, at least in this one, we have a rail behind us. Steve, Mom, and me.

Here's Mom.

And Steve.

And then this little guy.

He was as tame as a family pet. There are signs everywhere saying it's illegal to feed or approach wildlife. However, this fella was begging for handouts and eating chips, sandwiches, whatever people gave him. He took food from people's hands. He climbed into their laps. He ran up their arms. Everyone was clustered around taking pictures.

Steve commented that people from different states and different countries have traveled hundreds, thousands, of miles to see this, the Grand Canyon, which is right there in all its glory on a beautiful day, and everyone is crowding around taking pictures of a stupid squirrel.

I thought it was pretty funnny, too, but I also thought the squirrel on the wall with the Canyon in the background gave an interesting perspective on relative size, and a commentary on different meanings of "a moment in time," which describes the lifespan of both the Canyon and the squirrel.

A bus driver yesterday (you have to ride the bus to go anywhere, cars aren't allowed throughout the park) told me that the number one condition for which Canyon visitors seek first aid and medical attention is squirrel bites.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Well, it's been cloudy and/or raining and/or snowing since we arrived, and I haven't been able to get the classic Red-Canyon-Against-Crystal-Blue-Sky photos. What I have gotten instead is mist, light, shadow, and muted pastels. I have also gotten wet and cold, both shooting photos and training. Yesterday I did my scheduled hour-long bike ride in wind, rain and sleet. The day I ran was not bad, 45* and cloudy. The issue I hadn't counted on is elevation. 7,000 feet. I've had to back way off in intensity or I feel like I'm suffocating. But I'm hanging in there.

This is a rock fomation I love. Totally amazing to think of the erosional force of water creating something so intricate.

Light on spires between the clouds.

In the distance you can see a rainshower moving in.

And today, in between snow squalls, a small patch of sun pierced through the mist down into the depths and painted this, down low in the canyon.

Today all day there were snow squalls, sleet, hail the size of BB's, and thunder. High temp was 36*F. Snow accumulated to an inch or so several times, melting in between. Tonight temps in the 20's are expected. Tomorrow, though, is supposed to be better. Next week is really supposed to improve. That's good; Steve and I want to hike some of the trails down inside. My 85-yr-old mother from Maryland is here this week, so we're mostly doing things we can do via shuttle bus and wheelchair. She can walk, just not far, especially at this altitude. She is really enjoying being here.

Friday, March 24, 2006


I don't have much to say, just want to get my blog active again after last week's lag. What went d0wn today? Hmmm, laundry (4 washer-loads at the RV park laundromat, 3 trips back and forth at a 5-minute walk each way); grocery shopping at Super Wal-Mart, where I also got a little step to help my mother reach the running-board of our truck (she's coming tomorrow for a week's visit, including the Grand Canyon); putting away all of said groceries (I hate that); then a run that was supposed to be 7 miles but I took a Pat-style "I wonder where this road goes?" detour and probably ended up with between 8 and 9 miles. 88 minutes, whatever that works out to; I didn't have the GPS with me.

I've run about 136 miles since I started my imaginary "Maryland to Florida" run. I'm still in West Virginia, where I've been for ages and ages.

Tomorrow we pick up my 85-yr-old mother at the airport; later we're all having dinner at my in-laws', which is nice so they and my mother will get to see each other, and I won't have to fix dinner the night before we pull up anchor and sail away. I am nowhere near ready to go, and won't have a lot of time tomorrow to make much progress towards it. Oh, well... I'll just cram stuff anywhere it will be protected and more or less restrained and we'll manage. Here's what goes into being ready to go. And that doesn't include the "outdoor" stuff, the bikes and kayaks and tools and patio furniture and things like that which come out when we stay somewhere for an extended time. Technically, Steve's in charge of the outdoors and I'm in charge of the indoors, but it takes 2 to put the kayaks on the rack, and I generally am the one to disconnect the water and electricity, roll up the patio rug, sweep the patio, and a whole lot of "outdoor" things.

Plus I need to squeeze in a 40-minute swim sometime tomorrow. I'm on a SCHEDULE. I have a COACH. And I haven't had my mysterious crash-and-burn illness in the two months that I've been following her instructions.

I think I'll go to bed now.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Steve and I took a trip up to Sedona Tuesday. It is so beautiful. Mind-blowing. At least the parts that are unaltered by human beings... Some dodo, or group thereof, has seen fit to build a ritzy resort right smack in the middle of the grandeur. I guess part of its ritziness lies in the way its structures blend with the color and alignment of what God built there, but the whole thing smacks of "Well, aren't we special?" Other than that...

We hiked into Boynton Canyon, a 5-mile round trip. Going in it was cloudy and cool.

What cataclysm must it have taken for these rocks to land like this? I loved this stump. I have an affinity for has-been's ... things that have seen better days but have a different beauty now, in this, their afterlife, which barely speaks of their past.
Manazanita, a hardwood shrub that grows in desert highlands. It grows all twisted and gnarled and complicated, live red bark growing on dried deadwood, bark now in its better days, in companionship with what has only seen better days and is no more.

Sleet started at our turnaround point, changed to wet snow/rain, then all snow. I was astonished how fast the dry washes had water in them. If it had been raining hard we could have been in trouble. We did a fair amount of puddle-jumping. I would have thought that with all the hiking I've done I'd be prepared for anything but I hadn't really expected to do a significant hike, had no hat, no gloves, only my denim jacket; luckily Steve had an extra sweatshirt. The whole 2.5 miles out was friggin' wet and cold. Here is a shot as we were leaving. The white glob at the bottom is snow that had already piled up on the hood and windshield in the parking lot.

Back in Mesa it was still 55* when we got home at 8p.m.

We have just today, Friday and Saturday in Mesa and then we pull out for the Grand Canyon, and after 10 days there we start our month-long trip back east.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Yay! First time since last Saturday! In the rain! Running and swimming, 30 minutes each. I feel so much better. Ever feel, after you've been sick and not up to training, that you're still not up to it, but you go do it and afterwards you feel SO much better? That's how I feel!

Saturday, March 18, 2006


Whew. We have a week now of "normalcy" (is that the word? "Normality," maybe? Just call it relatively normal life.)

All the family has gone home. Lots of people have commented on the huge family.... they weren't even all here! All my father-in-law's 6 children were, but only 2 of their spouses; 4 adult and 2 young grandchildren out of 17; 4 grandchild spouses; only one out of 5 great-grandchildren.

You're right, big family. My husband's family. I am an only child and have very few relatives.

I haven't trained at all. In addition to family activities, I've had the crud. It's not my standard overtraining syndrome; it's going around: sore scratchy throat, no cold symptoms, minor cough, extreme fatigue. I am a bit better now and may try running a few easy miles.

Pat and I are hoping for one more bike ride in the coming week, but she's had family and the same crud bug and hasn't been riding either, so I don't think we'll be riding to Tucson :-( We're hoping for 50 or 60 miles.

Next Saturday we pick up my mother at the airport in Phoenix. The next day we head out to the Grand Canyon for about 10 days. Mom will be with us for a week there. And after a few more days, we will start our month-long meander back to Maryland, getting there about the first of May to stay until October.

A week to take a breath and then the gypsy life starts again. I like traveling, being a vagabond. After nearly 2 years of it I get itchy staying more than a month or so in one place.

However, there's no place like home.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Well, here's an updated picture, taken at the Big Party which was still in the future when I wrote the post below. I'm last on the right in the second row, above our nephew's right shoulder. The minuscule munchkin in front on the left is our granddaughter Abbie, who at 3 is older than she looks in the picture.

Here's the post what I wrote March 9:
The big Family Week starts today. Son Jon, his wife Jamie and 3-yr-old Abbie are flying in; tomorrow daughter Val and S.O. Anthony get here, as well as Steve's sister Carol and her husband Dan from Dallas; tomorrow afternoon everyone's going to a Cubs practice game; at some point Steve's sister Sandy and brother Mark are coming; also Sandy's daughter Rachel and her husband Brian, and son Derek and girlfriend Sarah. Saturday is the big surprise 80th BD party for Steve's dad. He knows there's a party and that Mark is coming, but Mark makes it out here on business every now and then, so that's not too odd, and it's rare to have more than one of the siblings in one place at the same time so it's not too suspicious to him that we're having a party, especially since they have many close friends among their RV park neighbors. It wouldn't even be too suspicious to learn that another sister Deborah is coming, since she lives just down in Tucson. In between all this we're taking him today and tomorrow up to the Mayo Clinic in Fountain Hills (north of Phoenix) for medical treatments. Steve and I are going to be making umpteen trips to the airport and up to Scottsdale where everyone is staying with his sister Michelle. Most of the out-of-towners will be flying back Sunday or Monday, but Jon, Jamie and Abbie are staying till Wednesday :-) Wish grandkids Collin and Gracie could make it (our grandkids, Dad's great-grandkids) and (our) daughter Avery and husband Scott. There are a couple more grand- and great-grandchildren who can't make it but most of his descendants will be there. This is going to be sooooo cool.

Yeah, big family. 6 kids plus spouses, 17 grandkids plus spouses/SO's, 5 great-grandkids, and most everyone is coming. It gets confusing who's a grandkid or great-grandkid because the generations start blurring... by the time it gets down to the youngest grandkids, some are the same age as the oldest great-grandkids. This confuses me, too.... nieces and nephews the same age as our grandchildren, others the same age as our children. Who's who here? I realized this when I was taking photos of niece Haley at her softball game, and a lady asked me, "Is that your daughter at shortstop?" and I said, "No, my granddaughter," and then thought and corrected myself, "No, she's my niece!!" It surprised me... she's the same age as grandson Collin.

I don't think I'm going to be online much....

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Photo by Ellie Hamilton, Mackinac Bridge, MI, July 2004

Fe-lady posed one of those questions that ought to be tested on "Mythbusters:" Is there really a risk of being struck by lightning if you're swimming in an indoor pool during a thunderstorm? Personally I think the chance is about as remote as getting struck by lightning. There are some thoughts in her comments section; maybe go have a look and add your own. I heard, on The Weather Channel, an explanation of the risk of being in the bathtub, shower, sinkfull of dishwater, or on a corded phone during a thunderstorm -- I forget what the details were but the consensus was "don't do it." I've done all of these all my life but I guess theoretically there's some risk.

I have an outdoor lightning story. Journey (picture in my sidebar) and I run on roads around a lake in the summer. There are spots every couple miles where I take her down paths to the lake for a drink and a swim. She anticipates these cool-off breaks, knows when we're getting close to the pull-off spots, and pulls me down them, she's so eager. She goes splashing into the water like a boat being launched off a ramp.

One day last summer we were out running when a storm came up. We were on mile 3 of an 8-miler, so I didn't bother going home... we were already out in it and by the time I could get home it would be over. Journey had enjoyed her pit stop at 2 miles. When we approached the 4-mile stop point, it was pouring rain and there was a lightning and thunder. Journey did not veer off and yank me down the path as usual. She kept her eyes front and kept running. I led her down the path and she just stood on the shore instead of going into the water. No amount of coaxing would get her to take a drink. I tried again at 6 miles (the stop that she had happily gone for at mile 2 before the thunderstorm) and again, I had to urge her down the path, and she stopped at the lake's edge but would not touch it. She knows the commands "Drink" and "Swim" -- didn't usually need commands for them but she knew the words. I told her "Journey, Drink!" I told her, "Journey, Swim!" She sniffed gingerly about 6 inches above the surface, her feet still planted on the ground. She would not obey my words. She would not put a single toe into that lake while it was storming.

Weird. The water must have given off some kind of charge, or something.

Next time we went running, she was exuberant again about her drink/swim stops, as usual.

There was a funny line in a movie, "Cats and Dogs" I think. The dogs were discussing how to take over the world from the humans and one said, "Humans are actually a very primitive species... they can't smell fear, they can't sense earthquakes..."

And, I guess, they don't know to stay out of the water when there's lightning.

IF there's any danger in an indoor pool... Guess public-pool-owners can't take the chance.


I don't have time to find a picture, maybe I'll add one later. I'm meeting Shannon for a bike ride. She's one of the hikers who dropped me but hey, she was a biking friend before that :-) And if they hadn't dropped me, I wouldn't have gone to the Sr. Olympics tri, gotten the flat changed by the homeless guy, gotten the afterglow reinforced by the panhandler at Wal-Mart, posted about giving money to beggars, gotten the comment from Jack about helping the poor, visited his blog, found the link to the ToughGuy race, and gotten this Adventure-Racing bug. So Shannon's still a friend and I would be dumb to hold a grudge.


Lots of good info here and it doesn't sound as hard as I thought it might.... 'course, I'm at the newbie-sprint level, not ToughGuy level...

This sounds really fun. I can't start for a while 'cause of training for IMFL, but I could maybe get a mountain bike, do a couple off-road tri's, do some more heavy-duty hiking, climb some boulders, run trails (oooh, my ankles... gotta do lots of strengthening exercises.)


Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Oh. My. God.

And as you will see at the end of this post, I do not in any way mean that vainly or profanely.

Jack tossed out bait for this race and I have SO got to start doing adventure races. Don't know how long it would take to work up to this one but over my racing years
I've watched parts a couple of small adventure races and looked at a couple online and.... I believe this is my next type of challenge. I was wondering what to do next besides/in addition to/ instead of just continuing with Ironman once a year or so and/or moving on to ultra-marathons, double-centuries, cross-continent rides .... one needs a bit of variety, I think. The obstacles, the climbing, the mud, the pain, the defiance (which goes beyond mere determination) ..... wow, Jack! Look at how bizarre a chain of events can get: find a biking buddy who has a hiking buddy, get dropped from a hike, sneak into a triathlon (put up to that one by Nancy), get a flat tire fixed by a homeless guy, hand a couple bucks to a beggar, get a new visitor's comment on my blog, get turned on to a new type of sport and further challenge.

Thanks, Nancy!
Thanks, Pat!
Thanks, hiking group!
Thanks, Sr. Olympics string-pulling lady!
Thanks, homeless guy!!
Thanks, Wal-Mart beggar!!
Thank you, Jack!!
Thank you, God!!

Monday, March 06, 2006


..... the more uplifted I feel about my experience yesterday with the "bum" who changed my tire. I find myself looking at strangers with curiosity and joy. It's like having had a conversion experience.

Today a man approached me in the Wal-Mart parking lot and said, "Excuse me, ma'am, can you spare a dollar or two so I can get something to eat?" Maybe he's saving up whatever he can scrounge to buy a fifth of Four Roses, but I opened my wallet and gave him two bucks. (It was broad daylight and there were lots of people around.) He thanked me very courteously. I said, "You have a nice day, now, God loves you." His whole face lit up in a wonderful smile and he answered, "Thank you, ma'am, yes He does." And we both went our ways.

Who knows where either of these men were coming from, where they were going, or what they were up to. I can only say they both touched my life. I hope I touched theirs.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


.....should you read my race report, below. It took me as long to write as it did to do the triathlon. Fair warning.


.... a LOT more.

Well. What first?

OK, first off:
Medal: didn't happen. Medals went 3 deep per age group (duh, gold, silver bronze) and I got beaten out for bronze by a 50-yr-old. However, I got the pretty green 4th-place ribbon you see above on my shirt. And Kathy, the bronze medalist, pulled me up on her podium with her for the photographer.... just like that Canadian girl in the Olympics.

Flat tires: Didn't happen. Not on my bike, anyway. But it did on the truck on the way there. Ran over a big metal staple in the Circle K parking lot where I'd stopped to ask for directions. Pssssssssssst..... More on that later.

Time of 1:40: Didn't happen. What did happen was... .... ..... drum roll, please... ... ... 1:22:37!!!
I think this is a PR. I don't remember exactly what my previous sprint times were but they were in the neighborhood of 1:40, I'm pretty sure. So I am totally thrilled with that. And I busted my ass getting it, too. I was getting very tired on the bike, I'll tell you that.

Swim (pool, 450 yds): 12:01 by chip, 11:38 by my watch. I stopped my watch when I got out of the pool; I guess the chip registered when I ran over the transition mat.
T1: 3:17 by my watch (not listed in computer printout at race.)
Bike 20K: 36:56 by my watch (41:23 by chip, which must have included T1 time.) Average speed 17.6mph, a PR in itself as my best average speed in a race (have no 12K rides to compare my time to.)
T2: 1:22 by my watch.
Run 5K: 29:14 by my watch, 29:23 by chip, not sure what that difference is -- not enough to be explained by transition.


I had allowed an hour and 45 minutes for the one-hour drive, got lost a good 3 times plus the flat tire, and stumbled running and crying to the bike rack at exactly 8a.m., which was the starting time of the race. However, in true senior-style, everything was in slow-motion and there was still a line a mile long at check-in; they weren't anywhere near starting. The pre-race meeting didn't start till 8:30. Then the swim went off in heats, 2 swimmers to a lane for 18 laps (9 out-and-backs) with the oldest age groups going first. Many of you have probably observed 70-and 80-yr-olds swimming laps. It was a long wait. One old geezer was swimming with a snorkel. When we got to the 60-yr-olds things started moving faster. I was in heat 5, but got to swim in heat 4, because someone didn't show, there was an empty spot, and they asked for any Heat 5'ers who wanted to go. So I went. The man with whom I shared my lane kept whacking me with his hand, arm, shoulder, etc. He was faster than me but obviously not used to sharing a lane. I stayed close to the lane rope to give him more room and hit my lap button on it, which may also account for the chip-and-watch time discrepancy. Every time I got to the end where the lap counter sat, she yelled, "Good job, Ellie! Smooth, Ellie!" etc.

Bike was unremarkable except that I kept my computer set to the AVG setting and kept trying to up it. The course was 4 5K laps. At the end of the first lap I had averaged 16.5, second 17.2, 3rd lap 17.5, last lap 17.7, but I went down to 17.6 slowing down for dismount and transition, since we had to go around a little roundabout and then dismount. No flats, falls, or anything untoward. One guy crashed, not sure what happened but he described sailing over his handlebars, landing on the front of his helmet (which showed it), rolling (major road rash on both arms, both lgs, both knees, both shoulders, both shoulderblades, both sides of his ribcage in back.) Bent his aerobars. Got his brake cable wrapped around his crank, somehow... looked weird but he was able to get back on his bike and finish the race. (Yeah, but what was his time?) I didn't get it straight what he'd had to stop for, I think the biker in front of him stopped b/c someone had yelled "Stop!" at an intersection (probably the cop stopping traffic). Anyway, he and his bike got battered and he will need a new helmet. Thank God for helmets.

Run, also, was unremarkable, except for trying to keep my pace, which I couldn't gauge because there weren't any mile markers and it was a loop course. First time I ever really wished for a ForeRunner. The finish-line announcer was a girl about 11 years old who yelled into the mike, "Good job, Number 75, um... good job, um....(checked list quickly) ELLIE! Good job, Ellie!"

And now, the rest of the story, starting with the flat. I got out of the truck at the Circle K (the Southwest version of Sheets, 7-11, or Wawa) to find out where I was and hoped fervently that the loud hissing sound I heard was coming from an air compressor or something in the van parked next to me and not from me. But it was me. Left rear. Big staple-nail clearly visible. I was already late by virtue of being lost. So I got really unsatisfactory directions and moved my truck out of the parking spot over to the side of the lot under a dim street light (still dark out.) I dug in the glove box for the owner's manual since this was this truck's first flat and I had no idea where everything was stowed. As I was flipping pages and checking under the back seats, a run-down looking man with a backpack emerged from out of the blackness and said, "You like rock and roll music?" I pulled my head out of the truck and said, "Excuse me?" He said, "I got rock and roll CD's, I'll sell you one for $10." Oh great, now I'm going to get mugged. I said, "Really, no, I'm lost and I'm late and I've got a flat tire, but thank you anyway," in a tone that said, "Get lost." But he brightened and said, "You got a flat tire? I can change it for you, I worked in a tire shop." And he started checking out my tire and I thought, whatever help I can get. Son of a gun, he went right to the jack and the irons and knew how to use the anti-theft spare-tire key release (I'll bet!) and he went right to work. I lamely tried to help but he needed no help, obviously knew what he was doing. I used to change a tire on my Aspire in 10 minutes without even tearing my white nurse's hose or soiling my uniform, but the truck was a different story, the tires weigh more than our trailer, and I hadn't done any dry runs like I did with my bike before the Ironman. I was just about helpless. So I said, "Well, I need to run back into the store, I'll be right back," and I locked the truck (feeling guilty about that but you never know) and went in and got money from the ATM because I wanted to give him something and only had about 8 bucks on me. I stuck a 20 in my sock, put my wallet back in the truck, locked it again, and helped him roll the spare to the left rear and rolled the flat to the back of the truck (I couldn't lift it into the truck bed though.) He finished up, hefted the tire into the bed, tossed all the tools in with it, saying, "You're in a hurry, you can put these away later." I thanked him and held out the 20, saying, "Let's pretend I bought a couple CD's." He thanked me and accepted it. I unlocked the truck and he said, "I think I left my hat on the back seat on your passenger side." Oh great, here it comes. The old "I think I left my hat inside your truck" gag. I locked up again and went and unlocked the passenger side and just opened the door a crack to look.... there sat his hat on the back seat. Oh, great, the old leave-your-hat-in-the-back-seat trick. I slithered my arm in just enough to get his hat, gave it to him, and closed and locked the door. I felt so awful with all that locking and re-locking, because he could see me doing it, and he'd just bailed me out of a hopeless situation and probably saved my triathlon, and I'd given him twenty bucks, but.... you just never know. He left, saying, "Good luck in the race."

An angel?? If so, did I treat him right? Did I pass the test? Be hospitable to strangers, for many have entertained angels unaware....

I went the direction they'd told me in the Circle K but after about 5 miles I was sure I was wrong. I went into another Circle K. It was light by now. It was after 7:00, the time I'd hoped to be racking my bike. I was sure I still had at least 40 miles to go. A lady started saying, go left here, right there, east here, it's a long way, you'll come to Tempe and then Chandler.... I said, "No way!! I just came from there! Mesa, actually... I need to go WEST, not EAST!" Oh!! So she started over and a man got in on it and finally I thought I knew where I was going, roughly. But the road they'd said didn't go where they said it would. Because after about 5 miles it was closed. There was a detour sign. I followed the arrow. There were no more detour signs. I thought, Lord, I got sacked from that hike, so I decided to do the triathlon, and when I missed the registration deadline, someone pulled strings and got me in. I had a flat and a mugger came and fixed it. I am supposed to go to this triathlon, obviously. If you have in mind for me to volunteer at the finish line instead of racing, then that's the way it is. But I really really would like to do this race.... I turned in the direction that I thought would take me back to the highway past the closure. And took a wrong turn. Ended up in Nowheresville. I was listening at the time to a country station on which Carrie Underwood was singing, "Jesus, Take the Wheel." Maybe I had turned too soon.... maybe I need to go farther west, yeah, I went farther off the road than this..... so I turned west and while I was waiting for a light, got a look at a 3-way road sign and saw that the one I wanted was in fact right there, except I had to make a right U-ie at the light to get to it, so I did. It was 7:40 and I had no idea how much farther it was but start time was 8:00. This is a lesson. What the lesson is, I'm not sure, fear not, only believe, and I switched the clock radio back to show the station rather than the time, since knowing the time was only going to make me more frustrated.

Sun City RV.... Yay, I'm in Sun City!!! I'm here!! Welcome to Sun City, says the sign. Thank heaven. road by the name of the one I'm looking for. Must be farther on. Farther on is a sign, "Welcome to El Something...." Whatever it was, I had driven right through Sun City. So I had to keep going because there was nowhere to turn off to go back. So I kept on going and thought maybe I'd help cut up orange slices or something. Whatever they needed me to do. It was 7:50 (couldn't help looking at my watch) when I saw I was passing through Sun City West.... well, for heaven's sake, that's what I want! It's somewhere around here! No road by the name I need, though. Oh, come on, quit messing with my mind.... pulled into another convenience store and asked, "Where's North Remmington?" They looked like I was blonde and said, "Right across the street, through that entrance, the only Remmington around here is past the golf course." So off I went. It was 7:55. Was there still any chance? If I wasn't in the first swim heat, maybe they could sneak me in under the wire like Roxie had for my registration.... there's the parking lot, it says "Welcome Senior Olympics," I pull in, FIND A SPOT RIGHT NEXT TO THE BIKE RACKS, pull my bike and bag out of the truck, run stumbling and crying to the racks as described above and the rest..... well, the rest is what I've already written, how everything went absolutely perfectly and had I taken another half hour to get there I'd still have been OK.

I still remember missing the start of the Gasparilla Bay Marathon because I was in the loo with the runs. Running up the empty street hoping to catch up with the last runners, hoping I'd be timed because the chip mat had already been turned off by the time I made it out of the porta pot, the first person I caught up with was a woman who had also started late because she'd been saying goodbye to her family in the parking lot for too long. I was winded from trying to catch up and worried that I wouldn't be timed. She told me what I needed to do was call 1-800-SKY-DIVE and jump out of a plane like she had. She said if I did that I would never ever spaz about anything again.

But I did catch up with the other runners and my time did count. Today everything that could have gone wrong getting there went wrong (except I didn't crash), but I wasn't late and everything went off smooth as silk.

It just goes to show.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Gosh, the State Trials level of the National Senior Games Association, whose mission is to encourage beginning and continuing fitness in the "second half of life" and to offer "seniors" the opportunity to compete at any level of expertise with their agemate peers (untrampled by the youngsters, except, as previously noted, in the "Generations Triathlon.") I read in the online Senior Games Book that at the Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 18, John Travolta was the honored guest and entertainment. The theme of the Games? "Stayin' Alive."

I went out to lube up my bike and discovered yet another soft tire. I say "yet another" because in the last week I have changed flats about 5 times. One was on a ride with Pat. On that occasion I found a tiny fiber of metal poking through the inside of the tire. "Oh," she said, "that's from riding through the shreds of someone's blowout. The steel in the tires shreds all up and gets on the road. Go as far around those as you can." And she gave me tweezers to pull it out and sandpaper to make sure I got it all. She knows everything.

Since then, in the space of what, 6 days, I have changed flats 4 more times. Twice I found metal shreds. Once I blew the tire out myself during inflation, with an undiagnosed rim pinch. POW!!! Every dog on the street barked -- assuming, I assume, that I had shot someone with a gun.

When I discovered yet another slow leak today, I went to the bike shop and got THORN-RESISTANT TUBES. They're really thick. I checked my tires (they're fairly new) and rims, filed or sanded anything that wasn't silky-smooth, installed the new tubes and THEY STILL HAVE AIR IN THEM after several hours. Wow!

Don't anyone tell me I should have bought new tires, too. I thought of that after the bike shop was closed. Heck, I'm only riding 12 miles.

My bag is packed and in the truck. In it are 4 more bags: Swim bag (just cap and goggles); T-1 bag (towel, powder for the last of the foot dampness, socks, shoes, race belt, helmet, gloves, sunglasses); T-2 (Running shoes, hat); "Afterwards" bag (shorts, shirt, underwear and hairbrush.)

Also in the truck: Air compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter. In case my tires go flat in the truck bed.

I'm wearing a one-piece tri skin-suit that will do me from start to finish w/o changing or adding anything except to my feet, head, and hands. It's hot-looking: black shorts, black-and-white print top, all spandex. On the run with my black running shoes, red bandana, and black-and-white hat, I'll knock 'em dead. (Sorry, fans, I'm not wearing my Ellie-May cutoffs. I like them better for running but don't want to change in a sprint.)

On my bike: 2 water bottles (like I'm going to dehydrate in an hour and 40 minutes); Bento Box holding bandana, chapstick, 2 Power Gels; saddle bag with 2 tubes, 2 air canisters, tire lever, patch kit, multi-tool w/ Allen wrenches, handlebar end in case I lose one (thanks to Linae for this tip), pocket pack of Kleenex for emergency toilet paper; hand wipes; band-aids. On the frame is my new hand pump. I found today that I can get the tire to 70 pounds with that (only 50 on the second tire, though ... I was "tired") so I'll only need a canister for topping up and 2 will more than do me even if I have 2 flats.

Sounds like I'm ready for an Ironman rather than a sprint tri. However, the only new addition to my usual gear is the hand pump. I've never had one before, having always relied on canisters. I love the hand pump. I can pump just a bit of air into the tube to put it on the rim, w/o having to squirt or waste any from the canister. I can inflate a tube just enough to find the leak. We have the little air-compressor but, like the canisters, it isn't good for just a little.

This is too long a post for "I'm ready for a triathlon that will last under 2 hours." I get wordy when I'm excited or nervous. However, as we all know by now, I'm wordy when I'm relaxed, too. I wish I had the talent of saying what I mean in just a couple of words. Or a couple of lines. Or paragraphs. Or pages.

Friday, March 03, 2006


.....apparently, to hike up to here. I had plans for tomorrow (Saturday) to hike up Flatiron Trail and then along the Superstition Ridge (if you click on this link, read the summary and then scroll down to skip driving directions and get to the hike description.)A group of friends-of-a-friend were going and one of them invited me. But when I called to confirm that it was still on, I got the news that most of the group felt I was probably not conditioned enough for that much of a hike, including some hand-and-foot climbing and a distance of 11-12 miles in the course of the day. They didn't think I had enough hiking experience. They didn't know if I could climb over boulders with tricky footing or hoist my own weight up a ledge. They were afraid I'd get into a pickle of not being able to continue, and not being able to go back. Essentially, they didn't think I could do it and did not want me to go.

Well, that might cure me of any delusions of grandeur I've been having over my last 6 weeks, during which time I've run a marathon and a half-marathon and cycled 2 centuries 2 weeks apart (the half marathon coming on the weekend between them.) I biked about 480 miles in February.

So instead of this day-long rocky desert mountain challenge to my stamina, which I'd been eagerly anticipating, I'm doing this on Sunday:

The Arizona Senior Olympics Triathlon. 450-yd swim, 20K bike, 5K run. I can get there, do the race, and drive home before my husband even gets out of bed.

From tough-gal, can't-take-her-down marathoner/cyclist/hiker to the Senior Olympics, in the space of about half an hour (from when I found out I was dropped from the hike till I convinced the SO staff to let me in as a late registrant.) Gosh, I'm aging fast. I went and looked in the mirror and I didn't look any different.

I guess there aren't enough actual senior triathletes to put on a triathlon, because it's open to all age groups (the "Generations Triathlon" -- the other events have a 50-yr-old minimum-age requirement.) However, it's a Senior Games event and I am registered as (gasp, choke) a senior, and competing as a senior, in the 50-54 age group. Uh-oh, I'm at the "older" end of my age group, those 50-yr-old youngsters will stomp me.

If I do really, really well I could qualify for the National Senior Olympics, to be held in Louisville, KY, in June 2007. I couldn't find a qualifying time for the tri. For 10K it would be 55:00 for me; for 5K, oh, heck, I forget, something like 28:00. So no doubt qualifying in the tri will be a challenge. Letssee.... 450-yd swim should take me maybe 13 minutes; 5 min transition; 20K bike is 12.4 miles, maybe 50 minutes; 2-minute transition; 5K, 30 minutes -- total, an hour and 40 minutes. Let's see how close I can come to that. I don't know if it's a Nationals qualifying time but let's just see how close I can come to 1:40 for this race, just for the heck of it.

I hadn't expected to be doing a triathlon of any length before June at the earliest and haven't done any tri-specific training (bricks etc.) OTOH, I hadn't expected to do a 100-mile bike ride before August. Too bad we're not staying here till April 9, I could just go ahead and do IM Arizona. Except I'm sure registration is closed and I don't think I could sweet-talk them into letting me in.

Check out the links I gave to see pics of the hike I'm not doing.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Here is that odd dog I described in my Lost Dutchman Half Marathon race report (photo courtesy of Vickie.)

The police officer is feeding him the egg burrito I tossed him.

Like I said, if he'd looked like a Lab, they probably would have ignored him and let him go home. I was hoping he'd come to me just so I could see what his fur felt like.