Wednesday, March 29, 2006

long run

Since the week after the half marathon, I have been doing the same 6.2 mile two-loop long run each Wednesday or Thursday, usually getting slightly faster. Today I felt really draggy starting out (we did vertical kicking at swimming this morning, some of it with our arms in streamline sticking out of the water). I told myself that it would start feeling better after a mile, and it did. My splits were:
mile 1: 13:24
mile 2: 12:40
mile 3: 13:20
mile 4: 12:10
mile 5: 12:12
mile 6: 12:43
Mile 3 and mile 6 have the two steepest hills, so I'm particularly pleased with my time for mile 6. I did the route in 1:18:17, compared to 1:18:42 last week, 1:20:12 the week before, and 1:19:25 the week before that.

For dinner we had meatballs in tomato sauce over matchstick-cut carrots, parsnips and zucchini that had been briefly boiled. A lot more interesting than pasta, as well as low carb.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

in the news

Rachel at Alas (a blog) has a good overview of the Duke University sexual assault story. There a blog that will provide updates and links at Justice4TwoSisters. Who says political correctness has won out on college campuses?

Monday, March 27, 2006

training for the Clemson triathlon

My next big event is the Clemson triathlon in May. I am particularly looking forward to it because it was my first race last year, and so I will be able to see very directly how much I have improved. I've been working more on speed recently, so I did the Clemson triathlon course as a bike test. I did the 10.75 miles in 43:20. In the triathlon last year my bike time was 47:38, but that included the transition from swim to bike. Take off around 3 minutes for transition and my improvement is only a minute or so. On the run I'm significantly faster in a race than even my fastest training times; I don't know if that is as true on the bike. My dream goal for the Clemson triathlon is a 20% improvement in my time; my realistic goal is a 10% improvement. I think I've got some work to do on the bike.

My mother was here this past weekend because my daughter was a finalist in a two-page script playwriting competition. My daughter took second in the 15 and under age group (she is not quite 13). My mother left this morning, but I feel like I missed spring break.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

a bicycling poem

The Rider

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn't catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.
by Naomi Shihab Nye via NPR today.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lenten reflection for March 22

Our church does a Lenten meditation booklet written by members and I wrote the meditation for March 22. The readings are: Psalm 119:97-120 * Psalm 81, 82, Genesis 45:16-28; I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 6:13-29.
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge. But anyone who loves God is known by God.
I Corinthians 8:1b-3
God is so much more than our human knowledge can take in. We don't even have the words that could describe God. There is more to God than we can know, even more than we can imagine. We can't figure out by our knowledge alone what God would want us to do. We can't know God's intention for the terrible situations human beings get themselves into.

But what we do have is love. When we love and are loved we experience what God is, even though we can't capture the core of that experience in words. Woven through this universe of matter and energy is a universe of love. Loving God is the closest we can come to knowing God.

We are always known by God. The Bible tells us so many times that God knows everything about us: the hairs on our head, who we were in our mother's wombs. So I like to think that the statement that "anyone who loves God is known by God" means that if we love God, then we experience God knowing us in a still deeper way. The more we love God, the more we are aware of God inside us, of God woven through our bodies and minds. When we love and are loved, we experience God knowing us and loving us and loving the world through us. We can find hope and courage in that even in situations we cannot understand.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I've alway been afraid to want anything I couldn't have (that gives people power over you). So I was stunned to read Barbara Crafton write today:
Longing for something is not necessarily sad; it can be happy. It can be anticipatory. It can be energizing: here is what I might do to bring it close, this and this. I may never get my heart's desire, but I can decide just how I will long for it -- passively waiting for someone else to bring it to me, cursing the fact that I don't have it now? Or preparing for it, learning about it, tasting it deliciously, before it even lands on my tongue?

Sunday, March 19, 2006


In Echo of the Soul: The Sacredness of the Human Body, Philip Newell writes:
Part of repentance is to discern within us the goodness that has become buried by evil. It is to identify deep in our mistakes and confusions the goodness that is a more authentic expression of our nature than our failings.
This names more strongly something I have been groping at. I've been trying to see that many of my mistakes and confusions have at their center good or necessary intentions or needs. The things I hate in myself deserve to be healed, not rejected.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Race Report: MDA Stride and Ride 5K

Last night I looked at the Clemson Track and Trail Club website and noticed a 5K in Greenville today. I did my long run on Thursday so was going to do a 5K run today anyway, and I decided I wanted to do the race and see how much I have improved. Actually, I haven't done a 5K running race by itself before, but the triathlons I've done have had 5K runs, and I've done those faster than I run in practice.

Sometime between when I tentatively made the decision and when I got up this morning I got mixed up about when the race started, plus I felt I needed to be there early because I had not preregistered. So I ended up at the race site at 7:45 for a race that didn't start until 10. I thought about walking the course but it was so cold I just sat in my car and wrote. I did go out about 9:30 and run nearly a mile slowly to warm up and then stretched. I also ate a bagel, which I usually can't eat, and then was impatient when the race started a little late.

I had done my warmup on the first half mile of the course, so I knew it was uphill and then down. I started fairly far back but a few people passed me right away. I tried to keep a pace where I was breathing fairly hard and go faster (though my level of effort was lower) on the downhills. I kept looking for people ahead of me to catch up to and was usually able to do so, though the man with two large children in a jog stroller I could catch up with on the uphills but then he would pull ahead when it was flatter. I did walk the one water station and drink some water, and the steep uphill right after it.

That was at two miles and there was a person there with a watch who said my time was 17 something (which I can't believe was accurate, as neither by perceived effort nor by my GPS did I slow down the last mile). I realized then I had a chance of breaking 30 minutes, which was my dream time (my more realistic goal was 34 minutes because my fastest 5K in training was at an 11:57 pace). With about half a mile to go a volunteer said "it's all downhill from here," but that turned out not to be true. I slowed down on the uphill but I pushed that last half mile breathing very hard. I was foolishly a little disappointed when I saw my time was 30:24. Then when I caught my breath I looked at my GPS and found it said a pace of under 10 minutes a mile, which was really what my dream time was (that extra .1 mile keeps throwing me). I was so happy I had done it.

I don't think my GPS gave me very reliable readings but 30:24 for a 5K is a pace of 9:48. Amazing. Last September I was thrilled to achieve a pace of 12 minutes a mile in a 5K, albeit in a triathlon. My previous personal best 5K time was 36:02--that's a 15 percent improvement in six months! Last May, also in a triathlon, my 5K run time was 40:27.

Today was a small race with mostly young people and I was first in my age group because I was the only one in my age group. I hung around for the awards and was happy to get a medal. Actually it is the first medal I have received--the other races where I placed in my age group gave hats instead and I haven't done any races that gave finishers medals.

Update: The official times are up and I corrected the time above by a couple of seconds. Overall I was 70th out of 83. Turns out I was second in my age group--I can see looking at the official results there were other errors as well when they announced the age group awards.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Abraham's Sacrifice

I can't remember where I just saw an article that compared Rembrandt and Caravaggio's paintings of Abraham Sacrificing Isaac. I had meant to write about that story Sunday when the reading from the Hebrew Scripture was Genesis 22: 1-14. I was glad our new rector didn't just avoid that reading but said in his sermon that the story offends us. I hate the story; later we sang a hymn with the words "the God of Abraham praise" and I skipped those words. I really don't want to explain it away, so I guess it is ok to hate it.

Friday, March 10, 2006


I'm amazed by how much my running speed has increased since the half marathon. In January my average pace per mile was 15:46. That included some very slow long runs but even my fastest three mile run was at a 13:24 pace. In February my average pace was 14:11, in March so far 13:52. Yesterday I ran 6.2 miles at an average pace of 12:48. Last year my goal was to run a 5K at a pace under 12 minutes a mile--this year it looks like I may be able to do a 10K at that pace.

I think the half marathon had two effects. One is that as I pushed myself I learned to run less tensely. The other is that I discovered my body is a lot less fragile than I thought it was--I can push myself more. I had some reason to worry about running, both because of a history of knee injuries (particularly a kneecap that used to dislocate) and because of the hip pain that I struggled with when I first took up running. But I've become stronger than I realized.

Monday, March 06, 2006


When I went to Concord Academy in 11th grade I took a course on Concord authors and discovered Thoreau. By the time I was in college I was reading his journals, checked out from the library in the 1906 edition with photographs by H. W. Gleason. I went with my parents to one meeting of the Thoreau Society when I was in college, but I stopped reading Thoreau when I went to graduate school and my mother got a job working on the new edition of Thoreau's complete works.

My parents have been very involved with the Thoreau Society since they moved back to Concord, so I worried about my mother going to the next annual meeting without my father. My daughter read a biography of Thoreau as the book she picked for school this quarter, so I decided she and I should go to the Thoreau Society annual meeting in July and support my mother.

Being too much of an academic, and having enjoyed talking about Thoreau in my new environmental history course, I went ahead and proposed to give a paper. My proposal has been tentatively accepted:
"Thoreau: Technology and the Wild"
This paper examines student reactions to Thoreau's ideas in a college-freshman-level course on environmental history designed to meet a general education requirement in Science and Technology in Society. The middle section of the course uses Roderick Nash's Wilderness and the American Mind and seeks to lead students to examine their own assumptions both about wilderness and about civilization. Thoreau's ideas about technology in particular are a real stretch for the average college student today (for example "Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end."). The goal of Science and Technology in Society courses is to prepare students to be better citizens in a technological world; Thoreau's ideas push them to stand back from the rush of the world they live in and think about their own values both about technology and about wilderness.
It will be interesting to see how much of a stretch it feels to present at such a meeting.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


The day I have been dreading arrived--Coach Jimmy said today we were going to work on flip turns. I've been swimming with the masters team a little more than a year without it ever coming up before; most of us are triathletes and don't need to know how to do flip turns. But apparently one of the triathletes asked for help, as he has been trying to learn on his own.

When I was a kid we had someone who came once a week during the summer and gave us swimming lessons off our dock (not quite visible in the photograph below).

I learned freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, sidestroke, and to dive. Until last year I hadn't had any further instruction in swimming, so I had never done a flip turn in my life. I did experiment once when I was swimming on my own and couldn't figure it out at all, so I decided I would wait for Jimmy to bring it up.

This morning I succeeded in flipping, which I wasn't sure I would be able to do. A lot of time my feet missed the wall, but I got somewhat better at that with practice. My arms were ending up in the wrong place entirely, but that was one more thing than I could keep track of. Reasonable progress for my first time. But I was half in tears the whole time. I was the only one who hadn't done flip turns before, and I felt so frustrated not to be able to do it. I wish I could learn to accept the learning process.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ash Wednesday

Usually I have a good story about wearing ashes on a southern campus, but it didn't work out that way this year.

I decided not to go to the 7 am service. I would have had to leave swimming early and also ask my husband to drive the carpool. This year my church offered a 12:15 service, and I teach only until 12:05. So I figured it was easier just to go to the 12:15 service instead of changing around my morning schedule.

It turned out to be a mistake. I was a few minutes late to the service and it was hard to get focused. I didn't eat lunch until after the service was over and by that time I was in a state I get into when I go too long without eating where I feel weak and know I need to eat but can't think of anything I want to eat--usually I end up bursting into tears. It takes an hour or more for my blood sugar system to recover after I do eat (I actually don't go very low, but apparently my body has a strong reaction to running out of reserves).

I had an appointment at 4 so I had very limited time to get in my long run. My blood sugar system hadn't stabilized when I started running and I had an intermittent headache. The food did kick in fairly quickly and I ended up having a good 6 mile run. But then when I hurried back to my office for the appointment the person had cancelled.

Since I ran after church, wearing a cap because of the bright sunshine and headache, and then showered, I didn't end up walking around campus with ashes on my forehead at all. It contradicts the reading about our father who sees in secret, but I rather like the experience of being visible. And usually there is an entertaining story to tell about confused students.

Next year hopefully I will remember that it is worth going to the 7 am service even if it is hard to fit into my schedule.

My monthly totals for February are:
Swimming 12 workouts for 15:40 hours
Biking 3 workouts for 42 miles in 3:54 hours
Running 8 workouts: 36 miles in 8:30 hours
I'm happy with my achievement in the half marathon, and the month revolved around that, plus travel and rainy weekends and then a bad cold.