Sunday, May 28, 2006

lake swim

We are catching a plane late this morning, so I swam at 7 am in the lake from our dock. I asked an email group last year about swimming alone, and it was interesting the split between people who said never swim alone and people who said they do. I've feared I would die twice in the water, but in one case I fell into 40 degree water and in the other I got caught in a current carrying me away from the beach. In our lake I think the only risk is being hit by a boat, but this morning the only one I saw was still, fishing. I use a flourescent green swim cap.

The lake is a bit low and I had to wade out in ankle deep mud and swim 10 yards or so in water less than 2 feet deep. The yuck factor and not being used to open water left me startling every time my hand hit a stick. I worried for a while about dead fish, but didn't see any. I did hit one significant floating log, but by that time I had calmed down considerably and didn't panic too much. It ended up a nice steady swim.

Friday, May 26, 2006

yet another boarding school

My daughter and I are going to visit Emma Willard School Monday. I have done research on women's education but I wasn't pushing my daughter to consider an all-girls school. The way I finally found my place socially, when I got to college, was by being one of the boys, plus I can't imagine my daughter being hesitant to speak up in class because there are boys in the class. But she read the material Emma Willard School sent, and she was convinced to be interested by the argument for the benefits of a girls school. It will be very interesting to see what she thinks of it when we visit.

I picked Emma Willard as the girls' school to get information from because I had done a little work on its history: Amos Eaton at The Rennselear Institute (now RPI) was the first to have students do their own experiments and the idea was first copied by the Troy Female Seminary, now Emma Willard. It turns out it also has the highest SAT average of any all-female boarding school.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

test run

swim: masters practice
400 warmup
8x50 kick/swim then drill/swim in IM order
8x25 free in sets of 4 taking one fewer breath each time
6x100 free 3 moderate, 2 build, one for time (2:15)
200 cool down
for a total of 1800 yards or 1646 meters

bike: 19 miles, hilly, in 1:27, ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
ate one gel
run: 6.2 miles in 1:19

I had about 40 minutes between the swim and bike and maybe 25 minutes between the bike and run, but still, I did roughly the distances of the June 11 race all in one morning and lived to tell the tale (and even managed even splits on the run).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

jury duty

I was called for jury duty in circuit court at the county courthouse, more serious than the usual jury duty in city court in our very small town. The instructions were to report today at 9:30, for a term lasting the rest of the week. After a long wait, there was a long process of swearing us in and asking disqualification and exemption questions. My favorite was a woman who was exempted because she was essential to a family business--she and her husband have a grading company and she is the only one who can drive the three axle dump truck. About 11:30 the judge finally started selecting people for a jury for a case involving assault and battery with intent to kill. There hadn't been any questions about our views, so about all the lawyers knew about us was our occupations and those of our spouses. I was trying to figure out if the defense lawyer was saying no to university professors (there were several of us) but I couldn't tell. In any case, my name didn't get called. And when I called back tonight to see if I needed to report tomorrow, the message said I was done for the week. Relief.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

end of the school year

My son is home from his first year (9th grade) at boarding school. He did suprisingly well from the start being away from home, but he had a tough time with the academic adjustment. He has pulled his grade point average up from a 1.98 for the first quarter to a 2.6 in the middle of the fourth quarter--the final grades aren't posted but I think may be above a 3.0 (update: his GPA for the fourth quarter was a 2.93).

Saturday night at the awards banquet, my son received a headmaster's commendation. The headmaster told the story as follows (except I have edited out my son's name):
P is a rising sophomore from Clemson S.C. He harbored a burning desire to play on the tennis team this year and focused on it all year long. However, in the early spring he was cut from the team. A disappointment, no doubt. But, as luck would have it, there came an opportunity for him to become the team’s manager. Eventually he was given a chance to practice with the team. He never missed practice and worked hard and faithfully. He played in his second competitive match against our vaunted rival, Asheville School. He won. He called home that night and could barely disguise his delight. He later played in another match against Spartanburg Day and won yet again. Here’s to P for never accepting defeat.

The part of the story that the headmaster didn't tell is that when my son reported he was going to be cut from the tennis team, I wrote an email saying (slightly edited):
One of the reasons we picked Christ School is because we were given to understand that athletics were emphasized, but you didn't have to be good at a sport to be involved. My son loves a number of sports--probably the thing he most looked forward to as he started at Christ School was playing soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, and tennis in the spring. However,... he is not talented in athletics. He has done a good job of coming to terms with this and enjoying sports even if he isn't a strong player. He had a particularly good experience in soccer in the fall; he not only felt a part of the team but saw that hard work led to improvement.

My son has been interested in tennis for several years and went to three weeks of tennis camp last summer and the summer before. My husband and I do not play tennis so this was brave thing he chose to do--to go to the Clemson University coaches' tennis camps pretty much as a beginner. Learning to play tennis is something he really cares about, but he hasn't had the chance to get very far. It would be a big disappointment for him not to be able to play tennis as his spring sport...

My understanding in the fall was that signing up for sports was first come first served.... But what I hear from my son about tennis makes it sound like it is being handled in a different way--that if you aren't already good at a sport you can't play it. That seems like the wrong approach, particularly to tennis which is such a lifelong sport.

If I have understood the situation correctly I urge you to think carefully about your philosophy for boys who love sports that they aren't good at. To me, it is very important that my children are encouraged to enjoy sports even if they aren't talented. I have had to struggle myself to get past what I was taught as a child about leaving sports to those who are good at them (I was so happy and so proud of myself for running my first half marathon a month ago, even though it took me three hours and I finished 90th out of 93).
I didn't get a reply to my email, but my son got his chance. And the wonderful thing is he took advantage of it.

Friday, May 19, 2006


I am amused to find my name listed in the USA Triathlon magazine, ranked 367th among women ages 50-54 in the U.S. in 2005.

new office

I'm still in the process of putting stuff away, but here's a picture. The two walls not visible are completely covered with bookcases.

I've ordered another poster to replace the Walden one, which is visually not very interesting.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


I'm trying to decide what to hang in the two spaces I have in my new office. In my previous office I had bookcases mounted on both walls up to 7 feet, and then had a blanket hanging above the bookcases on one side. I had two long narrow quilts on the walls that didn't have bookcases. Now I have two pieces of wall at more normal picture height. I may hang one of the narrow quilts, but I could hang something framed.

My favorite framed poster that I have put away is a poster Larry Rivers did for the Art at the Armory show in 1987 that is a takeoff of Duchamps' Nude Descending a Staircase. But nobody will get it, and it is more obviously nude than the original. Maybe I should buy something new, but I hate to do that when we have more art than will fit in our house. Maybe I will try the Walden Pond framed poster that is sitting in the attic and see how I like it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

moving my office

Two graduate students and I spent almost 9 hours today moving my office. That included assembling three new bookcases, but the good news is with those added bookcases the books fit with some room left for expansion. There are two more tasks to do--take down the hangings in my old office (one of which is mounted just below the 14 foot ceiling) and carry to the new office the scattered papers still on my desk and other random stuff. I did go through the piles of papers on my desk and recycled a lot!

Probably at least 8 people with seniority over me decided it wasn't worth moving. But I wanted the extra floor space. Instead of room for only one chair for a guest, I have room for a table and four chairs so I can sit down and work with a small group of people. I don't have a 14 foot ceiling any more, but it is a corner office with three windows. Several of my colleagues are going to be sorry they decided not to bother to move when they see what I've been able to do with the space.

Hopefully never again. There are only a couple of offices better than this one so I expect to be in this one until I retire.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Clemson sprint triathlon

Short version:
total time 1:39:02, which is 14% faster than last year. I'm happy.
Sixth out of six in my age group, but 4th and 5th were less than a minute ahead of me
91st out of 116 women and ahead of 25 of 313 men
Watch times:
750 meter swim 20:55 (improved from 24:16 last year)
11 mile bike 40:58 (averaged 16.1 mph)
5 k run 30:48 (averaged 9:54 minutes per mile)

Long version:
I went to sleep just after 9 pm, so I didn't worry when I woke up a little after 5. I ate eggs for breakfast, which seemed more than I wanted but I am glad I did because it was a long time until the race start. I rode my bike to the race site, which was a nice feeling. It was cold, about 51 degrees, and the lake and the area around it were in a deep fog. I wore a jacket and was glad to have it for the waiting around time. I had picked up my packet yesterday afternoon--that was the long line this morning, chip pick up and body marking went quickly. I had planned to do a swimming warmup but I lost my nerve because of the cold and so I ran as a warmup, but less than a mile. I talked to some people I knew, made several bathroom stops, ate a Larabar, and finally put on my wetsuit and ate my banana.

The race started a little late, but sun came out and the fog cleared off about 8 am and they quickly put the buoys out. The water temperature was 69 degrees. The start was 450 people in three main waves (plus a small number of novices in a fourth wave), so each wave was fairly large and crowded into a fairly narrow area by a dock. I had a really hard time getting settled into the swim. I didn't notice the cold water being a shock, but I stopped a couple of times because I was out of breath and a little panicky. Not quite disoriented but not feeling comfortable in the water, which I usually do. I treaded water briefly or swam breaststroke with my head out of the water a couple of times to calm myself. I think it was lack of open water swim practice. Once I saw the first turn buoy wasn't too far away I settled down and swam steadily, though I kept having to adjust to people around me who would stop or start swimming breaststroke or cut in on me. I also had my goggles kicked completely off my eyes once, though luckily not off my head (they are expensive prescription goggles) I lost a little time at the end when I swam into the dock at one side of the swim finish and had to stop and turn 90 degrees, but I didn't actually bang into it.

The run to transition is uphill and fairly long, but I felt ok once I got the top half of my wetsuit down. I need to speed up my transitions. I wasn't quick taking my wetsuit off, but I think it was more putting on a shirt (I swim in my sports bra and tri shorts) and sitting down to wipe off my feet and put on shoes and socks. I did skip the gloves when they seemed hard to put on.

Getting on the bike I felt a little unsteady but within a minute or two I felt good. My peanut butter sandwich was just what I wanted. I ate more than I drank at first but I ended up drinking about 3/4 of my water bottle. The weather was so cold that the ice I had put in it a 6 am hadn't fully melted. I passed a lot of people the first couple of miles then fell in with several people whom I kept passing and being passed by. I was happy with the level of effort I kept up and my ability to power up some of the smaller hills. I got passed by an ambulance; apparently someone wiped out on the turn at the bottom of the biggest downhill and broke his collar bone. Bike plus transition I only saw a 2 minute improvement, though some of that was that I didn't wear a wetsuit last year. Bicycling was the only sport in which I had any base of serious experience (and even that was only touring) when I started on this adventure two years ago, and I focused on it more last year than this.

T2 was smoother--change shoes and hat. My legs felt maybe a little awkward the first 100 yards, but I quickly was able to focus on keeping up my pace. I felt like if I ran any faster I would run out of breath, though the few times I spoke to people I could do so fairly easily so I may be too conservative on that. My legs felt fine. Around mile 2, two women in my age group passed me and I tried to keep up with them hoping to pass them again at the end. I kept up with one fairly well, but couldn't gain on her. Still, I'm very happy with my run time--faster than my last stand-alone 5k and less than a minute off my fastest. And that is comparing the run at the end of a triathlon with doing a 5k by itself.

I was pushing hard enough that I didn't look at the clock at the finish and didn't think to stop my watch for a minute or so. I knew I hadn't made my dream time, but I was happy with my improvement on last year. Several people asked me how I did and I said 10 minutes faster than last year. Actually it was 16 minutes faster. I stuck around for the awards ceremony even though I knew there were at least three ahead of me in my age group (actually there were 5--women 50-55 is a pretty competitive age group). One of the people I swim with won the age group, even though she was disappointed she wasn't as fast as last year. I was able to get my official time after the results ceremony, though I hadn't been included in the first group of results posted. My husband left earlier and carried my day pack and wetsuit for me. I had a leisurely bike ride home--I even stopped to pick up a penny in the road.
Official times:
are down a little ways--I got Blogger to accept my table but it puts in a bunch of white space.

swim 22:4525:02
T1 3:06

bike 40:41 47:38 (with T1)
T2 1:17 1:56
run 31:1540:27

Friday, May 12, 2006

getting ready

I've been so much lower key about preparing for the Clemson triathlon than I was last year, but now I'm getting excited. I've set up my bike--pumped the tires, put my saddle cover over my leather saddle, and moved my essential gear into a smaller seat bag. I've packed a daypack--my plan this year is to ride my bike the two miles to the start. My daughter is away on a field trip and my husband will come later. I did pack my wetsuit--it was 50 degrees this morning and so I think I will want it not so much for the water temperature (73 degrees) but for standing around before the start.

Last year the furthest I had run before the race was two and a half miles. I'm a lot stronger in running and swimming this year. What I haven't done is a lot of specific training--no transition practices or open water swimming. Most of all I know more about how much I can push myself. I'm inspired by something I read about how competitors are co-conspirators in the effort to do the best we can. I sent it to Isis before she headed to the masters nationals in swimming and she placed 6th in her age group in her key event!

My dream goal for this race is 1:32--20% faster than last year. That actually would have put me third in my current age group last year, but several other people in my last year's age group will have aged up. I spoke to someone last year who said that as this race has gotten bigger and more popular he has improved his time each year but place lower in his age group each year. This year it is full--469 registered.

Since I can't find my packing list from last year I'm going to write down a list here. It is simpler than it was last year.

banana and other food for beforehand
suntan lotion
race cap

top (I swim in tri shorts and sports bra)
race belt
gloves (I found after swimming my hands were tender)
bike shoes
peanut butter sandwich

running shoes

Monday, May 08, 2006

grades almost in

The trouble with a class of 118 students is that it makes for a lot of loose ends to clean up. I just barely caught an exam I received by email that didn't get printed out for grading. I'm almost ready to get my grades entered.

It feels a little more like the term is over because my daughter is on a field trip all week and so I don't have to leave the house at 7:35 to take her to school. Today I slept until six and then did my long run--7.3 miles. I usually do it on Wednesday but I wanted more recovery time before the big race this weekend. My first longer triathlon is June 11 so I am in a key period in my training for that. Not that I have that structured a plan, but I want to be doing long runs longer than the 10 K race distance so it doesn't seem too hard when I get to it.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Issaqueena's Last Ride

I did the same 31 mile version of this ride last year but I didn't record my time. This year it took me 2 hours 12 minutes, starting my gps a little late and not counting 9 minutes at the rest stop. Last year I did it as a test run of nutrition and keeping up effort for the Clemson triathlon (a week from today); this year I did it casually.

The oddest part of the day was that I ran into the therapist whom I decided to stop working with a year and a half ago. He is a runner turned fairly serious bicyclist, so I wasn't that surprised. But it did seem an interesting coincidence that when I went back to my car after registering I saw him almost opposite to me in the next row of cars getting set up. We talked a while about running and bicycling and I didn't feel uncomfortable. He once told me that the success rate for medically-significant weight loss maintained for 5 years is only 5% (he was trying to be supportive of me not making weight loss my goal). It has only been two years, but I'm glad to show off I'm still on the athletic path. He said I looked fit and I said I'm amazed by how far I've come in a year. I don't know if I can improve my time in the Clemson triathlon by 20%, but I think I might be able to, and that is a big difference.

It was a perfect day for a ride--starting out cool and sunny. The route is mostly lovely quiet roads. I passed some people but at times I had trouble keeping up with the group I was riding with, particularly uphill. When we came to the split between the 66 mile and the 31 mile route I would have been very tempted to take the longer route if everyone else had turned that way, but half the group turned onto the shorter route. I had intended all along to do the shorter route so as not to strain my legs a week before my big race--the 66 mile route goes up the mountain. It was 3 hours and 15 minutes after the start when I got in my car and headed for home, and no one from the 66 mile route had finished. It must be really steep if no one averaged 20 mph.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

a milestone

This morning at masters swim practice I swam 50 yards in less than 1 minute (58 seconds, to be specific) for the first time ever!

My long run this afternoon was not so successful, though given a temperature above 80 I won't complain too much about 13:00 minutes per mile. Today was my final exam and next week I can start doing my long run in the morning rather than mid afternoon. For the first time I am struggling with chafing.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

April totals

swimming 13 workouts for 15 hours 20 min.
bicycling 11 workouts 226 miles in 18 hours 16 min.
running 12 workouts for 54 miles in 11 hours 20 min.

Averaging 10.5 hours a week sounds good to me.

back from Massachusetts

My daughter liked Concord Academy a lot, and there was more structure than I expected (my main worry). I did fine. What hit me most was the theater, which hasn't changed since I was there. I stepped back and leaned against the wall and concentrated on my breathing, but no one noticed. The chapel didn't affect me the same way, but I was distracted by the fact that our tour guides were talking about the importance of the chapel talks given by seniors and I have no memory of mine. I didn't exorcise the ghosts; I still dread setting foot on the campus. When I try to write about what I remember a lot of positive memories come out, but I succeeded academically by repressing the pain inside and that pain is waiting to ambush me.

I was amused Sunday to read an article in the New York Times about resilience. After a close friendship with someone with terrible depression I understood depression better and started saying that it feels like I am chemically resistant to depression (I sometimes feel very depressed but I pop out of it whether I want to or not in a few hours or days). I always felt that when I said that people didn't think I was talking sense. But now there is research showing that different versions of a particular gene can promote or protect against depression. I'm sure I have the most protective version. That is probably why I was so successful in repressing the pain as a teenager. The key that the author doesn't understand is that resilience doesn't mean that everything is fine, it only means that the person is able to keep going despite the pain.