Viva Las Vegas! 
Saturday, January 31, 2009, 10:39 PM
Posted by Administrator
I spent all week in Las Vegas for a work-related conference which involved many hours of sitting and listening interspersed with heavy, starch-laden meals. Ugh. On two mornings, I managed to squeeze in short runs which began with passing through the casino at 5:30am. It was a startling and somewhat surreal experience for me, groggily starting my day, to suddenly be surrounded by flashing lights, smoky haze and scantily-clad cocktail waitresses. I'm not sure if the gamblers had begun their smoking, drinking and playing the evening before or if they were just early-risers getting a jump on the day. Either way, it was bizarre. I definitely stood out in my running clothes.

I felt stiff and tired this morning, but, with only two weeks until Pemberton, was determined to get in another 20-mile training run. Paul opted for the group bike ride, and so I was on my own. I took the kids for 2 miles and then dropped them off at home along with my gloves and arm warmers. I grabbed my MP3 player and headed out for another 15 miles with a ratio of 4 minutes running to 1 minute walking. It took a while to loosen up, but I eventually got into a comfortable groove and cruised along until around mile 15 when I began to fatigue.

I arrived back at the house with 17.5 miles under my belt and a slightly light-headed feeling . Hmm...that can't be good. I glanced at the outdoor thermometer and realized that the temperature had risen almost 25 degrees since I had started running, topping out at 73 degrees. Okay - that explains it. I popped two electrolyte tablets with a glass of cold water and talked myself into going back out for those last 2.5 miles. At this point, my run was more of a shuffle, but I was able to keep up my 4:1 ratio which was some consolation.

During the 10 minutes of my excruciating, post-run ice bath, I considered the fact that the race is 11 more miles than I ran today. I am definitely a little nervous. With a cut-off time of 8 hours, I feel confident that I can finish. I'm just hoping to survive it without too much pain.

Paul and I celebrated the beginning of my taper with a cup of Tucson's best gelato at Frost, where the owner thanked us for being "such loyal customers." I have to say, that expression of gratitude made me question our gelato-eating habits.

In other exciting news, Paul and I finished constructing our new spice rack! I've seen a few varieties of these in stores and online, but nothing exactly like I wanted and so we decided to make it ourselves. I must say, it came out quite well!

sheet metal - Lowe's
tins - Specialty Bottling
magnetic strips - Michael's
electrical tape (for labeling) - Ace Hardware
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Tandem Ride & Sabino Run 
Sunday, January 25, 2009, 06:40 PM
Posted by Administrator
Paul had been struggling with a cold for a few days and so, when the alarm went off Saturday morning signaling us to get out of bed for the regular Saturday group ride, he convinced me to turn it off and crawl back under the covers. Okay...maybe "convinced" isn't the right word. He mentioned sleeping a little later and I didn't argue.

By 9:30 a.m., we were fully-rested, out the door and on the tandem for about 90 minutes of riding in the Rancho Vistoso area. Paul took it easy except for when we came upon other riders. Apparently, tandems are supposed to be fast and we have a reputation to uphold.

Paul felt better and better throughout the day and we planned to join the trail runners for a 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning run at Sabino. However, during the night, the cold moved into Paul's chest and, by morning, he was hacking up some nasty stuff. Not wanting to risk backsliding into full-on sickness, he opted for a short, easy jog in the neighborhood with the dogs.

I had my heart set on a trail run and so I drove to Sabino Canyon and found a huge group of trail runners gathering in the pre-dawn chill. There must have been about 35 of us and I was instantly glad I had come. It's been months since we last ran with the group and it was wonderful to catch up with friends

While the majority ran the 17-mile Bear Canyon Loop, I did a shorter course, running up the Phoneline Trail and down the road. I did a 20-miler last weekend and plan to do one final long run next weekend, and so I needed this one to be a little more moderate than 17 miles. The run started off beautifully with a sky full of morning colors.

I ran as much as possible and, when forced to walk, was mindful to push it and keep my heart rate up.

Phoneline is rather easy to navigate and yet I managed to make a wrong turn which led me down a steep trail toward the road. I realized early on that I had messed up, but decided to keep going as I was planning to get on the road at some point anyway. But, after about 1/2-mile, I decided that the trail would dump me farther down the road than I wanted to be and would cut my run too short. I turned around and started trekking back up the steep climb, reminding myself the entire way that it was a good workout. My legs were toast at the top. But, I quickly got on the correct trail and, within 20 minutes, was at the top of the road (where I had intended to be) and ready for the downhill.

It is always a little surreal for me to run a Sabino trail and finish the run on the road. While on trail, I only came across three small groups over the course of two hours. As soon as I hit pavement, the numbers began to rise. By the time I got to the parking lot, there were droves of people heading into the canyon. People of all ages, shapes and sizes. People with trekking poles and baby carriages (which is rather impressive considering the hills). A shirtless elderly couple walking. There was even a man reading a book while he walked - a novel, not a guidebook. I love the solitude of the trails, but the road provides some fantastic people-watching opportunities, and, at that point on the run, I welcome the distractions.

The higher you are on the road, the fewer people you find. This is partially due to the challenge of the climb, but today it also had to do with the water flowing over the bridges. It was cold and there was no way around it. But it was beautiful! I was tired, but the sight and sound of the rushing water gave me a boost in the final miles.

I finished up at just over 10 miles with tired hamstrings, but feeling good otherwise. I've got two more weeks to strengthen the hammy's before resting them for Pemberton.

Tomorrow I fly to Las Vegas for a week-long conference. The last time I conferenced at this particular off-the-strip hotel, I wound up running large circles in the parking lot and doing stairs in the parking garage. I'm optimistically packing some running clothes and hoping I can find something better this time.
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Four Weeks and Counting 
Sunday, January 18, 2009, 11:18 PM
Posted by Administrator
With the Pemberton 50K fast approaching, I was due for a long run. I wanted a 20-miler on a course comparable to the Pemberton Trail - dirt and relatively flat - but that combination is difficult to find as most dirt trails lead up a mountain. Paul got creative and drove us up to Willow Springs Road in Oracle. It's a road as opposed to a trail...but it is dirt.

We parked just off of Oracle Road and set off into a raging headwind. We quickly discovered that the road was mostly rolling hills and more difficult than Pemberton, but still good for training. We had gorgeous 360 degree views at all times, although our enjoyment of the desert beauty was interrupted more than we would have liked by the traffic. It was not a busy road, by any means, but there were quite a few trucks hauling mountain bikes, dirt bikes and ATV's. Most were courteous and would slow and return my wave as they passed. But a few came screeching around corners like Bo Duke, kicking up dust in our faces and squealing "yeehaw!". Okay, the last part may have been a figment of my imagination, but it would have been fitting.

Toward the end of the out-and-back run, I was pretty tired and sore - much more so than I would have liked considering 20 miles is only 2/3 of the race distance. On the plus side, I'm doing much better with my nutrition. Over four hours, I took in about 56 ounces of fluid and 3 ounces of gel.

I have time for one more long effort before the race and, in addition, I'll be working on strengthening my core and hamstrings. These areas definitely hold me back when I begin to fatigue. With a little more power and stability, I'll be able to hang in there in the final miles...I hope.

At Paul's suggestion, I suffered through a 15-minute ice bath when I got home. Getting in is absolute torture and, in my experience, impossible to do without some verbalization of the pain, be it four-letter words or unintelligible shrieks. It's not pretty. And no, I will not be posting photos. After a few minutes, all submerged body parts go numb and it's really not so bad.

I finished up the day with a baking experiment - truffles! I made pistachio, almond and orange zest. They are not perfectly round like the ones you buy in the store - that will take practice - but they're delicious!

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Back to the Grind 
Thursday, January 15, 2009, 08:28 PM
Posted by Administrator
My first week back at the office following a relaxing two-week vacation seemed to drag on, especially as I had a Saturday meeting that kept me busy until 1:30pm. I wanted to get in a moderately long workout that day and so I broke it up with 3 early morning miles before my meeting and then 10 late afternoon miles with Paul. Check out my new running clothes. Retail value - $60. Post-Christmas outlet sale price - $20. Gotta love it!

The next morning, we hopped in the car early and headed to Chandler for the Casa Grande Century, a non-competitive group ride which offered distances of 100, 62 and 34 miles. We opted for the middle distance and were one of the last bikes to leave the parking lot. Because of this, we rode by ourselves the entire way, passing the occasional rider. But one nice thing about a tandem is that you always have company!

It was a brisk morning with temperatures in the 50's and a headwind for what seemed to be the majority of the ride. The course took us on a fairly quiet road that eventually offered beautiful desert views, but only after pedaling along 10 miles of a trash-strewn roadway. I cannot imagine why people throw cups, bottles and worse out of their car windows, but I hope they're getting their share of karmic retribution.

A sag stop was set up at mile 17 and we stopped for a bathroom break and snacks. The 34-milers turned back at this point, but we continued on, turning west to cross over I-10 toward Casa Grande. It turns out that there is more to this city that the outlet mall and Florence Boulevard. Who knew?

Mile 31 brought us to the lunch stop with a nice BBQ spread, sandwich fixin's and good conversation. My legs were definitely fatiguing on the return trip, as this was my longest bike ride in a few months. Throw in a sore butt and a little chafing and I was very happy to get back to the car. Can you believe that our tandem actually fits in the back of the Prius?

Overall, this was a decent ride - well-organized, friendly volunteers and plenty of good food. And it jump-started my bike training for our two upcoming Mystery Weekends which both happen to involve cycling.
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Holiday Vacation - Part II 
Tuesday, January 6, 2009, 09:14 PM
Posted by Administrator
Upon waking each morning at the ski condo in North Conway, we faced many difficult decisions. What time should we ski? Should I read by the fire or snuggle up with a blanket on the couch? At which outlet stores should we shop today? Pictionary or Boggle? It's a rough life. I love the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but I also love settling in at the ski condo knowing we can truly relax.

Paul and I were thrilled to go cross-country skiing on four days and there are some great trails just a short walk across the condo parking lot, behind Stonehurst Manor. It was so incredibly beautiful and peaceful out in the snow-covered woods.

Neither of us are big shoppers, but we always spend some time and money at the outlets - the post-Christmas sales are just too good to pass up! In addition to some shirts, I scored a great deal on arm and leg warmers at the Louis Garneau Outlet. Up until now, I've been using Paul's which are a little on the baggy side. Here are Becky and Emily taking a break after a full afternoon of bargain hunting:

The best part about our days "up north" is having so much time to spend with family and friends - playing games, sharing meals, chatting over after-dinner drinks. And the kids are always entertaining! In the photos below, Paul and Jon "volunteered" to be part of Hannah's band and Paul is playing with CJ.

On New Year's Eve Day, we said our goodbyes to the family and headed to Cambridge, where we had arranged to spend New Year's with Erin and Jon, Arizona friends who are living there for one year. Luckily, my Canadian husband has years of winter driving experience because, shortly after hitting the road, we drove into a storm that ended up dumping 8 inches of snow. The ride took much longer than expected - traffic crawled on the freeways and we stopped for lunch, mostly so that Paul could give his eyes a break from staring at pure whiteness. Then, as soon as we got into the city, we got lost and had to stop to buy a map and figure out where exactly we were. It was wonderful to finally get to Erin and Jon's and to spend some time catching up.

Around dinner time, we put on as many clothes as possible and headed out into the frigid cold for Indian food followed by First Night Boston. We alternated between indoor and outdoor activities, including a classical guitarist, a fabulous Poetry SLAM and the amazing ice sculptures.

With the wind chill, it was below zero. Remarkably, and thanks to the seven layers I wore on top and the borrowed snow boots and wool socks, the only part of me that got really cold was my face. We were shocked to see a group of young women wearing cocktail dresses and tromping through the snow and slush in strappy high heels. They had to have been absolutely frozen! This sight made me especially happy that my single days are behind me, so that, on special evenings such as this, I can focus on comfort over cuteness. If you think I'm exaggerating about the cold, then check out this photo of Jon with a teardrop-shaped icicle hanging from his right eyelash!


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