Saturday, April 30, 2011

Neglect and Preparation Woes

I attempted to design a little wishful thinking
into my race helmet.
My apologies for neglecting this blog lately. There are so many things happening, I've not had time to sit down and write about any of it. And worst of all, I can't slow the progression of time. Here's a quickie update on things:

  • I'm tapering for Ironman St. George. This involves the typical taper madness, feeling excessively sluggish and not at all rested. Hours of sleep are down, anxiety is sky-high and worries about not finishing are getting the best of me.
  • My knees are hurting. Bad. It's my first time ever with knee problems. I'm trying not to think about it and saying a lot of prayers. This is also another first for me.
  • I'm maxed out at work, working through lunches and taking extra hours of my own time because my employer, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, is opening a huge world-class elephant exhibit - African Elephant Crossing - on Thursday, May 5. Don't get me wrong, the only regret is that the opening and my race accidentally (but inevitably) fell on the same weekend. Also next week, the Zoo will be launching a new technology initiative that I've been intimately involved with and working feverishly to finish up.
But, as I said, time marches on with no signs of slowing. My P3, nicknamed "Toothless," is already on its way to St. George with TriBike Transport. Unfortunately, because of (real) disaster recovery in Japan, my new Pearl Izumi team racing kit will not be in until mid-May so I'm going to have to dig up some old threads to race in. The weather in Cleveland has continued rain and cold and windy and I've not done much riding outside. And with seven days to go, I still haven't attempted to swim in my new Quintana Roo wetsuit.

But despite all the insecurities and falling behind in my race preparation, there are some positive things to report. The water temperature at Sand Hollow (IMSG swim site) is now 62 degrees F (up from 55 on April 21), and the weather forecast for St. George on May 7 is sunny and dry with a high in the mid 80s.

It's finally sunny and getting warmer today, so I'll be taking the beloved 2003 Cannondale Ironman 5K out for a spin on my final race simulation brick.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

City by the River(s): Running and Hangin' in Pittsburgh

Looking upstream - several identical suspension bridges
cross the he Allegheny River to connect Pittsburgh's
downtown with the riverfront park and stadiums
As a resident of Cleveland, I always hesitate when I consider writing (or talking) about Pittsburgh. I hesitate because my Cleveland friends don't appreciate my ravings about Pittsburgh. (The last time I wrote about Pittsburgh was after the marathon last year and I already took a lot of flak for that.) In their defense, my friends forget I'm not FROM Cleveland. I wasn't born a Browns fan and I don't hate the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After writing that, I feel the desire to rant about how ridiculous these sports rivalry things are. But I'm married to a die-hard Ohio State University fan (with two degrees from there including his PhD), and my husband Jim has an unending supply of quotes by famed OSU football coach Woody Hayes about his hatred of Michigan - and not only the University, but the entire STATE of Michigan. For instance, upon learning from an assistant that they were running out of gas returning from a recruiting trip in the state of Michigan, Woody was alleged to have said the following: "We'll coast and PUSH this goddam car to the Ohio line before I give this state a nickel of my money!"

So, to my Cleveland friends re: Pittsburgh: ok OK, I GET it. I just don't share it. For many reasons I'll go into.

Pittsburgh and Cleveland have an amazing number of similarities. They're both blue-collar steel towns. In both cities you can find several great institutions of higher learning. Both cities have outstanding cultural institutions that were funded by wealthy industrial families of the American Renaissance. When I rave about  Pittsburgh's cultural institutions, I could just as easily be raving about Cleveland's (and I do). And yes, both cities have die-hard major league sports fanatics.

One thing I love about Cleveland is its location on the shores of Lake Erie. Ironically this is the reason Cleveland DOESN'T have one of the things I REALLY love about Pittsburgh - the topography. Pittsburgh's intrinsic beauty lies in its location. Downtown Pittsburgh is formed by the junction of three rivers - the Ohio, the Monongahela and the Allegheny. Surrounding this three-river valley are steep hills with buildings and residential communities built right into them. It often reminds me of San Francisco. One of the things I look forward to most when visiting Pittsburgh is making my way up to the the Mount Washington area (Grandview Avenue) and looking down at "the city of bridges":

Downtown Pittsburgh from Grandview Avenue
Looking up the Monongahela side of Pittsburgh
The junction of the three rivers
I've been to Pittsburgh more times than I can count. Unlike Detroit (you can read my thoughts on Detroit in blog form from earlier this year), we visit Pittsburgh on a regular basis to go to the art museums. We don't usually stay overnight, but when we do, I always bring my running shoes and get up early the next day to see the area.

On Thursday night, I once-again found myself in Pittsburgh, this time for a music gig - The Decemberists. My husband Jim and I decided to stay an extra day and booked a hotel downtown at the edge of what's known as the "Strip District" - the historic (and very cool) market district. Because of our location, my morning run was along the riverfront trail - the Three Rivers Heritage Trail - a route I know very well because I've run it before as part of one of my favorite races, the Pittsburgh Triathlon.

Heinz Field
While I was out running, I gave some thought to why this industrial steel town with a decrepit old riverfront has become a favorite place of mine. I can't even remember the first time I saw Pittsburgh. And I certainly can't count how many times I've been there. And, as previously stated, many of my Cleveland friends wouldn't be caught dead stepping foot in Pittsburgh. So why do I love it so much?

The first thing I came up with - while running - is the amount of care that has gone into revitalizing the riverfront. Pittsburgh's riverfront has undergone a revolution over the last 10-20 years. Pittsburgh's legendary double-duty Three Rivers Stadium was torn down and replaced by Heinz Field - where the Steelers play - and PNC Park - where the Pirates play. Both stadiums lie directly across the Allegheny River from downtown Pittsburgh. They sit majestically above a beautiful riverfront park along the waterfront. This park is along the trail on which I was running.

PNC Park - the architecture is a beautiful tribute
to the steel town's history
The first time I ever ran on the trail was in the 2002 Pittsburgh Triathlon. The race was organized by Friends of Riverfront, a group that has been working to clean up the riverfront and expand and maintain the trail. Their work has paid off. The first time I did the triathlon (2002), water temperature in the Allegheny River was over 80 degrees F, but we were "encouraged" to wear wetsuits because of the bacteria count. The situation had changed drastically by the last time I did the triathlon - in 2009. The trail has been extended much further upstream, the riverfront park was dotted with public art and historical markers and the water was immensely cleaner. Pittsburgh is a city that cares about its image, its heritage and its natural resources. I'd like to see Cleveland do more to celebrate its own industrial, cultural and sports history the way Pittsburgh does on its waterfront.

After my run, Jim and I spend a few hours shopping in the Strip District, grabbed a bite at our favorite Pittsburgh eating and drinking establishment, Piper's Pub, and took a stroll down to a place Jim always wanted to visit, Pittsburgh Guitars. As we were driving home, I recalled some of our past experiences in this city.

One confusing mess of bridges & highways
One of my earliest trips to Pittsburgh was when Jim's father had miraculously landed two tickets to the Major League Baseball All-Star game at Three Rivers Stadium. I don't remember much about that trip except that it was a very late night and trying to get out of town was very confusing. It reminded me of another major complaint my friends have about Pittsburgh - finding one's way around. It's a fair complaint (it's almost as difficult as Boston). There's an inherent difficulty in navigating a wedge-shaped area between two rivers with a seemingly-infinite number of expressways and bridges. Anyone who doesn't live in Pittsburgh usually ends up lost (or not where they wanted to be with no idea how to get where they want to be). It's become an accepted part of every trip we take to Pittsburgh - leaving extra time for getting lost. In fact, I was almost disappointed that we made it into town and to our hotel without incident this time. But we made up for it on Friday when we ended up accidentally driving out of town while trying to cross the Monongahela River to get to Piper's on Carson Street.

Despite the navigational difficulties, driving into Pittsburgh can be an awe-inspiring experience. Approaching the city on I-376 through the Fort Pitt Tunnel will give you one of the most stunning view ever of a city. Coming out of the tunnel always gives me the feeling that I'm descending over Pittsburgh by air - the vantage point gives a full view of downtown, all three rivers and all the bridges. I still remember the first time we drove that route - my heart almost stopped upon suddenly seeing the magnificent panorama. Do it sometime. You won't be disappointed. Unfortunately, we don't always approach Pittsburgh from I-376 - it usually depends on our specific destination and how much time we have.

Edward Hopper's "Cape Cod Afternoon"
at the Carnegie Museum of Art
(I bet you thought I'd post a Warhol)
This brings me to another reason I love Pittsburgh and one of the main reasons I like to go there repeatedly: Art. After a short drive, I can be standing in front of a Warhol. Or a room of Warhols. An entire museum of Warhols. Even better, I can be at the Carnegie Museum of Art standing in front of my favorite Edward Hopper Painting, "Cape Cod Afternoon." There are numerous art and cultural establishments in and around the city of Pittsburgh - the four Carnegie Museums are only a small fraction of it. Yes, I know Cleveland has an awesome art museum. (Afterall, I am a member.) But so does Pittsburgh. And it's only two hours away. (And Cleveland Museum of Art members get full admission reciprocation, i.e., it's free!)

And finally, I always like meeting people in Pittsburgh. We never get scorned upon revealing we're from Cleveland. Having traveled to Pittsburgh for a concert this time, it was ironic that one of the employees at Pittsburgh Guitars had the distinct impression that Cleveland "gets all the best gigs." Jim and I disagreed, but he backed it up with tales of his travels north to our fair city to see concerts at our own Beachland Ballroom (arguably the best music venue in the greater Cleveland area).

It made me think... could my whole love-of-Pittsburgh be a case of "the grass is always greener"? I don't know, but for now, I'm just glad we have more than one city to choose from.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ironman Cramming

Benchmarking Ironman: RunTri's 25 Toughest Ironman Races
Check out the full details at
There are 19 days to Ironman St. George and I fear I'm heading smack into full Disaster Magnet panic mode. (How ridiculous is that? Only I could be "afraid" of panicking.) I don't feel so alone going to St. George because I regularly read the blog TransitionFour. Check out his latest infographic on Ironman St. George - race registration numbers are dismal. I find it very strange that there's an Ironman race that couldn't sell out because it's labeled as "too hard." I mean, COME ON! This is Ironman - it's supposed to be hard. As crazy as Ironman athletes are, I would expect them to be flocking to this race just to say "I did the hardest one!"

Female registrants are waaaay down, only 18% of the total (compared to 23% in 2010), and registration is down for the older age groups. This is both good news and bad news for me:
  • The bad news about small age groups is there are very few Kona slots - maybe just one.
  • The good news about small age groups is fewer people are willing to take on the challenge.
  • The bad news is that it's possible only the best triathletes will be there (because of the course difficulty).
So, yeah, in my mind, the bads outweigh the goods at this point, and panic creeps into my thoughts nightly. It's giving me flashbacks to the weeks before finals in college. I'm even having the nightmares of being late to the test. Most of my conscious panic involves the following:
  • fearing I've not done enough hill training to perform well in an Ironman with 6000 feet of climbing
  • worrying that, with my horrible nutrition issues, I've had no way of testing my fueling for a race that may very well last over 13 hours
  • wondering if I've REALLY done enough running to tackle an extremely hilly marathon after the swim and the bike (this anxiety translated into a 2:20 long run at 5 a.m. this morning)
  • fearing that because I can't get out of town until two nights before the race, if something goes awry with my travel arrangements to Utah, I won't have enough prep time
  • fearing a swim in seriously COLD water
  • wondering if my allergist is right that I won't get asthma in Utah's dry conditions
  • the usual sleep anxiety
I hope that writing down these fears will make me look extremely silly and others will smack some sense into me. I have 19 days to get a grip.

Is it a coincidence that as soon as I finished writing this entry I got an email stating the Ironman St. George Athlete's guide is now available? I'll be wearing #309 on race day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Venn Diagrams and Personality Disorders: the Blog for Letty Lulu

Several months ago, after making a comment about blogging graphs and diagrams, I was challenged by one of my good friends to come up with a Venn diagram and use it in a blog. Until yesterday, I had forgotten that promise - but, as all great friends are obligated to do, she called me out on Facebook yesterday: "Once upon a time, you promised me a Venn Diagram. Oh why hath thou art forsaken such an attribute." Now, she may kill me for putting her (nick)name in the title, but, afterall, she IS the reason I obsessed for several hours yesterday to come up with a good enough Venn in hopes of impressing her (or, at the very least, not looking like an idiot).

Most good ideas usually start with research, so I went to "The Google Image Search" and typed in "Venn diagram." I was instantly bombarded with hundreds of circles and colors and the first thing that came to mind was that commercial for the Bing search engine where people are spouting off random facts about everything under the sun.

After clicking on the ones that looked interesting or funny, what I found were the unfortunate truths:
  • all the really clever Venn diagrams are already taken
  • Venn diagrams can be anything from two joined circles to some unbelievable combination of circles, ellipses and any other shapes that have rounded corners
Here are some of my favorites:

The Social Media Venn Diagram
from PicoCool

The "Things that are Bad" Venn diagram from Burning Door
(many of my friends will ROTFL at this, or at least find it mildly amusing)

The Venn Diagram about Venn Diagrams
This accompanies one of the most hilarious articles I read about Venn diagrams,
from Miss Cellania at Mental Floss

The Charles Dickens Venn Diagram
from GraphJam

Something I've always been dying to know (having been called several of these),
"The Difference between Nerd, Dork, and Geek Explained by a Venn Diagram"
from Great White Snark 

For Letty Lulu and the rest of my English friends,
there's even a "Great British Venn Diagram"
for the people who don't get it.

I set out to define a Venn diagram for myself that would explain something about my life or my personality and be somewhat comedic. Note that defining my personality in amusing terms is easy for other people but never for me. Although I DO laugh about it.

I gave it some serious thought. I wanted three circles. Three circles seems reasonable and do-able in a short amount of time. And it's a little more challenging and creative than two circles (besides, I didn't want the narrowness of two circles to explain me). More than three circles hurts to think about (see above, or do what I did and type "Venn diagram" into Google).

Having decided on the all-powerful three circle mode of Venn-diagramming, I answered the question "what are some of the trichotomies in my life?" (is trichotomy even a word?):
  • Duh! Swim, Bike, Run - this one is just BORING and I'm sure it's been done 50 billion times before
  • Home, Sports, Work - hmmmm, this one has potential, but lately, I've been determined to keep any of those things from overlapping
  • The J-Team (Julie, Jim, Jeanne) - more potential there because Jim and Julie share many characteristics as do Julie and me and Jim and me... 
  • Jim, Jeanne, Hopper (our cat) - determining the overlap characteristics was fun, but not "funny" in the comedic sense
I pulled up Adobe Illustrator and drew three circles. I thought about the geeky Venn diagrams I had seen. I thought about my personality. I recalled something my friend and orthopedic doctor, Sam Patterson, once said: "I wouldn't believe this could be, but you have both compulsive and impulsive characteristics." I though about the things I do for a living and in my free time.

I wrote "Athlete" in one circle. I wrote "Artist" in another circle (because I do, afterall, have one of my college degrees in that). I struggled to come up with what to write in the third circle. It has to be something to do with work. I wrote "Web Developer." Too narrow. I decided on "Geek" - something I've often been called at work. And at play. (and my other college degree is a B.S. in engineering - and that has to count for something, right?) In retrospect, I probably should have written "Mad Scientist" from my blog title.

So, there it was, I accomplished first step to the Disaster Magnet Venn Diagram - the three circles. Next I had to determine what goes in the overlapping areas. I looked to the personality traits I bring to those three things. The centerpiece, then, would be what I think is my true personality disorder, the one thing I take with me everywhere.

And I was done. And here it is:

The Disaster Magnet Personality Disorder Venn Diagram.

Well, it was SUPPOSED to be funny.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fear Factors and Functional Thresholds

Two major Ironman training-related things happened this week: (1) I saw a promotional video of Ironman St. George that scared the living daylights out of me and (2) I did a retest of my cycling FTP (Functional Threshold Power). These two things seem unrelated, but people like my husband Jim would have you believe that they are cosmically intertwined. Let's just say it was a random coincidence that they occurred within 24 hours of each other.

First, the scary thing. I got the link for this video from one of the athletes I follow on Twitter - he blogged it. I am now blogging it because, in it, Ironman St. George looks like the perfect follow up to the series of race disasters that has been my Ironman quest. The CompuTrainer real-time video makes the bike course look easy compared to this video. And I've been told the run course is even worse. This video was supposedly shown at the pre-race banquet at last year's inaugural race - can you imagine seeing this for the first time knowing race morning is almost upon you? This video may have been directly responsible for the Ironman race nightmare I had the night after watching it:

As if that weren't enough, I did more damage to my mental state by once again checking out the course profiles on the IMSG website. To reiterate:

The bike course profile
The run course profile
Yeah. That's the same thing I was thinking. Nothing scary about those, right?!?!?! J-Team member J3 likes to say: "At least the swim will be flat."

I'd like to add this: "At least the scenery will be spectacular." Because I fully expect to be out there for a very long time.

Once the fear factor had taken hold, I needed a pick-me-up so I did my Functional Threshold Power time trial yesterday morning in hopes of having some good news.

In January, a 20-minute FTP time trial indicated the following: an FTP of approx. 196 watts (for me, that's 3.45 w/kg). Since then, I've completed three months of focused FTP work on the CompuTrainer. It was supplemented by three weekend long rides of five hours each, one 100-miler on the trainer and two outdoor 100-milers. I've been spending 3-4 days per week with about 8-10 hours per week on the bike. The results from yesterday's time trial: an FTP of 207 watts (3.65 w/kg).

The increase in FTP was less than 6%. And it was a huge disappointment. I worked exceptionally hard and thought my bike training was solid this winter, but apparently I'm still not doing something right.
Because of all the climbing in St. George, that w/kg number is the very thing that will matter most on race day. On hills is where increased power-to-weight ratio makes a difference, as opposed to on downhills and flats where the most important variable is my aero position (and I always get blown away on the downhills).

My focus for the next three weeks will be to get my head in the right place to accept this and teach myself that I need to stay in control of my effort on the bike leg so I can save as much as possible for the run. At this point, that's all I got.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In Praise of Cleveland Metroparks: Final Century before Ironman St. George

Cleveland acting like New England
In Cleveland, we have an amazing civic treasure known as the "Emerald Necklace," or Cleveland Metroparks, a connected string of suburban parks (called reservations) that encircles the city of Cleveland. Long before I was fortunate enough to be a park employee (I work for Cleveland Metroparks Zoo), I was a daily visitor to the parks either on foot or by bike. If you envision the park system as a necklace, I live right near the bottom (where the pendant would be). My two very favorite bike rides are in either direction from there through the Metroparks - north and west or north and east.

On my first outdoor 100-miler, I tackled the west branch. Yesterday, on my second, I went east. In addition to being the last bike century workout before Ironman St. George, I also planned to use this ride to assess the winter damage to the park roads so I know better what routes to take this summer. While I was out, I remembered all the things I love (and hate) about riding east through Cleveland Metroparks.

There's really not much to hate, actually. It's more of that proverbial "love-hate relationship." To my surprise and delight, the roads had weathered Cleveland's harsh winter amazingly well, and I was able to spend more time looking around than worrying about dodging pot-holes. And, that's when I realized how much I love (hate) this route.

Squire's Castle in Cleveland Metroparks
North Chagrin Reservation
The route took me through the rolling hills of Bedford Reservation, into South Chagrin Reservation, and then north along the Chagrin River and into North Chagrin Reservation. Once you pick up the Chagrin River, you get to see how "the other half lives" (that is, if you're ME and NOT the "other half"). Along Chagrin River Road is where every house looks like a castle, but the actual "castle" is in Cleveland Metroparks (it's called Squire's Castle).

Being from New England, I always feel transported back there to a time when all roads followed rivers. In fact, the scenery of this area could be lifted right out of a Robert Frost poem (see photo at top). The landscape is punctuated by huge park areas, forest, creeks and horse stables. There are both rolling and steep hills. And there are little iron bridges. Everyone lives in "villages" and the places have names like "Hunting Valley" and "Gates Mills." It seems that each village has its own coat of arms which is proudly displayed as you enter the village. There's even a polo field. Yep, you heard me. A POLO field. I mean, seriously, who plays polo? But there it is, the Cleveland Metroparks Polo Field.

But I digress.. getting back to the ride.. I did see lots of bikers on what was very likely their first outdoor rides of the season. And not only road bikers, but EVERYONE was out yesterday - runners, walkers, hikers, mountain bikers, motorcyclists - all taking in the temperatures in the... high 50s! It looked like summer. There were people in shorts and tank tops. I've become well aware that Clevelanders see temperatures above 50 and declare it beach weather. And what's wrong with that after the crazy cold winter and spring we've had this year?

As a "Clevelander," I did it too. I walked outside with bike shorts and short sleeves, determined to make this a summer (or at least spring) ride. I found out rather quickly (one-half-mile into my ride) the air whizzing by on the bike wasn't so summery, and I quickly had to don a pair of arm warmers and gloves, which remained on me for the duration of my ride.

It started out well - most likely due to the fact I was riding with the wind. I reached the 34-mile turnaround at an average pace of 17.7 mph. By the time I hit 65 miles, it had dropped to 17 and I had become discouraged. I always forget that road riding requires stopping at stop signs and traffic lights, and, on this ride, several bathroom breaks because I hadn't dressed warm enough to sweat. I did my second loop south through the Summit Metroparks - mostly on their bike path. Similarly, this path went past some really ritzy areas such as Silver Lake. In the end, I decided to dub this ride "the other half."

My nutrition consisted of Carbo Pro mixed with Infinit Nutrition's preset cycling formula at about 250 calories per hour and supplemented with E.F.S. Liquid Shot. During my long rides this year, I've learned a new lesson: I need more than 250 calories per hour because I get lightheaded (more than usual) when I limit it to 250. I added the Infinit formula because it supplies protein but not so much that I start to feel nauseous like I used to with Hammer's Perpetuem.

The final 20 miles were mostly on a downslope which gave me time to rest my legs and get my average up to 17.3 mph by the finish. While in the homestretch, I realized my legs weren't feeling very fatigued. In fact, they were feeling pretty good. It gave me hope for the second part of my workout - a short run off the bike.

By the time I got home, the sun had come out and temperatures were warming into the 60's. My husband Jim had planned to use the day to get ready for summer: put away the snow blower (woo!), get out the grill and do lawnmower maintenance. Lucky for me, he had also agreed to ride his bike with me while I ran and carry water so I could test my run nutrition. (Secretly, I love when he does this because I have someone to talk to - or complain to - after six hours of riding alone.) It also helps to have him assess my running form and pace.

I did a quick transition - put on my running shoes, took the last swig of Carbo Pro in the bottle, grabbed a Gu and filled a water bottle - and was on my way. But something was NOT RIGHT. I didn't feel fatigued. I didn't even have "the wobble" (the J-Team terminology for what you look like coming out of the Ironman T2 transition tent). Jim commented on it first: "you're looking pretty good."

My comment? "I don't think I should feel this good." My legs felt fresh (dare I say "springy"?). Not the way they should feel after 100 miles of biking. And not the way I expected them to feel after my final really hard week of training.

I had decided to run for 30 minutes.. enough to get me through the first Gu/water stop. But when we got back to the house, I felt good enough to throw in 10 more minutes. It was somewhere around 38 minutes of running that I said it. I don't know why. I don't know what came over me. But I said IT.

"I feel good enough to run a whole marathon right now."

EEEEEEEEEEK! Did that just come out of my mouth? All I can hope for now is that the same thing happens on race day. It's 27 days away.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Blight

Falling on ice is nothing compared
to falling on pavement.
It's been almost two weeks since my last blog entry but I've really not had much to say. Spring 2011 has brought several weeks of continuing cold rain and snow to the Cleveland area and I have had to remain on my bike trainer for most of my rides. I've also been spending extra time at work in the evenings which translates into very late workouts and no time to write about them. The most significant things to report about the last two weeks are an increase in anxiety about Ironman St. George and a couple near-disasters during my runs in the dark.

I've been focusing on the bike-run transition -- which basically means I've decided that anytime I have bike and run workouts on the same day, I'll do it as a brick. The first one of these short bricks (and by short, I mean 2-4 hours) came a couple weeks ago in the evening. After a longer-than-average work day, I got on my CompuTrainer for two hours and followed it up with a one-hour run.

Everything was going especially well during that run. Temperatures - at night even - had reached near heat-wave status at 38 degrees, and I took off out the door in shorts for the first time in months. My legs were surprisingly "springy" after the ride, so I continued to run hard for several miles around the back roads in my neighborhood. In the dark at night, I usually stay on sidewalks because, not surprisingly, I've found that drivers don't expect to see runners out on the roads at 10 pm. (Seriously, why else would they be driving 50+ mph in a residential area and blowing through stop signs?)

So, yeah, I was running on the sidewalk.. when a forgotten dimension of winter's damage tripped me up, literally. The sidewalk pavements had shifted badly, and I ended up almost doing a face-plant on concrete. I felt more stupid than hurt, and I got up quickly, surveyed the damage to my knee, and started running again. By the time I got home, my leg looked like the photo above.

Six days later, the same thing happened. AGAIN. I went down the same way, on the same side. The only thing that wasn't the same was the sidewalk I was running on. So now I have scrapes and bruises on top of scrapes and bruises, and my arms feel like I've been doing heavy lifting. My right elbow is so badly bruised I can't lean on anything. (The bright side is that it keeps me alert and in good posture while at my desk at work).

The other equally-ridiculous thing I've done in the past two weeks was a 100-mile ride on the CompuTrainer - most of it on the IM St. George Real Time course. It gave me yet another data point in the IMSG analysis. This one was the best yet, although it wasn't as good as I had hoped after all the hard training I've done. The most important accomplishment of this ride wasn't the power output anyway, it was the mental fortitude I had to stay on the trainer for almost six hours - a personal record.

Here's a plot of my best three finishes on the IMSG course (and yes, it does bother me that one of my best rides is from waaaay back in February):

My best three rides on the CompuTrainer IM St. George Real Time Video Course
The darkest line is the latest ride and best average power.
This week, I'm planning a time trial on the CompuTrainer to determine if my FTP (Functional Threshold Power) value has changed at all from January after completing the 12-week CompuTrainer challenge workouts my team was taking part in. After all the training, I'm expecting it to be higher, but lately, I've gotten the distinct impression I'm never going to get any stronger on the bike, no matter what I do. But I'll let the proof be in the TT.