A good read

December was a productive month on the book reading front... I managed to finish three very different books, and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them.

"Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami
This book is my selection for our next book club read and it has been sitting on my nightstand for a good 6 months so I decided it was time to read it. It was one of the more imaginative books I've read. It essentially focuses on two characters, Kafka and Nakata. Kafka is a 15yr old boy who runs away from home, and Nakata is an elderly man who lives a simple life on welfare. Ultimately their story is connected, but it's an odd, imaginative journey before the connection is made. I liked that the book kept you guessing and in many ways the book seemed like a very bizarre dream. I'm sure it prompted some strange dreams of my own!

"Sophies' World" by Jostein Gaarder
Gordon recommended this book to me. He read it about 15 years ago. I even found an old Glasgow train ticket lying within the pages. The book centres around the main character, Sophie, who one day starts receiving philosophy teachings in the mail from an aging philosopher. The book takes you through a history of Western Philosophy and I found it very interesting and educational. I also found the character of Sophie to be very mature for a 15 year old, the things she said and the questions she asked seemed a bit beyond what a regular 15 year old would think. There's also a fantastic twist that comes into play around three quarters of the way into the book. It's this twist that turns it into an Alice in Wonderland type fantasty land. I laughed out loud at some of the antics in the book. It was creative but factual and I found it thought provoking and entertaining.

"Almost French" by Sarah Turnbull
My sister Kate recommended this to me and it appeared under the tree on Christmas Day (courtesy of Kate and Tim)! It was a relatively quick, fun, humorous read that at times I could really relate to, even if the author was describing adapting to life in France when I am living in Texas! Although the cultures are wildly different (French vs. American) I could definitely relate to the trials and tribulations of adapting to a new culture. What I connected to most of all was her descriptions of what she missed about living in Australia, her homesickness after returning from a holiday to Australia, and the need to retain her Australian-ness while also having to make some changes in order to adapt to the way of life in her new country. I have to admit to feeling more than a little homesick at the end of the book. While for her, France has ties because her husband is French, I don't have any such ties to the USA (Gordon is Scottish) which sometimes makes me wonder... why are we still here?


Holy shit, I'm doing an Ironman

2.4mi swim. 112mi bike. 26.2mi run.

It hit me this weekend. After a 17mi long run yesterday and an 85mi bike ride today, suddenly the Ironman has become a much bigger deal. I always knew it would be hard, but now that we're starting to do the really long, hard workouts, it is suddenly seeming a whole lot harder.

If only it were metric!


Ironman Arizona Week 8: More Mental Prep

8 weeks down, 16 weeks to go.

That means we are a third of the way into the training program. Yikes!

Week 8 was the first week of the base 2 build phase. The goal of this next 4wk phase is to keep building base endurance and build up to a 95mi long ride and 20mi long run.

Week 8 started out a little tough. I was still feeling tired from the brick workout we had done the day before (reassuringly, so were several other people in our group) and at our quality run workout Monday evening Maurice made us do an hour of hill repeats. Grrrr... that was tough. The weather was also quite warm, for December, so that made it a little more difficult. That night I didn't sleep so well, my legs felt very restless and I tossed and turned most of the night. So I took a much needed rest day on Tuesday.

I had a good swim Wednesday night and a great run + ride combination on Thursday. Friday was another day off...

Saturday we rode 65 miles. It started out sunny and ended up raining for the last hour on the bike. I was glad to be done! I've really been struggling on my bike rides lately. Today was no exception. I felt great for the first hour then started dragging for the second hour. I don't think it was a calorie issue today because I made sure to take in over 1000 calories during the ride (probably still need to take in another 300-400). I did realise that I had a slow leaking flat and I'm sure that didn't help. Thanks to Gordon for changing the tyre for me. It's nice to be taken care of sometimes! I'm definitely learning a lot on these rides. The group we're riding with is much stronger than the group I was riding with earlier this year and last year. They also work together more while they're riding. I can feel that I'm getting stronger on these rides but I still have a long way to go. It's strange to feel that my running is stronger than my cycling at the moment!

Sunday we were supposed to run but due to bad weather we put it off until Monday. But we still did a decent long run on Monday.

Goal hours: 11.5

Actual hours: 8

Bike: 5hrs / 88 miles

Run: 1.67hrs / 9.5 miles

Swim: 1.25hrs / 3000 yards

A Christmas Run

Gordon and I were supposed to do our 15 mile long run on Christmas Eve, but when we woke up Sunday morning it was raining and very cold. Running for 2.5hrs in cold, rainy weather would not have been fun! So, we decided that we would attempt to do it Christmas Day instead. Christmas Day when we woke up it was still raining and windy, but we decided that we just had to get up and start running anyway. We decided we'd try and do at least 1hr. All part of the mental training required for the Ironman. So we started the run, it was windy, cold and raining! There was barely a soul out there on the roads, apart from the odd car every now and again (I do wonder what those people must have thought seeing us running in the cold and rain on Christmas morning!). But after about an hour the weather started to get better and we decided to keep running... we ended up running for a little over 2 hours, not bad for Christmas morning!


Christmas Eve or Day?

Living in the USA I am eternally confused.

For example, right now it's 5:30am on Christmas Day in Australia, but here in the USA it's 1pm Christmas Eve. Because it's not at all related to when you were born, Christmas Day always falls on the 25th day of December of the timezone you are currently in, no matter what. So even though it's Christmas Day in Australia, I am celebrating Christmas Eve.

However, your birthday is relative to the timezone in which you are born, or is it? Come late afternoon on June 10th in the USA, is it really my birthday because in Australia it will already be June 11th? But then what happens to all the hours that you lose then gain while you are travelling? Do they ever even out or do you rack up a deficit, or surplus, somewhere? Does this affect when your birthday really is? Could my birthday really fall on June 12th by now? Don't get me started on leap years...

Anyway, back to Christmas. I wonder if my Dad will let me open a present tonight, even if it's just Christmas Eve for us?

I can't wait to call them and wish them a Merry Christmas. Although I used to wake my parents up at 3am to open presents, I don't think they will appreciate a 5:30am phone call today!

So I have to wait for a few more hours, then use the wonderful modern technology of Skype to see them.

I wonder how bad Kate and Tim's hangover will be after their big day out for Christmas Eve?


Where's Wally?

If I do say so myself, Gordon and I really outdid ourselves with our Christmas card this year.

Something my Mum wrote made me laugh:
"Your christmas card was like "where's wally" you and Gordon were everywhere!"

We had a lot of fun taking the picture, even if we did get a few strange looks!

Awesome idea Gordon... the only problem is, how can we top it next year?


Christmas Pudding and Mince Pies

We had a White Elephant exchange at the T3 party on Sunday night. I managed to pick up a gear organizer for my car. Gordon managed to pick up a British-style Christmas pudding... which to my delight no-one wanted to steal!

(With a White Elephant exchange everyone brings a gift and picks out a number to indicate the order in which they can pick a gift. When it's your turn you can either (a) choose an unopened present and open it, or (b) steal a present from someone who has gone before you.)

It was funny. People kept walking by and offering their sympathy about Gordon's present, but I actually love Christmas pudding! Pour some warm vanilla custard on top and it is just so yummy.

This morning I got nostalgic for mince pies and Gordon has promised to make me a dozen mince pies tonight when he gets home!

Christmas pudding and mince pies... it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!


IM Arizona Week 7: Hardest workout yet

7 weeks down, 17 weeks to go.

Week 7 was our first rest week in the training program. I definitely needed it! However, it turned out that I enjoyed the rest week more from a mental perspective than a physical perspective. Mentally it was great to free up some evenings, have some cocktails, go out for dinner, relax, sleep in, but physically some of the easy workouts were tough! I had a shit of a run on Friday - it was only 40 minutes long but I hated every minute of it, even though I was running with my new iPod Nano! Oh well, not every run can feel good, unfortunately.

Saturday we did a relatively short 2 hour ride around the South MoPac area, trying to maintain Ironman bike pace, which for me is around 18mph. I held the pace and felt pretty good.

Sunday we had our first test - a 20mi/10mi brick (see previous post). I'm very happy with the progress I'm making towards my April goal.

I made my hours this week!

Goal hours: 8.5
Actual hours: 8.5

Bike: 3.25hrs / 59 miles
Run: 4hrs / 24.5 miles
Swim: 1.25hrs / 3300 yards


Tough workout

This morning we did our toughest Ironman training workout so far, a 20mi/10mi brick. This consisted of a 20mi Ironman pace bike ride, followed by a 10mi run. We started at 8am, so we all got to sleep in a little bit. The start location was just up the road from our house so we were able to ride to the start, which was very convenient considering that we would not fit one bike on Gordon's car let alone two!

I kept a good solid pace on the bike, my goal was to average 18mph. The route had some gradual uphills, nothing too grueling, but can definitely wear you down if you attack them too hard. The surprising thing for me was that, while I enjoyed the bike ride, I was looking forward to getting out on the run and passing a few people! Normally I hate running after the bike but I'm starting to change my attitude about running, probably because I'm feeling a lot stronger than I used to.

My legs felt pretty good at the start of the run, although my breathing was a little heavy. I tried to slow down to keep my breathing under control but it didn't make much difference. I had been feeling a bit under the weather this week, so perhaps this affected my cardiovascular system? Who knows. I'll keep an eye on it the next time we do a brick. I felt good as I started to pass a few people, but I didn't catch Gordon until the 5mi turnaround! I enjoyed catching him, and then passing him :) By mile 8 my legs were feeling pretty tired, but I knew I was almost done so I just settled into a rhythm, kept focused, and knocked out the last 2 miles. It was good to be done!

It's these types of workouts that really give you a feel for what the Ironman is going to feel like. They're tough workouts, but they make you so much stronger. I was really pleased with my effort today! Now it's time for a nap, then a T3 holiday party later this afternoon...


A Christmas reflection

Tonight we put up the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music (Sarah McLachlan's "Wintersong", excellent) and drinking a Muscat from Victoria (very tasty). We now have a sparkly tree complete with our spinning disco balls... the first time we've put up our tree in 4 years! Which means it will be our first Christmas in Austin for 4 years. This will be our 6th Christmas since moving to Austin, and every year our Christmas has been different.

2000 - first Christmas in Austin, brunch at the Four Seasons, movie in the evening, flew to Scotland the next day to visit my future in-laws for the first time!

2001 - first Christmas as a married couple (we got married December 2nd)! Spent Christmas with our friends Derrick and April and their respective families in Houston, then drove on to New Orleans for our honeymoon.
2002 - second Christmas in Austin with our friend Prue. Drank vast quantities of champagne, cooked what we thought was a chicken but was really a pouillard (partridge!), then played poker with some other friends, Marc and Karen, who joined us later that evening.2003 - 10 days of skiing in Whistler, Canada, just the two of us. Spent Christmas morning having breakfast at the top of the mountain, then skiing fresh powder down to the base. Christmas dinner in the local Irish pub.
2004 - Christmas in Australia. Santa sculptures on the beach, warm weather, seafood, Mum and Dad, Kate and Tim, Gordon. Great times.

2005 - Christmas in Atlanta with our longtime friends Shelley and Damien, and their friends Emma and Pete. Slightly weird way of opening presents - we waited all day to open presents, only to find out later on that everyone else had already opened theirs in private earlier that morning! Very relaxing, lots of wine, port, and Jenga.
2006 - third Christmas in Austin, just the two of us. We're having a Christmas Day open house, where we've invited all of our friends in Austin to drop by for half an hour or longer if they can. But alas most people seem to be travelling out of town, or have family commitments. Hopefully we'll have a few people turn up, if not we can just keep drinking and being merry!

We've certainly had some very unique Christmases the past few years, and I've loved every single one of them. But as I listen to the wonderful but rather melancholic Christmas music, and reflect on my earlier Skype chat with Mum and Dad (who I love seeing on video but which makes me homesick every time I talk to them now!), Christmas really is a time to be with everyone that you love. I'm lucky to have a wonderful man that I love and who will make Christmas so much fun, but I really do wish that I could have my entire family and friends surrounding me all day long. That would be the best Christmas present of all.


Running and spinning and lights, oh my!

Last night I picked Gordon up from work (we're a one car family this week) and drove to Town Lake for an easy 45 minute jog. Our plan was to run part of the trail as well as do the trail of lights. As we got close to the entrance of the trail of lights, I had this funny feeling that either you had to pay or it didn't open until later. Gordon and I were looking at each other and saying "didn't something like this happen last year?". Turns out it doesn't open until 7pm (it was 6:30pm by the time we got there), which is exactly what had happened last year, and neither of us managed to remember :)

So instead we kept jogging on the trail and got to catch a glimpse of the lights, then we decided to sneak in near the end of the trail of lights and jog under the light and disco ball display. Then we jogged over to the Zilker Christmas Tree and did the requisite spin around under the tree until you get so dizzy that you nearly fall down... fun stuff! We were feeling bold by this point, so we decided to sneak back onto the trail of lights and run the whole thing, backwards. No one told us to get off, in fact we didn't really attract much attention from the volunteers who were setting up, other than the occasional "keep running!" from some bratty 15 year old kid. It was fun!

After that we went to Whole Foods for some dinner, quick bit of shopping, then went home where I almost fell asleep on the couch again (and I hadn't even been drinking!).

I love rest week!


Bike crack

I think Gordon and I need to report this crime to the local police.

Location: Escarpment Blvd.
Time: 5:30pm
Crime: Riding a bike with low riding shorts and high riding t-shirt such that your butt crack is prominently on display.

Eeeeeewwwwwwwwwww! Not a pleasant sight to see...


Morning Swimming

I really enjoy swimming in the morning, although it's tough getting up at 5am. Fortunately this morning wasn't very cold, and despite Gordon's best efforts at pretending he was still asleep and feeling too tired and wanting to have a lie in, I made us get up and swim. I think he's thanking me for it now! It was one of those long, wear you down, kind of swim sets. Long pull sets and long swim sets. I didn't mind the long swim sets, but today the long pull sets were wearing me down. I'm definitely noticing some improvement in my stroke, I feel stronger and faster and more efficient. Thanks Maurice and Chrissie!

Now that we got up early and swam it means we have the whole evening ahead of us, yippee! I see risotto, red wine, and Christmas tree decorating in my future...


IM Arizona Week 6: It's starting to fall into place

6 weeks down, 18 weeks to go.

This week was a great week of training, I would have to say that it has been my best so far. I was a little worried that I would start the week feeling pretty tired, after a heavy weekend of workouts.
I think Gordon's delicious spaghetti bolognese on Sunday night made all the difference to my recovery! We started out the week with a 60 minute fartlek run Monday evening around the Lake Austin Blvd. / Scenic loop. It was a very chilly evening, but I felt really good running. My legs didn't feel crunchy at all, quite surprisingly.

Tuesday evening I swam and felt good. Wednesday I ran home for lunch with Gordon and then he dropped me back at work. An easy 30 minute run and nice to know I can get home quickly on my own steam if I need to! Thursday was double workout day - swim in the morning, trainer ride in the evening, then we celebrated our double Thursday by going to Austin Java for some dinner and a beer. It was gooooood.

Friday I was a woman of leisure and had the day off from work (burning through some vacation hours) so I met up with some of the T3 group for a mid-afternoon ride around Circle C. I don't think I've ever been so cold on a ride, and I was pretty rugged up too! The sun went away just as soon as we started riding, and it was pretty cold from that point onwards. Even the hot chocolate from Starbucks didn't warm me up much (note: I must order it extra hot next time!).

Saturday morning we met up with some fellow T3'ers for a 15 mile run around Town Lake and central Austin. It was a really, really good run. Much better than last weekend's long run. I felt like I could have run an extra couple of miles at the end, which is always a good feeling. Sunday morning we showed up to do a 70 mile long ride with the group, but it was foggy and drizzling so Gordon and I decided to go home and ride on the trainer. I'll ride in rain if I have to (like the Shiner ride back in May) but if it's not necessary then it's much safer and more comfortable to ride on the trainer. So instead we did a 3 hour "tough love" trainer ride. We watched a cycling workout on DVD, which honestly made all the difference. If it wasn't for the DVD workout then 3 hours on the trainer would have been pretty tough. Plus, it was a tough workout and I ended up working harder than I would have if I'd ridden 70 miles.

I didn't quite make my hours this week, but I did more than last week and I'm really pleased with my progress.

Goal hours: 15.5
Actual hours: 12.25

Bike: 5.75hrs / 109 miles
Run: 3.8hrs / 24 miles
Swim: 2.5hrs / 6600 yards

Next week is recovery week... I need it!


The Human Zoo

Today I came across this article in the Adelaide Advertiser. It's an interesting concept. I don't know about wearing my swimsuit on display for several weeks though!


IM Arizona Week 5: Getting a grip

5 weeks down. 19 weeks to go. Crikey!

This week posed some new challenges. It started out well on Monday with a good run along South Beach in Miami. Then we caught a plane home to Austin later that day. Tuesday I was feeling pretty tired so I skipped a swim session thinking I could make it up later in the week (mistake #1). Wednesday I decided to join the T3 track workout and did some of the fastest running I've ever done on the track (mistake #2). Thursday morning I woke up to very tight/sore quads and calf muscles, Arctic weather and lashing rain, so decided to skip swim practice thinking it was probably cancelled (it wasn't). Thursday evening I showed up to the trainer workout without my cycling shoes and had to race back home to get them, which cut short my bike workout (mistake #3). Friday morning I was so tired from the track workout and trainer workout that I took the day off from working out and instead got to run around getting quotes to fix my bike and car, but then I did some Christmas shopping so that cheered me up, as did the bottle of white wine that Gordon and I polished off that evening (mistake #4). Saturday morning I started the ride with my brakes rubbing on my rear wheel so that it was really hard to pedal until I figured out what was wrong (took about 3 miles, mistake #5). Then I proceeded to not take in enough food and bonked halfway through the ride (mistake #6). Thanks to Gordon who let me ride on his wheel for the second half of the ride back from San Marcos!

What I learned:
Mistake #1: Skipping workouts early in the week makes it nearly impossible to make up the required hours of training.
Mistake #2: Perhaps I need to take it just a wee bit easier on some of the run workouts. It was fun running fast, but I paid for it.
Mistake #3: Calm down. Breathe. Stop rushing around. Then I guarantee that I won't forget things.
Mistake #4: Drinking and training does not work for me. If I'm going to have some wine I have to limit it to one glass, even better, none. Especially the night leading up to a full-on training weekend.
Mistake #5: Check over bike before riding on the road, EVERY ride! I normally check my brakes, but I should also check that the wheels are spinning freely. That would have saved a lot of pain those first few miles.
Mistake #6: Eat more on the bike. For some reason I thought I only needed one Clif Bar and a bottle of Sustained Energy for 4 hours of riding. 600 calories is obviously not enough to sustain this type of effort, even if I had third helpings of Gordon's delicious risotto the night before.

Okay, enough about the mistakes. I was a little bothered because I know better than to make these mistakes (just like I know better than to drive the car into the garage with bikes on the roof!). But I guess we all need a refresher sometimes, last week was mine.

The positives from last week:
#1 When I forgot my bike shoes I didn't just turn around and quit the workout.
#2 I ran really fast (for me) on the track. Maybe this body does have some speed in it!
#3 I made all of the workouts over the weekend, including the long run Sunday lunchtime. It hurt, but I did it.

Goal hours: 13.5
Actual hours: 9.75

Bike: 5hrs / 85 miles
Run: 3.5hrs / 20.75 miles
Swim: 1.25hrs / 2700 yards

This week the plan is 15.5 hours. It's going to be tough, but I really want to make it!

My fantastic blur of a weekend

This past weekend was pretty busy. Not only was it our wedding anniversary on Saturday, but we also managed to squeeze in seven hours of Ironman training. It was pretty crazy. All we did was sleep, train, eat, nap, eat (at Wink, yummy!), sleep, train, eat, train, eat, nap, eat, sleep. Oh, and we managed to squeeze in a bit of Christmas shopping and I also wrapped the presents for my family, wrote our Christmas letter and got some of our Christmas cards done. The best part of the weekend? I got to spend it ALL with Gordon.


Florida Keys

Here is a picture from our recent trip to Miami and the Florida Keys. I think this one sums it up perfectly.

We're on the "Appledore", an 86-foot wooden Windjammer. It took us on a 2 hour cruise around Key West Harbour. The crew were great, not only working the boat like true professionals but also managing to find time to serve us drinks!

Wind in our hair, drinks in our hands, open seas... just fantastic!