Monday, March 31, 2008

Sometimes you feel like a nut...sometimes you don't.

It's been agonizing to keep thinking about writing this post and not having a chance to get it down. I even had trouble deciding what I was going to call it. I've had a zillion thoughts and emotions since Saturday and am just hoping that I can be coherent enough for people to follow.

The quick 'n dirty: My dreams of breaking 5 hours at the Oceanside 70.3 were only that...dreams. Not meant to be - not for this race. The woman who won my age group hit 5 hours on the nose, which shows you what a tough day it was.

My desire to earn a spot for Clearwater wasn't meant to be earned at this race, either. There were only 2 slots as it turned out (historically there have been more, but since they've added so many more 70.3 races to the roster this year, they had to spread the slots out among those races).

My final times were as follows (sigh...):
Swim: 35:19 (a rather slow pace for me of 1:46/100)
T1: 4:41 (long run to T1)
Bike: 2:57:27 (18.9 mph)
T2: 2:32 (again an added time to get into the zone)
Run: 1:56:57 (8:56/mile)

Total time: 5:36:51

Place: 17/82 women in the 25-29 age group

So...not my ideal day by any means. All three were SLOW by my own standards I had set for myself. Slow by what I thought I was going to do. Slow by what I had trained at. Needless to say, I was/am bummed (not as much now as I was on Saturday), and just overall disappointed.

It made me think a LOT about why I do this. More on that later. What happened on Saturday? Let's go for a trip down memory lane...

Saturday, 6:00 a.m.

Sip the last of my Americano coffee (note to self: need a better bag for these rides into the transition zones on race morning so that I can have a place to put my coffee...coffee is a daily ritual for me and 3 sips was NOT enough) and get out of the car. Unload bike, make sure I have stuff. Helmet on. Go.

6:20 a.m.: Arrive in transition area. Forgot iPod to get into my zone while listening to Bolero. Damn. Try to focus and visualize. Get everything set up. By now it's about 7:10 a.m. - time to make my way over to the swim start. Little scared about how cold the water might be, but I'll be okay.

7:20 a.m.: Women's age group 25-29 enters the water. Oh...now that isn't bad AT ALL! SWEET! I can TOTALLY do this (I have a farmer john wetsuit so had bare arms as well).

7:25 a.m.: Gun goes off. Let's GO. Didn't do all those 500s for nothing - time to push and push now. Make my way up toward the front, pass lots of people, feels good. Get toward the turn around right about 15 minutes. By that point the water is really really wavy and I'm losing my rhythm. Damn. Try to focus and get back on track. Still, though, as I begin to catch up to people from 2 waves ahead of me, I can't swim in a straight line because I keep bumping into people. Have to keep picking my head up so I can move around them. Got kicked in the face twice. Ouch.

I never was able to get back into a rhythm for the second half of the swim. I tried to push harder but I kept running into people and it really began to bottleneck as I came in toward the finish. Very frustrating, but I figured I'd make it up on the bike.

Exit the water. Defining moment of the day, right here. As I ran on the green little rug toward the corner where we turned left to enter transition, I felt good. Was ready to go get on the bike and move it! Making my way around the corner, my right foot hit the duct tape that was holding the green rug to the ground. My right foot went out to the right and DOWN I went right onto my LEFT knee. BAM! It hurt but not a lot. My goggles and cap were in front of me and as all the spectators gasped at my fall, I just thought "pick it up. Let's go."

Into T1 and noticed that my fall left a hole in my wetsuit. "Oh well." I ripped it off and noticed that my left knee was slightly bleeding but not bad. Not enough to stop me. Put my shoes on, helmet, no arm warmers because it seemed sunny enough (thank goodness!), cool pink girly sunglasses and off I went.

Began the bike feeling alright. I had been told to stay on the slightly conservative side for the first 30 miles because the last 25 would be hilly and windy and that a lot of people went out too hard initially and lost it at the end. So, for the first 25 or so, I paced around 21 mph. Not quite as fast as I was expecting myself to be, but I thought "well, it's still not a bad speed, especially if I'm saving some energy for those climbs and I can really rip it up." I was still passing women in my age group (though not as many as I was used to) so I thought I'd be okay. By the time I hit the 30 mile point, I thought I was doing alright.

First moderate climb was okay. Still, I didn't feel quite as strong as I thought I might. I live in Sonoma County. I KNOW HILLS. Hills don't scare me, and I have always considered myself a relatively decent climber; could be better if I really worked more on it, but still not bad.

Second climb - the BIG hill. I mean BIG. I didn't realize the grade would be so pitching but there it was...right there for you to see and go "oh." But I still thought "it's okay. Just get some momentum and drop the gears. No problem."

Yet...there was a problem. My legs had no pep. Nothing was 'popping.' I stood up out of the saddle and tried to turn the pedals over quickly and get some juice flowing, but nothing was happening. It was awful. I sat back down and just tried to spin my way up this grind, but my 'spinning' was more like 'cranking.'

In between this hill and the next, I just began to lose my momentum. I felt downright SLOW. I kicked it into my smaller ring and just spun for 3 minutes. I ate a little more. Then I got passed by two, three women who I had already passed.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. That NEVER happens! EVER! Usually it's me who then, toward the end of the ride, passes up a few more women who went out too hard.

This is where I began to lose my mental game. "What happened in my training?" "What did I do wrong?" "What didn't I do enough of?" "Where did I mess up?" "WHAT HAPPENED?"

Sigh.

Then on top of that, the wind began to pick up around mile 40. Brutal, in-your-face wind. Just had to drop some gears and spin it out. I was getting tired of being on the bike. I was upset with myself. I didn't like all of the gray clouds hovering over us. I wanted the sun back. I wasn't as strong as I was used to being and it really frustrated me.

Mile 45. My right ankle is beginning to bother me. WTF? Now what? This has NEVER happened. Oh well, just press on. 11 miles to go. Nothing. Just GO and be DONE with it. The faster you go, Sarah, the faster it's over. Why do I do this again? This hurts. I'm tired. I'm really not having fun. YES YOU ARE. YOU ARE HAVING FUN AND YOU LOVE THIS! BE POSITIVE! STOP BEING SO NEGATIVE! YOU ARE GOING TO KICK SOME BUTT ON THAT RUN! SMILE!

I really tried to get the positive self-talk flowing and win back my mental game, but it was really difficult. Still, I thought "I've still got the run. I'm going to get some time back there. It's all good."

Into T2 I went. Looked down at my left knee and it's about the size of a softball. Wow. Oh well. Put my shoes and hat on and out the door I go.

Ouch. I mean...OUCH. My right ankle was throbbing. My left knee was this dull, blunt pain. I wasn't really sure any longer if I could run 13.1 miles like this. All I could do was try. If it still hurt after 2 miles, I would stop. No point in injuring myself. There was a woman in my age group who was running out of transition at the same time as I was. I helplessly watched her run away from me as I continued to ponder my ability to do this.

I kept going. The interesting thing about this race is that they print your name on your bib...so all of these great spectators are yelling "Go [insert your name here]!" At first you think "who is that? How do they know me?" Then you realize what's going on. It's pretty awesome.

I hit the first aid station still in some pain and looked for Rocketpants. I thought I saw her but was just concentrating on getting my game on and getting back into the race that I just went on my way.

By mile 2 my ankle was doing okay. What I was NOT happy about, however, was the fact that both miles had been 8:30s. I couldn't believe it. I had been training 'easy' long runs at 8:10/mile. What was going on? 17 minutes and counting...I had to pick it up. HAD TO.

I tried. But by mile 3, there I was, at 25:40 or so...another 8:30 later. Wow. I was unbelievably frustrated. Every time I really TRIED to significantly pick it up, my breath got shorter and I just didn't feel like it would be something I could maintain. Fine, back to 8:30 it was.

Mile 6 the ankle was feeling okay. Dull knee pain on the left. Quads beginning to let their presence be known. Whatever. I was going to do this. I was committed now.

Mile 10 I realized "you know...my feet hurt!" The concrete was very hard and after awhile, it begins to hurt as you pound down on it.

Somewhere around miles 8-10 I slowed a little bit. By now it didn't matter. I was resigned to the fact that it just wasn't my day. My goal was to finish as strong as I could and try to remember to have fun. That's what I've been preaching all along. If it's not fun, why do it?

By mile 11 it was game on. 2 miles left and I was ready to finish. I let the inspiration of the ocean to my left, the black hippie/soul dude with the crazy car blasting his music and message of peace, and all of the awesome specatators just bring me home. My quads were screaming and I didn't care. I was going to be done with this!

I think the last two miles ended up pacing around 8:05 or so. At that point I had trouble keeping track and I didn't care anymore. Right before the chute began I lifted my pace, held my head up and ran through. Oh, it felt so good to be done!!

I went to the medical tent and sat with some ice. I was still pretty disappointed but proud of my perseverance.

Will I do this race again? Probably not. I think Paul is smart when he says "it's too early and too cold." I'm not so sure about these early-season races. There were a lot of factors that went into Saturday being as it was. I didn't have a whole summer of century rides at break-neck paces under my belt. I've spent tons of time running on the treadmill because of weather. Too much time, clearly - should've been outside more. I thought I could carry myself swimming-wise without doing master's after I moved from Berkeley. I think it's time to get back to master's where I can be pushed harder.

And of course...if I wouldn't have fallen...who knows what might have happened? The bruise on the left knee is healing. But now the inside of my right knee is in some pain, and the ankle is still a bit sore. We theorized that perhaps when I slipped on my right foot, I stressed the tendon that carries down from the knee to the ankle. Add that to possibly overcompensating with that leg for the left knee...no wonder my ankle was killing me.

People asked me, "well...so how did it go?"

I said "some ups and downs and lots of lessons and things to think about."

Every race is a learning experience and my only regret about this sport is that we don't have more opportunities to perform. Given the expense and simply how taxing each race is, it's not really too plausible to be racing every weekend or even every other. So when it all culminates on one event...it's a bit disappointing when it doesn't go your way. Yes, there will be others, but damn! I wanted this one to go so well!

Photos and more insight to come soon...thank you to EVERYBODY for all of the words of support and encouragement along the way. It really helped carry me through my low points on Saturday. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Follow up on my letter to the editor (yes, THAT subject again)

So apparently the folks at Inside Tri thought my 'letter' was worth posting!

See here: Your Turn! What's the biggest issue facing triathlon now and in coming years?

How did I find this? No, it wasn't because I noticed they had a link to the article on their front page.

My Gmail notifier popped up in my right-hand window with a new e-mail that read: "[Editorial Feedback] Old Bikes for Tris"

Hmmm, what's that about?

I got a message via InsideTri people from this guy who wrote the following:
Could you get a message to Sarah Trejo who was one of your published respondents re biggest issues in tri smackdown. She makes the comment via your website: "I rode my Trek OCLV road bike that probably dated back to 2000". Thought she might enjoy that I rode, to a 2007 third place national age-group ranking, frame and components that dates back to about 1998 per the original owner. I got the setup free, third-hand -- aluminum, round-tubed Quintana Roo Quilo. I admit the wheels are newer, dating from 2003. :-)
Sweet. I love stories like that. When I look back to pictures of me on my old bike, I'm still amazed at how I tolerated it for that long - it's a 56 frame and really, I needed a 54. But silly ex-boyfriend that helped me buy it (from some dude on Craigslist) didn't seem to think I looked too stretched out on it (even though HE was a cyclist and every other cyclist who would later see me on that bike would say "gee...you look a little stretched out..."), so I just stuck with it, especially since I never had any resulting pain from it at all.

Just the thought that "hey...I could be even BETTER if I had a bike that FIT!" :D

Anyway - it just comes back to the point that it's really the talent ON the bike that matters, not how good the components are, how light the bike is or which wheel set you scored. Those things are the icing on the cake. And they're pretty.

T-2 days and counting...in 48 hours...I'll be running my heart out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Update on helmet/wheel situation

I'm at a conference right now for work...just chilling...sitting in a corner while everybody else is inside (I'm at a booth full of materials). What better thing to do than to spend time blogging?

So, I'm not getting my aero helmet. Not yet, anyway. I just didn't have time and since last Sunday was EASTER and everything was CLOSED (I swear I'm over it), I never had a chance to get down to Lombardi Sports to get my rocket/alien/aero helmet.

BUT...since Cristi and Courtenay both encouraged the wheels and I think they're just as cool (I just don't have the $1,200 to buy them myself yet)...I might be able to borrow a pair from my buddies from Lombardi Tri Team. YAY!! Let's keep our fingers crossed...old teammate Matt might be able to lend me his Zipp 404s...sweeeeeet. My bike looks so much cooler with those on it.

I wish I were leaving tomorrow. But no...I have to work. I'd love to even just stay an extra day down there, but oh well. I think I'm at that calm before the storm...kind of not realizing that the race is only 3 days away. Wow!

In any case, bike is at the shop, getting a tune-up. Going to start packing tonight and finish tomorrow night so that I'm READY TO GO, first thing on Friday morning and will be in the car by 5 a.m. STAT! That L.A. traffic on Friday afternoon is going to be a pain in my @$$.

That's all for now. I don't really have anything interesting to say, so in an effort to curtail mindless blogging, I'll just mention that Joe Friel had an interesting post on his blog yesterday about the effect cadence has during the bike portion of a tri on how the run goes. It was referencing one study that recently came out, which said that pedaling at a higher cadence for the last part of the bike would have a negative impact in all aspects of the run, including time to exhaustion, lactate accumulation, etc. Yet a few years ago a French study basically said the opposite - that pedaling at a high cadence would improve the run.

So Joe says:
Take your pick: pedal at a low cadence before entering T2 or pedal at a high
cadence before T2. One of them will improve your run performance. Which one? I
wish I could say. I have not come across another study on this topic yet. There
may be individual differences which affect the results such as your position on
the bike, how steady or variable your bike pacing was, how quickly you
transition, etc. If you have a personal solution for this dilemma please feel
free to post it.
Hm. There were a few comments in response to this where people hypothesized why these two differences might be. I had always thought I should try to keep my cadence right around 90-95 during a half-IM, but that was only from a few people who had assuredly told me it was the right thing to do. I was never able to really find a lot of concrete information on the topic. Now I see why.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thoughts on helmets/racing wheels/why are all the #*$& stores closed on EASTER?

First...Thank you EVERYBODY for all your nice words and helpful weigh-ins. It's awesome.

Courtenay - your point about looking down was interesting based on a post Joe Friel made. He said that John Cobb, a guy he did a clinic with, said that you are actually more aero when you are looking down (and the alien tail is up) than when you are looking straight ahead, which has to do with the vents.

So therefore, you could control that by putting tape on the vents. But then you risk overheating. Yuck.

GEEZ, SO COMPLICATED! Maybe I WILL save the $$ for wheels. Mmm, race wheels. So much fun and I have to admit - those look WAY cooler than an alien helmet. I ride with 700s, to answer your question.

So even though Saturday was a really crappy day, Sunday turned out to be GORGEOUS and I got a fantastic easy early morning ride in with a short little push up a hill that I clobbered (until my legs wanted to fall off...just kept my eye on the prize and told my legs they had to keep pumping as hard as possible and it was only like, 30 seconds longer - they couldn't be wimps). I wish I had a smaller camera that I could take with me and demonstrate the gorgeousness of Sonoma County. It's a big reason I moved up here, actually. The cycling is just...incredible. Posting a picture of my ride on MapMyRide just doesn't do justice. Sigh...oh well.

So anyway, then after coffee and making myself a delicious post-ride scramble, I was all set to run my errands. New bike helmet, drop bike off at bike store for tune-up/fix other things, REI to return stupid Native sunglasses that broke on me AGAIN (had bought a pair in 2005 that broke on me about a year later; these ones broke 1.5 years after purchase) and get something different, and generally make it a get-stuff-done kind of Easter Sunday.

Apparently, we are all supposed to be celebrating the rebirth of Jesus Christ no matter what religion we are (me, I'm a recovering Catholic)...and of course dyeing eggs and eating chocolate bunnies. All the stores were CLOSED!!!!!!! Ugh...

Around noon Matt wanted to go out on his ride. It was an absolutely brilliantly beautiful day, and since I heart my bike so much, I said "you know, I'll go out and keep you company and just spin along with you." We headed west as I'd done earlier, but went north out to Forestville. Along the way we stopped in Graton to have a drink at the Underwood (the main super-tasty restaurant in town), but it being Easter Sunday and all, they were closed. Rather dejected and feeling like heathens, we went across the street to the Graton market and grabbed some beer to go (mmmm, Racer 5!) and sat on a bench and drank beer and soaked up the sun. When was the last time I was out on a ride just to meander and stop and smell the flowers (and drink beer)?

We just sat for awhile and then decided to head out and making it a loop, we went from Forestville out to Guerneville Road then to Vine Hill Road, which is one of my most FAVORITE roads in the entire county. A really magical little road; I can't say why...just is. The views as you ride along, the short little descent you don't have to hit your brakes on, the vineyards you roll through; even on a winter morning, I've seen the most gorgeous views of the entire valley from that spot. It's heavenly.

(This picture comes courtesy of the Santa Rosa Cyclists, where they wrote about the Wine Country Century)


So...we made it back and I hadn't gotten a damn thing done all day except riding my bike, eating and thinking about all the things I didn't do. But I sure was happy. :)


Friday, March 21, 2008

T minus 8 days...holy crap

So thrilled and EXCITED!

I REALLY appreciate all of the supportive comments everybody's made.

I did my little combo workout last night where I taught spinning for 60 minutes (and okay, I did frame the workout to suit my needs...just this ONCE! The students got a good workout!) and then ran for 40 (with 5 easy at the end...as in super easy). I must've looked like an utter goofball on the treadmill because I couldn't wipe that damn smile off my face. I felt SO awesome. AWESOME. My training plan said to do a run that was roughly half of the bike time and to spend 10-20 minutes in Zones 4-5a...

So I ran at first at an 8:20 to warm up...HR still very low...after a couple minutes I brought it down to 8:00/mile for the rest of my 5:00 warm-up. HR still pretty aerobic. So...I finally brought it up to Zone 4 at a 7:40 pace for 10 minutes...spent 5 minutes back at an 8:00 pace to recover slightly...and did another 10 minutes at 7:35 to bring it up to Zone 5a by the end...and 5 minutes back at an 8:00 mile. I couldn't believe how incredible I felt.

I always get nervous about the taper. It scares me because I completely relate to the bunch of athletes who start to freak out that they're not exercising. I'm not as bad as I used to be because I've learned how valuable rest can be. Still, perfecting the taper is something I've yet to do. Wondering if I'll really peak on race day, wanting to do just the right amount of 'hard' work and no more so that I can keep those muscles fresh and ready to work.

Looking back, I made a goal back in January to be able to run for 2 hours an an 8:00 mile. I never did make my long run longer than 1:45 because I was totally running at that pace; I know I won't need to run longer than that if I can hold that pace in the race. It's kind of cool to look back on the goals I set for myself and realize that I've done a nice job of sticking to them. That writing-them-down thing REALLY WORKS!

I'm looking forward to seeing my friends from the Lombardi Sports Tri Team that I was a part of for three fabulous years (only reason I'm no longer with Lombardi is really based on location, given that I'm now 50 miles away...I sure do miss them!). I'm looking forward to meeting fellow bloggers Paul, Rocketpants (on the run course! I'll be wearing Team Aquaphor stuff! Let me know if you find out what aid station you're going to be at!) and Loren. I'm looking forward to seeing my dear friend Heather, fellow triathlete and super woman who lives in San Diego and we do the Santa Barbara Tri together every year. I'm looking forward to having my supportive significant other at the race to cheer me on.

And finally...I'm looking forward to HAVING FUN!!!!

Oh - did I mention what I'm going to purchase this weekend?

Yes, I'm going for the Aero - or, as I call it - Alien Helmet.

I had an email conversation with Paul regarding Zipp wheels, which led to aero helmets. I was considering renting a pair of Zipp 404s, which I used in the Big Kahuna last year. I borrowed them from a friend for that race, but that friend is racing next weekend, hence the unavailability (boo). So he said "With the helmet it's not just a rental. You get that for all of your races. The Spuik one is nice as is the LG rocket." Good point, especially for somebody like me with a limited amount of disposable income. And really...for me, it hasn't really come down to seconds. It's usually a minute or two, which I CURSE for my slow transition times (damn wetsuit).

So I'm going alien-helmet shopping this weekend. Wahoo! (You know you're an athlete when, as a woman, you get more excited about shopping for gear than shoes) Any recommendations (on helmets, not shoes) ???


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Time for a laugh

My blog has been a bit on the serious side lately. Time to ease things up and have a laugh.



I only wish I had this much guts and creativity. Since I don't, I can just appreciate the people who do and appreciate them for making us all smile and remember what's important in life: HAVE FUN!!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Visualization

Stepping into the water. Oh dear god. IT'S F*&*(ING COLD!!!!!!!!! Put your face in. Pulling it back out, gasping for air. Deep breaths. Think about all those cold showers. Just think of it that way. It will get warmer if you can start moving. Front quadrant swimming. Don't take that next stroke too soon. Get through the other swimmers. Steady pace. Oh god it's cold. Getting through the swim...all those 500s are paying off. Steady pace, getting easier. Wish I would've swam in the bay a little. Getting distracted. Back on track. Heading toward the beach. Getting anxious about taking the wetsuit off. Do I have to pee one last time? Here we go...

Running into T1. Breathe, Sarah. Breathe. Wetsuit off, one foot at a time. I've got to find a way to be faster at this. I wish I could learn how to do the shoe on the bike thing. Too scared of falling. Wish I could bike without socks. Could I? What about the arm warmers? My arms are still wet. Arrrgh, can't...pull...them...on...wasting time. [I'm secretly hoping that the weather will be okay but Paul says plan on arm warmers] Okay, off we go. 2:45, my fastest T1 yet! Sweet!

First 10 minutes, spin it out. Spin, spin spin don't try to muscle through it yet. It's okay that people are passing. You'll catch them. Do your thing. Get your breathing back. Take in some fuel. Bike legs coming to. Feeling more powerful. Add a gear and off we go. Hills are no match for me. I'm strong and I know it. Flying past people. Feeling fantastic. Turning over the pedals gracefully and quickly, with power and strength. Upper body steady. Smile on my face. Turn on the power for the hills...muscle up them...back off and enjoy the descent. Determined to do this quickly and efficiently. Coming into T2...

Yes! No mechanicals on the bike! 2 down, 1 to go. Home stretch! Easy 13 miles and I'm home! 2 loops, stay focused. Quick cadence, proud posture. Stay conservative in the first have. 8:05 mile - don't push it past that. Stay disciplined and you will be rewarded. Steady breathing, don't forget to walk through the aid stations. 20 seconds. Remember to smile. Are we having fun yet? You bet I am. My training worked! 1 loop down, 1 to go. 6.55 miles. That's nothin'. Push the pace a little, see how it feels. Yes! Mile 10, the dreaded mile 10 - feeling great! Last mile...pick it up a little for 5 minutes...last 3...this...is...it. Done!

...............

Okay...so that was a rough idea of what I've been doing all weekend (especially since my long run and ride were both done INdoors...booo). My heart is still racing. My palms are sweaty.

WHY AM I SO NERVOUS?!?!?

-Fear of getting stuck in T1 because I can't get my wetsuit off (which is a ridiculous fear because that has NEVER happened to me)
-Fear of mechanical on the bike
-Fear of blowing up on the run
-Fear of not being as strong on the bike as I normally am and realizing it halfway through
-Fear of not being as strong swimming (though I have a good feeling that WON'T happen because I think I'm stronger now with my distance free than I ever have been; my IM of course, sucks, but this isn't an IM event, it's a distance free. I've been doing lots and lots of sets of 500s and 400s and the fact that I'm comfortable holding a 1:34 pace for multiple 500s and it doesn't even make me out of breath is a great thing; I can't say that's ever happened for me, even when I used to swim with masters more often)

So yes, I have these fears. But I must remind myself that at the end of the day, I just want to have fun. I want to go out there and enjoy each sport, enjoy my fitness and ability to compete at this awesome event, and I want to enjoy being out there with people who love it just as much as I do. I get so competitive in my head and I start worrying about all these things, which just sets me up for disappointment.

It kind of reminds me of when I used to perform in plays as a teenager. I knew my lines. I had prepared well and I had gone through the routines endlessly. Yet right before that curtain went up, I would get SO nervous. If I could remember to remind myself that I knew what I was doing, I was well-prepared and that I was, in fact, doing this because I ENJOYED it, then everything else would follow and my performance would come off without a hitch.

So there, then. That's all I have to do. But my heart is still beating rapidly...

12 days and counting!!!!!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Do the Test

I should be on a ride right now. Oh yes, I should. But I came down with a cold this week and that DAMN NYQUIL I so desperately thought was a good idea last night kept me completely zonked this morning so that I slept a little too long. :-/ Today will be a swim/run day instead, and I'll get my bike in tomorrow.

As an aside, I just have to say I actually think NyQuil is evil. I'm still in this half-foggy state and can't promise to be writing anything of much clarity at the moment. THAT WAS A HALF-DOSE I TOOK, TOO. At 3 a.m. when I was still coughing and just generally annoyed that my sleep quality was crap, I caved in and took the damn stuff. *sigh* I hate being sick.

SO ANYWAY, now that I've got my whining out of the way -

My fellow cycling buddy Jim sent this to our e-mail list. In light of my recent postings, I really think it's very appropriate to post here. Give it a shot.




I love this. So clever and so simple. I hope people pass it on. You can also find it here: http://www.dothetest.co.uk/

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My letter to the, er...editor?

I found this article today, titled "What's the Most Pressing Issue Facing Triathlon in the Next Five Years?" written by Timothy Carlson and Jeff Henderson.

According to Mr. Henderson, the real issue is this:
I would argue that maintaining accessibility to all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds, stands as the issue that most needs addressing in the near future. Social sustainability, if you will.

Our sport is gentrifying. You can see it at small races all the way up to large productions, at every distance. Barriers to entry are going up, and though the sport is still growing, its appeal is at risk of tarnishing.

Mmhmm. I have totally seen that. The other quote I rather enjoyed, written by Mr. Carlson was this:
Triathlon must be a welcoming sport - not a group of great races that need the obsessive drive of Ivy League college applicants and the Internet skills of a renegade hacker to get in.

Tell me about it! Finally, one thing that really brought it home, I felt, was Mr. Henderson's mention of the steep learning curve that awaits newbies:
Our sport is not as friendly as it could be to beginners. There's a steep learning curve already present with the three disciplines - chances are any given beginner will not have a background in at least one. And once the first-timer shows up at a race, he or she needs to figure out what to do and where to go and how to not look silly in the process. In the meantime, $6,000 bikes gleam in the sun and $500 wetsuits lie in wait. In today's world of triathlon, it takes a bit of gumption to show up with a mountain bike or hybrid.
Sigh. It's all so true. So, I wrote a letter to the editor, or whoever's email it was at the bottom of the article, just thanking these gentleman for calling attention to this issue. It really is a problem. Here was my letter:

This is in response to the article written yesterday, "What's the Most Pressing Issue Facing Triathlon in the Next 5 Years?" by Timothy Carlson and Jeff Henderson.

I couldn't agree more with the point of view that triathlons have become Starbuck's races. Timothy's quote about "Triathlon must be a welcoming sport - not a group of great races that need the obsessive drive of Ivy League college applicants and the Internet skills of a renegade hacker to get in." was spot-on.

I am now in my 4th year of triathlon and am simply getting tired of people being there to show off how much money they have and cherry-pick races based on the competition so they can feed their ego and feel good about themselves for coming in first in a local, low-key race. That's another problem all itself - last year the Wall Street Journal had an article about people who choose races based on the competition so that they'll place and can have bragging rights (wouldn't it be cheaper for them to see a psychologist for their ego issues?). Therefore, even the smaller, sprint-style races that are meant for beginners and supposed to be 'relaxed' become usurped by the people who know the ex-pros won't be there and can squash out the newbies. Hmph.

My favorite times were before I purchased my Cervelo P2 (that I feel I EARNED and worked my non-profit butt off for); I was on my Trek OCLV road bike that probably dates back to 2000, and would just zip past these guys that dropped thousands of dollars on their bikes. Or the woman who gave my bike a 'look' last year like "oh yeah, right" - and I passed her during the race as well.

Still, I digress a bit. I would love to see a 'fun tri.' One that involved rafts and big wheels and potato sacks or something. I wonder if I, too, will eventually be priced out of racing. I work for a non-profit. I buy my own training books and work hard to build on the potential I know I have. I had to save for awhile to buy that bike. In only the last three years, though, I've seen prices go up, races getting sold out earlier and earlier (which, again, for those of us who have to plan out when we're going to purchase our races after saving for x number of months...kind of wrecks that idea and my credit card takes another hit), and the overall attitude of triathletes become more and more elite instead of more welcoming.

Triathlon is an amazing sport. I try to share it with everybody, but people seem so intimidated. They say things like "I could never do that," or "I wouldn't know where to start." I was lucky enough to join with a club that had great support. But what about the people that are motivated enough to stick their toes in on their own? Who do they turn to? As Jeff said, the folks who have the nerve to bring a hybrid out there are to be admired.

Whenever I get into the transition zone on race morning, I instantly begin to freeze up. "Look at those bikes...those helmets...awww crap" and my dreams of placing begin to be dashed. Then I remember how it's all just a show and I have to ignore it and just go HAVE FUN.

That's why we do it, right? Because it's fun. Because it's rewarding, no matter where you end up in the results.

I just hope that this strategic plan will include these concerns and help to steer triathlon into a direction that will help it to be accessible to anybody who wants to give it a shot.

Thank you for the well-written article. I apologize for my long e-mail, but I really felt like you brought a voice to the observations I began to make last year.

Best regards,

Sarah Trejo
Santa Rosa, CA

Basically, what we're saying here, is let's keep having fun with it. But add more races! Diversify the races! Have some fun with them! Why not do a fun race the same weekend as the serious one? Why not have more serious tri clubs put on races? As a swim meet director for two years in a row, I know sanctioned races take a butt-load of work to put on. But if more of us want to participate in the fun, then maybe we need to start thinking about participating in the work, too.

I'll close with this final quote from the article, which I just laughed at the thought of - sounds like SO MUCH FUN -
Attached to bigger triathlons and as small, standalone races, triathlon needs events where people are encouraged to show up to with beach cruisers, floaties and roller skates if they don’t like the run. No timing. No rules except to have fun.
No rules except to have fun. :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rise in Cycling Deaths...cop had a DUI record?

Part I: Rise in Cycling Deaths

This is the most posting I've ever done in 3 straight days. I felt really grief-stricken yesterday; knowing they could've been my friends (and in many ways, they were; the cycling community is close, and I know that Matt was a friend of friends), knowing that could happen to any of us at any time, whether we are top racers or the average joe on a beater bike - I feel really compelled to keep up on this topic and ultimately become a better bike advocate as a result. I want to be involved with Yield to Life and I really want to join the Sonoma County Bike Coalition. Even if I can raise awareness with one driver and one cyclist at a time (cyclists need to know how to be safe, too!), perhaps I can join in the movement toward a safer road for everybody.

In any case - more was written in the SF Chronicle today (click here for full article). They had a report on how the number of cycling deaths has actually risen in recent years, while the number of cycling-vehicle related injuries has decreased:

The number of bicyclists killed in collisions with motor vehicles has increased 28 percent over the past decade - from 18 to 23 deaths per year, according to a Chronicle analysis of data collected by the California Highway Patrol.

That increase is despite a 22 percent drop in the number of regional bicycle accidents between 1997 and 2006, the last year for which complete statistics are available for the nine Bay Area counties. The number of bicyclists injured in accidents over that period declined by a similar amount.
-SF Chronicle

So what you're saying is...less people are getting hit overall, but those who are unlucky enough to be hit have a higher chance of getting killed.

Yes.

Hm. That's not good. Essentially, the number of urban accidents has declined and when they do happen, they usually happen at slower speeds (good ol' urban traffic) so the injuries tend to be more of the minor sort. Speed is the prime factor in whether the accident will likely result in death. Makes sense.

Sigh. TWENTY THREE PEOPLE DIED LAST YEAR FROM BEING HIT ON A BIKE IN THE BAY AREA ALONE!!!!!!!!!! Statewide that number was up to 155 in 2006 from 113 in 1997. Wow.

Seems like it's just getting scarier. I just really hate how much hostility exists between motorists and cyclists. I don't understand why I've got guys revving their engines as they go past us, why people flip us off, or why some cyclists flip off cars without even being provoked in any way. It is a two-way street (no pun intended). Some cyclists provoke cars. But let's be honest - it is often the cars that provoke us first. It's frustrating that I've lost count for the number of times some jack@$$ got pissed at me for no good reason. I was riding on the side of the road, doing my best to abide by the laws. So WTF?

The other thing I think is funny (as in, weird funny not ha-ha) is that when other motorists make traffic violations, sometimes people get pissy and flash a finger or lay on the horn, but overall, they just get over it. Yet when it's a cyclist making a traffic violation, somehow they are more deserving of every epithet and bad word out there. Or is it just because the motorist knows the cyclist can actually hear them, so they let it all out? Maybe that's it.

Okay, so I could (and many others could) go on with this topic forever. It's a moot point in some ways; the real thing to discuss is how to move forward. I honestly don't know; I keep having visions of these guys in big monster trucks zooming past me, knowing they're really wishing they could run me down (yes, that was a stereotype but I have experienced it), and wondering how to reach out to that population. We're opposites; they like big manly trucks and I like bicycles. Is there a way to reach a middle ground? That we can agree to disagree on our respective interests but still share the road? I hope the answer is yes.

Part II: Cop had a DUI record...

The SF Chronicle wants to keep us readers satisfied so they're digging for more info. I suppose that's the business of news. But since they posted it, so will I. I don't know what to make of it - I'm just delivering the updates. I guess I still want to refrain from speculating and finger pointing. We don't know the details and we won't know for awhile. There's no point in being angry at the guy without the facts. It's a useless outlet for hurt and frustration and I'm choosing not to go there. So many people have commented on the Chronicle's stories, saying angry things about the cop, about the 'special treatment,' about cyclists, and lots of hateful words being exchanged; it's pointless. The media doesn't even know half the story, so who are we to judge right now? For all we know, he really did honestly fall asleep (somebody made a good point about how there's a rise in the number of accidents the morning after Daylight Savings Time change; I found this quote from a researcher who actually studied it:
Psychologist Stanley Coren, Ph.D., from the University of British Columbia reported his research last year in The New England Journal of Medicine showing a seven percent increase in traffic accidents the day after Daylight Savings Time and a seven percent decrease in accidents in the Fall when the clocks return to Standard Time. "We're all sleep deprived anyway so that extra loss you experience is enough to lead to an accident," says Dr. Coren.
...so maybe he really did without any influence of alcohol, as people are making their leaps to conclusions).

Still too early to tell. I am curious how he was hired with that misdemeanor on his record, and if the fact that his father was a police officer has anything to do with it (I can hear all you cynics saying "DUH!" but I'm still of the watch-and-wait stance), but whatever. He's only 27 and that was 7 years ago...so uh...he was 20 or 21...boys are still pretty dumb at that age (sorry, boys).

The full article from the SF Chronicle is below:

(03-11) 12:23 PDT CUPERTINO
-- The Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy who struck and killed two competitive bicyclists Sunday was charged in 2001 in Los Angeles with drunken driving and engaging in an exhibition of speed, court records show.

The two drunken-driving charges against James Council - one count for allegedly being intoxicated and one for having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of 0.08 percent - were dismissed by the Los Angeles city attorney's office in a plea deal during the arraignment process, the prosecutor who handled the case said today.

Council, now 27, pleaded guilty only to engaging in a speed exhibition, a misdemeanor. Commissioner Gary Bindman sentenced him to 24 months of probation and fined him $713, including court costs, said Deputy City Attorney Larry Shelley. Shelley said he did not recall the specifics of the case.

According to Shelley and court records, Council's violation occurred Sept. 15, 2001. He was charged Oct. 1 of that year and pleaded guilty 28 days later.

Council was hired as a Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy 18 months ago. On Sunday, he was 4 1/2 hours into a scheduled 12 1/2-hour shift when his cruiser crossed over the center line on Stevens Canyon Boulevard in Cupertino at 10:25 a.m., striking three competitive bicyclists head-on and killing two of them.

Two men who came upon the accident scene a short time after the crash said Council had said he must have fallen asleep at the wheel and didn't know what had happened.

Council is on paid leave from the Sheriff's Department while the California Highway Patrol investigates the crash.

Sgt. Don Morrissey, a spokesman for the department, said Monday that he could not legally comment on whether the department had tested Council's sobriety after the crash because it was a personnel matter. However, Morrissey said, "In incidents like this, we take blood (for drug and alcohol testing). That's our policy. And we're to the letter of our policy right now."

Council did not return a telephone call Monday seeking comment, and an older man who answered the door at his Santa Clara home told a reporter to leave.

The crash Sunday killed bicyclists Kristy Gough, 30, of San Leandro and Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco. The third cyclist, 20-year-old Christopher Knapp of Germany, was hospitalized at Stanford University Medical Center, where a spokesman said today he was "doing well."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Drowsiness at the wheel is just as bad as being drunk...

...in my opinion.

I've got an update for the accident that happened over the weekend. It appears the officer had fallen asleep when he veered over to the other lane that the cyclists were in. Ugh, it just makes me sick to my stomach. I want to cry in frustration.

But what are the implications for falling asleep and killing people vs. being drunk and killing people? Obviously very different ones. Being that I don't have a law degree, I don't know the extent of this answer. I don't have the time to do research on how the percentage of sleep-related accidents compare to drunk-related accidents; still though, I do think we all, as licensed drivers, have just as much responsibility to not drive when sleepy as we do to not drive when drunk. Being exhausted/tired is truly just as limiting as being drunk - I have been that tired and trying to drive was one of the hardest things I'd ever done. I vowed never to have to do that again (as I pulled over and took a 20 minute nap - seriously). If you've drank too much, you find a way to get home without having to use the car. But what about if it's gotten too late? We don't have that same urgency because it's not against the law.

Anyway, I'm just really angry and upset. Here's the update from SF Gate:

(03-10) 14:34 PDT CUPERTINO -- A man who was riding behind two cyclists who were struck and killed by a Santa Clara County sheriff's deputy on a winding road in Cupertino said in an interview today that the deputy told him in the minutes after the collision that he had fallen asleep at the wheel.

"The policeman said he dozed off. He just didn't know what happened," said Daniel Brasse, 41, of San Mateo, who came upon the accident seconds after it happened at 10:25 a.m. Sunday on Stevens Canyon Road in Cupertino.

Another man who came upon the accident shortly after it happened said he had heard the distraught deputy say, "My life is over."

The sheriff's department identified the deputy today as 27-year-old James Council, who was hired 18 months ago. The city of Cupertino contracts with the sheriff's department for police services.

Council was working patrol when he crossed onto the wrong side of Stevens Canyon Road and rammed three southbound bicyclists head-on, authorities said.

The crash killed bicyclists Kristy Gough, 30, of San Leandro and Matt Peterson, 29, of San Francisco. The third cyclist, 20-year-old Christopher Knapp of Germany, was hospitalized at Stanford University Medical Center, where his condition was upgraded this morning from critical to stable.

The three victims and Brasse were among about a dozen people riding with a San Mateo-based racing team called Third Pillar. The group had started its ride at Highway 92 and CaƱada Road west of San Mateo and had been heading toward Stevens Creek Reservoir when the crash happened, Brasse said.

Gough, Peterson and Knapp were in a lead group of cyclists, and Brasse was riding about 10 to 20 seconds behind, he said.

"They took the right turn before me, and as I came around I heard the screams, the pain and everything," Brasse said. "I looked at Matt and I knew he was dead. When I got with Kristy I stayed with her the whole time."

Brasse said Gough's left foot had been severed and her breathing was fluctuating, but she was conscious. He urged her on, saying, "Kristy, baby, keep breathing, keep breathing."

Conditions had been perfect on the winding, two-lane road, Brasse said. "There couldn't have been a better day to ride."

He added, "There were no skid marks, not that I could see. There was just debris from our sunglasses and bike pieces all over."

Paramedics at scene told him the deputy's Ford Crown Victoria cruiser appeared to have been going about 40 mph, Brasse said. The speed limit on that section of road is 30 mph.

A second man, a chiropractor who said he drove up to the scene of the accident, also said he had heard the deputy admit he had nodded off.

"I said, 'What happened?' " said Bryce Renshaw, a San Jose chiropractor. "He said, 'I fell asleep at the wheel.' "

Renshaw said he heard the deputy say, "My life is over," and, "My career is over," and, "I need to help."

"He was kind of rambling," Renshaw said.

Soon, a sheriff's deputy arrived who, according to Renshaw, told Council to stop talking.

Council started his shift at 6 a.m. Sunday and was scheduled to work until 6:30 p.m., said sheriff's Sgt. Don Morrissey, a spokesman for the department. Council is on paid administrative leave while the California Highway Patrol investigates the crash.

The sponsor of Team Pillar, Jon Orban, said today, "If somebody is just starting their shift, why is he falling at 10:30 in the morning? In all this, that's the question to me."

CHP Officer Todd Thibodeau said he did not know whether drug and alcohol tests had been conducted on Council after the crash. He said the investigation was likely to take 30 to 60 days, after which the findings will be turned over to the Santa Clara County district attorney for possible charges.

Gough was a professional triathlete who recently took up road racing and who friends said won every race she entered this year. She and Peterson, also an amateur road racing cyclist, both won their divisions in a March 1 road racing event in downtown Merced.

Rest in Peace, fellow cyclists

My local cycling community suffered another loss over the weekend - Kristy Gough, 30 of San Leandro and Matt Peterson, 29 of San Francisco were both killed over the weekend when they were hit by an on-duty sheriff's deputy down in Cupertino, CA. His car veered into the other lane. A third cyclist was hit but is in critical condition.

Clearly, even when you're being safe, things happen. But it's all the more reason to do everything you can to be as safe as possible.

I just wanted to spread the word. It makes me really sad and upset - perhaps being so close in age and being a cyclist myself, it just hits home all too well. Gough was a pro triathlete who was turning to the cycling circuit. Peterson was an amateur cyclist on the Roaring Mouse Cycling Team. I hope they rest in peace and ride tall.

Full article is here.

More on Kristy Gough here.

More on Matt Peterson here.


You're so vulnerable on that bike and it's incredible how it only takes a second for everything to change from great to tragic. I've had too many close calls myself; just yesterday a motorist zipped by us and I was forced to ride on some loose gravel that nearly threw me back into the car.

I want to use this as an opportunity, besides paying my respects, to raise some awareness about pro cyclist Dave Zabriskie's organization Yield to Life. Check it out.

We all travel life’s roads. I stand before you to ask for your cooperation in providing safe space for cyclists. When you see a cyclist on the road, please, yield to life.
-Dave Zabriskie

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

National Grammar Day (one day late)

I can't believe I missed this. I am a grammar queen, grammar nazi, grammar bit**. I've been called them all. I don't proclaim to always use correct grammar, nor do I proclaim to know it all.

However, I do get my panties in a bunch when it comes to misplaced apostrophes (e.g., "apostrophe's"), people not knowing the difference between "their," "they're," and "there," signs that contain too many quote marks (e.g., "Today's Special") and other miscellaneous mistakes that make me cringe as if I'd just heard fingernails sliding down a chalkboard. *Shiver*

Yet I try not to be a jerk about it; instead, I try to spread the word in a friendly way and attempt to educate the masses about correct grammar usage. It's not that difficult and it would make reading a lot easier on the old eyeballs, not to mention help encourage others to use correct grammar. It seems like these days I see a lot more sloppy writing, especially on blogs, though I've seen it on internet news sites as well.

Since I don't like to be a cynic, I don't lean toward the idea that our grammar and spelling is going to hell in a handbasket, though some days I do begin to wonder! Instead, I'll just continue on my path, editing and educating one day at a time. :)

Check it out: National Grammar Day

And now, without further ado, the Top 10 Grammar Tips:

1. Me, myself & I
A million well-meaning parents are to blame for the rampant abuse of the letter I.

"It's Bathsheba and I, not Bathsheba and me." How many times have you heard that?

Sometimes, "Bathsheba and me" is correct. It depends on whether you are the subject or object of the sentence.

You can figure this out easily by leaving Bathsheba out of the question. You wouldn't say "Me went to the store” unless you were Cookie Monster. So "Bathsheba and I" is right here. Nor would you say "Jocko gave I the ball." This is why "Bathsheba gave me the ball" is correct, as is "Bathsheba gave Jocko and me the ball."

Myself, meanwhile, is not a fancy substitute for me. It’s a reflexive pronoun. You use it for emphasis, or to refer back to yourself. For example:

· I looked at myself in the mirror.

· I, myself, never eat live goldfish.

Do not, for the love of grammar, say “Talk to myself about your problems.” That’s just wrong.

2. Is it “good” or “well”?

There are people out there who insist that “I am well” is the only acceptable answer to the question, “How are you?”

They are wrong, bless their starchy little hearts.

It is true that adverbs modify verbs, and “am” is a form of the verb “to be.” This is a special kind of verb. Called a “linking verb,” it connects a subject to additional information. It’s not an action verb.

Just as the sentence “Kermit the frog is green” is correct, while “Kermit the frog is greenly” is not, “I am good” is a correct way to answer the question.

Here’s the kicker, though. “I am well” works, too. It has a slightly different meaning, and describes your state of health. So, if you want to reveal your glowing physical condition, by all means say, “I am well.” If you merely want to say stuff in your life is hunky-dory, “I am good” is just fine.

3. Less vs. fewer

While there are some people who insist the distinction between these words is meaningless, we decline to attend their party. Your speech and writing will be more elegant if you know the difference:

- Use “less” when you’re talking about an amount of something that can’t be divided into units. For example, “I have less time than I once did.”

- Use “fewer” when you’re talking about a quantity that can be divided or measured. For example, “I spend fewer hours watching TV than I once did.”

This can get tricky.

For example, is it “fewer than 50 percent of voters showed up at the polls”? Or is it “less than 50 percent”? In this case, we’d recommend going with “fewer than 50 percent”—Latin for per hundred—because the voters didn’t show up as one big group. “Fewer than 50 people in 100 showed up.” They showed up one at a time, or maybe in groups of two. But even if entire book clubs arrived together, the individual units matter.

We’d say “He used less than 50 percent of an egg in his cake batter.” Even though per cent literally means per hundred, you still wouldn’t divide an egg into 100 pieces unless you were performing some sort of unusual religious miracle akin to the loaves and fishes, but for vegetarians.

This is a really minor point, and people might persuasively argue either side. Let’s just say if you find yourself in this sort of debate, actually caring about the outcome, you should feel good about your regard for language.

4. Which vs. that

Use "that" for dependent clauses and "which" for independent ones. In other words, if the meaning of your sentence depends on a qualifying statement, use "that."

Here’s an example using "that":

- The dog that barked is mine. (This means the quiet dog isn’t yours.)

Here’s an example using “which”:

- The dog, which barked at a tree, crossed the road. (There is no other dog. This one first barked at a tree, then crossed the road. Why did the dog cross the road? Probably to meet the chicken on the other side.)

Some people insist there is no difference, and you can use whatever you want. You definitely can find examples in fine literature of “which” being used in dependent clauses. But a newspaper editor wouldn’t permit it. And, if you set off a “that” clause with a comma, you’d just be wrong.

Right: He put the cup on the table, which had a wobbly leg.

Wrong: He put the cup on the table, that had a wobbly leg.

5. i.e. vs. e.g.

The New York Times called Latin a dead language that’s still twitching a bit. That twitching, we think, comes whenever people misuse Latin, making the language roll over just a bit in its grave. Here’s how to remember when to use i.e., and when to use e.g.

- i.e. stands for id est (that is).
Use it when you’re explaining something. You can remember this by pretending that the i.e. really stands for “in essence.”

I like cats and dogs, i.e., animals you can teach to go to the bathroom outside.

- e.g. stands for exempli gratia (for example).
You can remember this by pretending that e.g. stands for example given.

I like big dogs, e.g., Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.

In American English, set off both i.e. and e.g. with commas.

6. affect vs. effect

Generally, affect is a verb, and effect is a noun. There are a couple of exceptions:

- to “effect change” means to bring about change.

- To have a flat “affect” means you don’t show a lot of personality.

These exceptions aren’t all that common. It’s pretty stiff to use “effect” as a verb of change, and “affect” as a noun is usually reserved for clinical settings. If you can simply remember to use affect as a verb and effect as a noun, you will almost always be right.

7. insure vs. ensure

Insure and ensure are sound-alike words with slightly different meanings. We even see these words messed up in well-edited publications such as The New York Times and The New Yorker.

- Insure means to protect against risk.

- Ensure means to make certain.

Use “insure” when you’re talking about things that are related to insurance—you know, those bills you pay twice a year?

Use “ensure” when you’re not talking about anything you’d pay premiums to protect. Use insure when you’re actually talking about insurance. You can get away with using these words interchangeably, and indeed, some dictionaries list them as such. But why muddy the waters? We love a fine distinction; it makes language infinitely richer.

A similar-sounding word—“assure”—means to convince someone or make someone confident.

8. To split, or not to split: the truth about split infinitives

An infinitive is a “to” plus a verb, e.g. “to tickle.”

Generations of teachers have reprimanded their students for splitting infinitives and sticking an adverb between the “to” and the verb.

It turns out all those teachers were needlessly stiff. We can follow the lead of Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,”—to boldly go where English teachers said we mustn’t.

The bias against split infinitives came from grammarians who wanted English to be more like Latin. In Latin, you can’t split an infinitive. It’s one word.

In English, there is sometimes good reason to split the pair with a modifier. If, for example, you were complaining that the president plans to almost triple your taxes, then you’d be perfectly justified in splitting the infinitive. One alternative—to say he plans almost to triple your taxes—makes it sound as though the plan isn’t complete. The other—to say he plans to triple almost your taxes—is unacceptably stilted.

Generally, it’s a fine practice to keep the infinitive whole. This gives you the best shot at clarity. But when an exception arises, don’t hesitate to boldly go.

9. A preposition you can’t refuse

You can’t end a sentence with a preposition. Chances are, you’ve heard this from a well-meaning teacher. This isn’t true, though. Experts think this is a bit like the ban on split infinitives—another vestige of our language’s love affair with Latin. In Latin, preposition means “put before,” so how could it possibly be used at the end of a sentence ?

You might have memorized list of prepositions when you were in school. It’s worth remembering, though, that words on that list don’t always function as prepositions. Sometimes, they can be adverbs. Here, they’re fine at the end of sentences.

For example, “Let’s give them something to talk about,” a line from a very kicky Bonnie Raitt song. Some purists might say, “No, no. It must be ‘Let’s give them something about which to talk’.” This is unnecessarily stilted. It’s turned “about” from an adverb to a preposition (a word before a noun), but it’s only made the sentence stilted—not more correct.

There is one case where a preposition shouldn’t come at the end of the sentence. “Where’s he at?” is an unpleasant idiom. The “at” is unnecessary. Where provides all you need to know about his location.

10. Conjunction function

Don’t start a sentence with a conjunction. This is another one of those fake English-teacher rules. You probably wouldn’t want to start a sentence in a really formal paper with a conjunction—for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. But there’s no problem in most other cases. Award-winning journalists, novelists, and other writers do it all the time. Same with sentence fragments. We’ve been told not to use them, but when we do it with a light hand, they can improve the flow of our writing, making it easier to understand.

© Martha Brockenbrough, The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar


Thoughts...some random...some not.

I just feel like things have really picked up in the last couple of weeks.

I'm beginning to get the pre-race anxiety. The "oh crap here comes taper time. I hope I don't screw this up. I hope I do enough. I hope I don't over-do it. I hope I've done enough the last 16 weeks."

Sigh.

There is so much information floating around out there that you can really mess yourself up psychologically by trying to take too much in and be overly critical of yourself.

I am trying to make time this week to write out my taper/peak plan so that it's on here. Now that I've gotten somewhat used to posting my schedule on this blog, I begin to get a little anxious when I haven't done that yet.

Also, I'm getting anxious about the bike. I know I'm not as strong as I was last year but at the same time...I'll be okay. I'm much MUCH stronger with my run. I can't even believe how much I've improved. I did a hard run last night and managed to hold a 7:09 for 11 minutes x 4 with 2 minute rests and kept my heart rate right at the sub-anaerobic threshold (for me, that's around 174-175). My legs are dead today, but that's good.

I think that's where I'm also doing some questioning. How hard is too hard to push? You want to push hard, but only when you're supposed to. 1 hard workout in each discipline a week. That's it. The other times are moderate to recovery. So when I DO get that one opportunity to push, sometimes I don't think I push quite hard enough. I wanted to make sure, last night during my run, that I really felt like I wanted those intervals to end. That my legs were really burning a bit.

I know that we've moved away from the mantra "No pain, No gain." But I do think there's something to it; obviously you don't want physical PAIN, but getting to the point where you're a little bit uncomfortable, where you feel some burn - that's the right kind.

I am doing my best to stay away from questioning myself - i.e. "did I do enough hill repeats?" "did I push hard enough with the swim?"

Whether I did or not is behind me. These last 4 weeks are it. I've done what I could do given the craziness of the last 3 months (and boy...have they been CRAZY...and exhausting). I'm going to San Diego knowing that I did what I could to stick to my plan. I just have to go into it and give it my all.

Still, that competitiveness inside me burns. I want to go out and kick some butt. I want to have my best time ever. I just want it SO BADLY!

Why?

I decided this is the year of triathlon. This is the year I'm sticking to a plan. This is the year I'm going to be in the best shape of my life and just go all out for it.

After this year, who knows? As much as I love this sport and love the fitness that comes along with it, there are a lot of other things I'm interested in doing. I'm interested in cooking more. I'm interested in growing a garden to use my own veggies. I'm interested in becoming fluent in Spanish. I'm interested in reading more. I'm interested in getting into cycling racing. I'm interested in more yoga. I'm interested in learning more about web design and learning CSS. I may even be interested in running a marathon at some point.

If you're working out 10-12 hours a week and also busy with a relationship and have friends to stay in touch with - it doesn't leave a lot of extra time for those other interests. My life is too short to devote it all to triathlon. So this is the year to go for it and be dedicated to it. So that I won't have to wonder "what if I really trained in a focused and dedicated way - how well could I do?" This is the year to explore that.

I don't think I'll give up triathlon after this year, I just think I'll back off the intensity and just have fun with it. Pick a couple key races to do every year and do them for fun.

Those are my thoughts right now. I think I'm just tired of being a slave to the schedule. I just want to get to the race and DO IT! I'm so excited about it...it's like Christmas...I've been waiting all these months...just get here, already! I want my presents! I've worked so hard and been so good!

Cool news of the day:
Fitness Journal was featured on Fox News today (click here to watch the clip)! The bonus: the snapshot of the homepage just happened to be from yesterday, in which the daily calendar picture was one that I had submitted - it was Jerry, Devon and I from when we were up at Donner Lake a couple of summers ago. AWESOME!!!