I’ve been writing so much lately about inspiration, motivation, and humor that you’re probably wondering if I’m really a couch potato in disguise – sitting somewhere on a cushy sofa, eating bonbons and enjoying the air conditioning, talking a good game, but not really living the life….

Alas, I’m actually in training, and I thought I’d share a few observations from the workouts over the past 7 days.  After Chicago’s coldest June on record, we finally entered the ninth layer of hell, and the temperatures have skyrocketed to a balmy 90 degrees on some days, with high humidity.  As a native Cincinnatian, I’m used to humidity so thick that your glasses condense when you leave the AC, but even I was unprepared for how quickly things changed here.

As a big girl, I struggle with running in the heat, and always have.  It’s one of the reasons I switched to triathlons for summer training – because I could spend my time in the cool water of Lake Michigan or with the wind in my hair on a bike.  So when the heat turned up, I was looking forward to getting on the bike and in the water.

Saturday was our first group ride with my training team, out at a forest preserve about 20 miles North of the city.  I woke up at 3:45 a.m. – and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I finally rolled out of bed at 4:45, showered, and got ready.  I was expecting to ride for about 70 minutes, and it was warm.   Because my skin resembles that of a baby Albino, I have a heavy-duty skin protection regimen (which involves me standing in my room, spraying Coppertone 30 over every available surface, and slathering on the Neutrogena non-oily stuff on my face).  Then, it was time for Body Glide – I was wearing the new Danskin shorts for the first time, and I wasn’t sure where I might have some random stitch irritation, so I made sure everything was covered….can’t forget deodorant (God forbid).  Then, ponytail holder, sunglasses, and flip flops.  The big backpack I use for biking was filled the night before – extra innertube, multi-use tool, CO2 cartridge and quick pump, chain lube, a towel for cleaning up drippy chain lube, bike helmet, and bandanna (it mops up the sweat when you’re out on a ride).  I threw in the bike pump, and a large container of ice water for after the ride, plus a few Kashi bars, and I was off.

Of course, you always forget something.  When we got to the preserve, I realized I didn’t have a saddle bag for all my extra gear – it broke late last year, and I hadn’t replaced it.  Luckily, the folks from Get a Grip Cycles were handing out free water bottles as part of the bike clinic beforehand, and I threw everything I needed into the water bottle (empty of course), slotted it into my extra cage, and off I went.

Amazingly, the ride felt very, very good.  I haven’t been on the road bike as much as I should have this year, but the two 8 mile loops (plus a mile out and back) felt manageable.  There were a few long light uphills, on which I always struggle, but overall, I felt great.  I was more surprised than anyone, thinking I was in no shape for the long ride.  But at the end, I couldn’t have been happier.  Yes, I was sweaty. Yes, I still have to slip into really light gears to ride up a hill…but overall, it was a great day – sunny, quiet, and open roads.  Fun!

Sunday morning I took a chance and went for a run at a park I’d never been to – Chicago’s Northerly Island, which is the site of the old Meigs Field, just South of the Planetarium, and just East of McCormick Place.  It’s a peninsula which sits on Lake Michigan, South of downtown, with a gorgeous view of the city.  I was STUNNED with how isolated, and how beautiful, the park was.  Yes, there is the obnoxious Charter One pavilion, but in an hour of running, I saw only four people – and THAT is worth the short drive to the island. 

It was another hot day – and I was glad I had my fuel belt with me to swig whenever I wanted.  (I’ve trained with a belt for years, and just can’t deal with the idea of even a short run without sips of water along the course…)  Also, because there is a fair amount of vegatation on the island, I could feel the heat radiating off the warm, moist ground.   It was good practice for the summer running – sometimes, running along the lakefront path, one gets a disarmingly cooling effect off the lake, and this path was NOT cool – at least, not in the center parts of the island.   And then there was the bonus of having a real bathroom on the course!  Actually, two, if you count the beach house on the East side of the island, next to my new favorite, secret beach (just South of the Planeterium).  All in all, I had a wonderful, if really hard, run – 50 minutes of sweat in my eyes, dead legs, and hard breathing – but with a view, and some inspiration, that I couldn’t have found anywhere else.

Monday was a rest day – and aside from some light bike errands, I rested.  Tuesday, I biked to a concert and a friend’s house (taking the easy way out of getting in my 50 minutes on the bike).  And last night, I did an interval workout, for which I visited my local track.   After a 10 minute warmup, I did three 5 minute repeats at race pace – comfortably hard, in the words of my coach.  In between the repeats, I had a 2 minute recovery walk, and at the end, a 10 minute cooldown.  Then I took advantage of the gorgeous grass infield, and stretched for about 10 minutes, and then did my ab and hip/glutes strengthening activities.  By the time I walked back to my car, I was perfectly cooled down (if covered in grass!)  I also managed to roll an ankle on the track (I was watching my form, head up, looking at the treeline, and didn’t notice the Dr. Seuss-like lump of coal on the cinder track…)  I promptly went to the grocery store, bought three bags of peas (the BEST ice-substitute on the market) and a box of Flavor-Ice (um, rehydrating?) and came home to an Advil/Ice/Elevation regimen.  Today things are a bit swollen, but fine…

Tonight marks the first night of open swimming in Lake Michigan.  I’m excited to get in the water, even if I’ve noticed that when I swim with my team, I tend to get a little jacked up (technical term: when Sallie wishes she was faster than she actually is…)  I’ll keep you posted on the swim….in the meantime, it’s off to work a bit for the day! 

So that’s the training update from here….keep on going, wherever you are, and I’ll see you on the path!

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