Monday, October 24, 2011

Planning for Winter: Where to Go This Time?

For those of you who don't know, last winter I skipped out of frigid and overwhelmingly snowy New Hampshire for the warmer, decidedly less precipitous Tucson, AZ.  I had spent the winter of 2007 in Phoenix in preparation for the then-run-in-April Ironman Arizona.  One weekend I rode my bike with some friends down to Tucson and realized I'd picked the wrong city, promising myself that if I did that again, I'd definitely pick Tucson instead.  I suffered through a couple more winters at home, thinking to myself I was okay handling all the indoor riding and running in slush and snow.  Well, the winter of 2010, training for the early season Ironman St. George nearly broke me, so I decided that in order to maintain my sanity, I needed to escape winter. 

It worked out just about the best I could've possibly hoped for.  Tuscon was nice, it rained I think twice in three months, and the place I found to rent on craigslist worked out perfectly.  Not to mention the fact that all of New England was absolutely bombarded with blizzard after blizzard, constantly reaffirming my decision to get out of town.  I felt guilty seeing the snow storms on the news or the piles of snow in the back yard out the window when I'd talk to my mom on Skype.  But it basically told me that I'm not sure I can suffer through another winter of snow and cold.  Especially not with another early season Ironman to be run in the heat and humidity. 

So the question now is:  Where do I go for 2012?  And when?  And for how long?  Here are the things to consider in my decision:

-I need it to be hot and humid.  Arizona is not going to cut it this time. 

-I know at least three places in southern California I could stay with friends or family.  I could probably even just rotate between them until one person/family gets sick of me and then move onto the next so by the time I come back I'm not annoying anymore.  But while the weather is warm usually, it does not help with real heat and humidity.  Plus, I'm not sure I want to drive all the way to California again.

-Three-and-a-half months was way to long to be by myself.  I get a lot of alone time.  Too much, probably.  And for the most part it doesn't bother me.  But there are at least a few bouts of human interaction other than the people at the gym front desk or the checkout counter at the grocery store.  After about eight weeks, I started to go a little insane.  And this time I need to stay down south until the middle of May, so not sure when to begin my adventures.

-My cousin is getting married MLK weekend.  Can't miss that and don't plan on going anywhere before then.

-QT2 training camp in Clermont is the second weekend in February and will definitely be on my agenda.  I just have to figure out if I'll fly down and back like a normal person or if maybe that could be the beginning of my travels.  But again, that would mean three months away, which is too much I think.

-I am racing both the Galveston 70.3 on April 1st and then Ironman Texas.  The races are within close proximity (at least by Texas standards, and trust me, I am well aware of how far away stuff in Texas can be) and six weeks apart.  It seems to make sense to me to stay down there somehow in between. 

-Theoretically I guess I could just do the camp in February and then maybe Texas for just those six weeks, but March in New Hampshire is the most horrible month ever, anywhere.  It's still cold, but it can either rain or snow, or often both.  Snow that is there is dirty and brown and disgusting.  There is no way I want to spend March in New Hampshire. 

Taking all of those things into consideration, I've got a few ideas.  Initially I was thinking Clermont since that is where the training camp is, the National Training Center is there and I know I'll get plenty of hot and humid plus I've been there so I know what to expect.  I don't know anyone there though and not sure how easy it would be to find a place, or how long I'd want to stay.  There are some extended stay places, but I'm thinking that the neighbors wouldn't be the kinds of people I'd feel comfortable with having as my neighbors.

I'm obviously also considering Texas.  But where?  One of the athletes I coach knows someone who lives in The Woodlands, which is where the Ironman is held and I'm waiting to hear about things there.  I don't know if that is a great place to train or not.  I don't think there is any big advantage in this case to training on the course as apparently it's just flat.  So heat, humidity and flat roads are really all I need. 

Austin is another possibility.  I know a couple of people who live there, although I have not heard back from anyone yet with any information.  I know there is a decent triathlon community there and roads to ride.  And a few peeks at craigslist tells me that it should be pretty easy if needed to sublet a place for pretty cheap.  I just want to get some first hand knowledge on what to expect should I decide to go there for a while. 

So, let's see what I come up with for this winter's adventures.  I will say that at the moment I'm thinking of maybe flying down for camp in Clermont and then maybe even flying from there to spend a couple of weeks in California before coming back and then driving down to wherever I'm going to be from March to May, but that will obviously depend on when I want to go wherever I want to go and doesn't make much sense if I do, in fact, choose to stay in Clermont for a few months.  And, well, I suppose a long-shot option is Hawaii, since I do have not one, but two college friends who live there - one north of Kona and one south.  But then I wouldn't be able to take a car and flying and expensive and, well, I don't know. 

So many choices! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Still Moving Forward... I Think

Wow, two days into another week and I'm still alive.  I'm happy to report that swimming is going quite well, although considering the fact that that was the only thing I could do without interruption all summer, that's not much of a win.  Tomorrow I'll head out on a pretty decent bike ride, planning on hitting the road early and hoping to beat the rain that is supposed to move in since lately it can't be sunny for more than half a day at a time.  I went on another run today.  Thirty-five whole minutes.  I head out the door, start running and feel awesome just to be out running.  It's great.  I realize I missed it. 

And then I get about as far as the end of the driveway before it dawns on me how difficult it is!  I'm breathing hard, I'm slowing to a point that feels more like pumping my arms in a running fashion while walking not particularly fast, but I have to keep going.  Then I occasionally feel good again on some downhills, but it has definitely not gotten easier yet.  I need to constantly remind myself that it does get better, it's just always so hard to see it in the beginning. 

There is no pain from my foot although I'll admit I'm in constant fear of it.  The last x-ray still showed a visible line but I was given the go-ahead and told to hope for the best.  Aside from that, my foot now looks like this:

I apologize, because I hate it when people post picture of their feet and I know mine is not especially attractive but at least there are no open sores.  And due to lack of running for once I even have all of my toenails.  You see the way my big toe points inward though?  Why am I suddenly so exceptionally deformed?  I didn't notice it looking like that until after I raced Mooseman and I know it hasn't looked like that for long.  I would've noticed.  I feel like this new deformity should've been a more gradual thing.  So now visions of surgeries are swimming in my head and yet another setback to running that would pretty much put the nail in the coffin on my triathlon career before I even get a chance at my 2012 comeback.  I'm going to the podiatrist on Thursday though.  Let's hope it's something that can actually be fixed.  Scarily, my feet probably aren't even my worst feature. 

Not much else to say.  The weather was nice today for my run but rain is moving in so after tomorrow's outdoor ride (hopefully) I'll probably have to hit the trainer for the first time since.... April?  I honestly have no idea.  Oh, and also I'm eying the waves for the end of the week.  Did I mention I went surfing two weeks ago?  I've had a surfboard since my 21st birthday and since I became a triathlete it is grossly underutilized but I still like to have it for the occasional visit to the New Hampshire coastline.  It's no California and definitely no Hawaii but it's fun anyway.  Friday and maybe Saturday are looking good, so I might sneak in a little visit to the ocean among the rest of the training.  You might not believe me but I'm pretty sure my last trip to the ocean was much warmer than my swim in the lake last week. 

Time to wind down for bed and continue to try and get used to getting up at 5:30 in the morning once again.  It's not as easy as it used to be!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week One: Complete

I'm one week in.  I do not feel any fitter.  But I guess that's normal, right?  I got off to a bit of a rough start due to a very late night on Sunday.  I went down to the Patriots game with my mom, my sister and my brother-in-law.  The weather was amazing, the seats were great and they even beat the Jets, so it was fun.  I don't think I'd been to a game since they built Gillette Stadium.  I would only go to games with my family, and after a certain point in his life my dad decided that fighting the traffic to go there and sitting outside and braving the elements just wasn't worth the trouble when you had big screen TV's, pre- and post-game shows, comfortable couches you could nap on at half time and beer you didn't have to wait in line for.  So he started turning down tickets or would give them to my brother who would take his friends.  I had no problem with that, anyone he took surely would appreciate those tickets a lot more than I would.  I mean, I don't even watch the games on TV.  On Sunday afternoons I'm usually recovering from a workout and falling asleep on the couch to some movie on TBS I've seen 37 times. 

Anyway, the later game and the ridiculous traffic had us getting home pretty late and it's not always that pleasant to start off the first official workout week on five hours of sleep.  It makes things seem a lot tougher than they really are.  I've been working on getting my internal clock reset to its old ways and it's been slow going.  The clock change in two weeks will help.  We're starting off fairly slow since it's been so long but after the first four weeks it will ramp up quite a bit. 

Oh, but running.  Well.  I did mention that the last time I ran was Mooseman, right?  You know, running those first three miles and then getting a ride back in the golf cart.  I thought I was being a baby but that was probably the smartest thing I'd done in a while.  Let's just forget the fact that it would've been a lot smarter for me to have had it all checked out before I went and did the entire race in Florida on the broken foot.  Hey, at least I got to go to Disney World after. 

So, that meant four months of no running.  I've never not run for four months, ever.  That includes when I was a fat, lazy teenager.  Fat and lazy or not, I still played sports and I'm sure that entire off seasons never lasted that long.  Needless to say, it has not been easy, but most importantly, there has been no pain.  And for at least the first half-mile of each run, it just feels awesome to be out running again.  You know, before the pain of not running sets in and the freedom of doing it again is with you.  My sister had a big yard sale this weekend and while I was over there my nephew came out in full Batman costume asking for people to chase him.  Even running around the yard chasing after a five-year old felt good.  And I can still catch him. 

Nothing much else exciting.  Oh, I've started using a toy that I've had for a long time but didn't have the means to use it.  Maybe two years ago now, someone gave me one of those H2O audio things so you can listen to your iPod while you swim.  He also gave me the iPod to go with it, which was good because I am severely behind in technology and that was my first iPod.  The only problem was he got me the third generation shuffle and the headphones were for the second generation, and the two sizes are completely different so there was no way to use it.  I at least used the iPod.  Well, finally just last week someone gave me their old shuffle and I was able to use it.  It's not great, and the first use was a disaster because I didn't realize the significance of using the correct sized earbuds, but once I went with the smallest size instead of the second-largest that were already on there, it actually worked fairly decently.  I wouldn't use it all the time as it makes me lose count, but for these early season swims that are much easier and shorter it's a nice distraction.  The things do tend to fall out of my ears eventually so I have to stop at least every 400 to fix them.  It might be better with a better cap that stayed pulled over my ears, but right now my old Mooseman cap has it riding up after a few laps.  I wouldn't buy one because they're very expensive but as a gift it's nice.

Nothing much else exciting to say except week one is done and there's still a lot more work to do.  I feel so far removed from being an athlete in training it's ridiculous but I guess I'm no stranger to this feeling.  I also already brought out all of the cold weather running and biking gear.  I haven't needed it yet, but any day now I'm sure it will come.  I'll let you know if anything exciting happens this week!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kona day!

I have great news: nobody else died for me to write about.  Let's hope the trend continues. 

Just about any decent triathlete would be able to tell you that today is the day of the Ironman World Championship in Kona.  It is almost 4am there, which means my QT2 teammates are already up and eating breakfast.  I haven't even had mine yet and we're six hours ahead.  I'm really looking forward to watching the race unfold.  Wishing I was there and of course wishing I was racing.  But I certainly didn't earn it this year.  I am, however, coaching my first athlete through it.  MaryBeth Romagnoli earned her spot in Lake Placid.  She is one of many examples why some people make it and some people don't.  It's not some magical talent that appears after some swimming biking and running.  She barely ran a step before Placid due to some lingering issues so we had to push through with extra biking and water running.  Have you ever done a whole lot of water running?  It's excruciatingly boring.  But she never complained once.  I'd ask her every once in a while, sort of prodding to see if the water running was driving her insane yet, but she'd pretty much just tell me she was fine, just doing what she had to do.  We do work her schedule around her family time (wife with two sons) but she doesn't make excuses for anything, just gets it done.  And that is why she is there.  While I do think there is at least some pure athletic ability that is involved in getting certain athletes to Kona, I think you'd probably find that it is the most dedicated athletes and not necessarily the most genetically gifted that are racing there.

As for me, I start officially training on Monday.  I haven't had a schedule since May.  I haven't run a step since June fourth.  I haven't done a long bike ride since the weekend before Mooseman.  I've probably done about 97 less loads of laundry since then that I otherwise would've done had I had mountains of sweaty run and bike clothes every single day.  I am pretty sure that the last time I went that long without running was from birth to... whenever I started running.  I am told that I actually sort of ran before I walked, supporting myself with one of those stupid little plastic shopping carts and running circles between the living room, dining room and kitchen.  So you can imagine I'm a bit nervous as to how this is all going to go.

But, well, I really just have to do what I have to do, right?  I'll admit I think the past couple of years I've mostly just been scared.  Scared of what?  Scared that if I worked really hard and did everything I was supposed to do I still might fail.  I don't really know why, because every other time I gave it my all I wound up with results beyond what I hoped for.  The only exception was Ironman Arizona in 2007, and in that case it was a time goal I didn't hit but mostly it had to do with the fact that the wind was crazy that day.  I don't know why I spent so much time thinking about the time I didn't hit rather than the fact that I'd won my age group by an hour.

I keep hearing about all of these things like if you just think it will be true, then it will be.  You have to go into things with the attitude that the outcome you want is simply inevitable.  I have been resistant to this sort of thinking because to me it just seems arrogant and cocky.  I'm pretty sure that those are personality traits that I do not possess.  But I'm going to do my best to get into my head that planning for success does not make you arrogant.  At least I don't think it does. And it I'm pretty sure that I only have to believe these things for myself instead of walking around trying to get other people to believe them.

So my only choice is to go into this season first, with the mind set that I will do everything that I need to do in order to be the athlete I want to be.  This goes way beyond just the training itself.  I've proven over the past couple of years that you can do all of the training and still not get the results you want.  This will mean eating the things I'm supposed to eat, sleeping as much as I need to, making the most of every training session and pushing when it needs to happen, and taking all of the calcium and vitamin D to make sure that my bones all remain intact for the entire season and hopefully beyond.

When things aren't going well it gets difficult to see that doing the hard work does pay off.  It's a lot tougher to motivate yourself when you're struggling to run ten minute miles when you know that a while ago sub-eights were a breeze.  It sucks and it's frustrating.  But progress is still progress and you're never going to get over that wall if you don't keep trying to push through.  You should know I've been trying to tell myself this for a while now, and it is definitely easier said than done.  But I'm running out of time here and if I don't just get over it and start thinking about what I need to do then it's going to be necessary that I find something else to do with my time. 

So here we go, 2012 is the beginning of my... what are we at, sixth second chance now?  I've lost track.  I might as well just call it the last chance.  2011 was supposed to be the last chance but you can't entirely fault me for being injured all season.  I'm hoping this incredibly extensive break was just what I needed to freshen my body (hopefully not just let it get terribly out of shape) and get me ready to once again mentally tackle Ironman training.  I haven't done an Ironman in over a year and I hardly even remember what it's like to be in the middle of one.  So maybe forgetting the pain will also be helpful! 

I'll update here more often.  I was about to write try to update more often, but that just gives me an out.  Yoda said there is no try, right?  Is anyone smarter than Yoda?  I have also been working on putting my internal clock back where it needs to be.  I used to think waking up at six was sleeping in.  I've been getting up at 5:30 and heading to the gym to swim and use the dreaded elliptical to simulate some form of running and it's been torture.  I'll get there, it's just tougher than I remember.  I think watching the Kona coverage today will help, though.

This is race morning my first time in Kona, 2005.  My parents and two of my mom's sisters, my aunt Hannah in yellow and my aunt Tricia. I can't even express how much fun I had that day.  Seriously.  It was amazing and everything I hoped it would be and more.  All I wanted to do was finish.
This was my second time there, 2006.  Somehow in a year I'd gotten way faster and pedaled my way to a 5:15 bike split and seventh in my age group behind people like Tyler Stewart and Heather Wurtele.  I didn't enjoy the race as much, mostly because I spent the late miles and then post-race for a good nine hours pretty sure I might die that night, but I was definitely proud of what I'd done. I actually have some video footage of me running the marathon that year, and it was early when I was feeling good.  It amazes me that I was able to run that fast with that horrible run form.
And this is me in '07, the last time I got to run the marathon there.  It blows my mind that this was now four years ago.  I raced in '09 but I had a stress fracture and dropped out after the bike after briefly contemplating walking the marathon.  After walking a mere 2.7-mile run in a triathlon recently, I'm glad I didn't opt to do that for ten times the amount of miles.  I'm looking at these to remind myself that while I am nowhere near where I was then, it is in there somewhere.  It's under some extra pounds and short a few hundred training hours, but it's not like anything drastic has happened to me.  A few minor injuries, yes, but nothing permanent. 

So I am going to spend the next several months trying to remind myself of this whenever I am dreading a run workout and upset that I am incredibly slow.  It doesn't happen overnight.  It didn't happen overnight the first time.  Although I certainly hope it takes a little less time because I don't have three years anymore.  It also blows my mind when I start to really think how old I am! 

In about an hour the pros are off and I'll be anxiously watching my friends and teammates racing and trying to convince myself that next year I will be back there with them.  There is a lot of work ahead of me to get there, but what else do I have to do? 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Goodbye, Marley

That is a picture of an adorable golden retriever puppy exhibiting some of his tireless energy.  It was taken ten years ago and up until a little over a week ago the same dog could usually be seen doing pretty much the exact same thing, except he was a lot bigger.  I don't have my own dog.  I haven't since my old childhood dog Shannon died while I was in my last semester of college, at the ripe old age of 13-and-a-half. 

My sister and my brother-in-law adopted Marley just a few months later.  They had just moved into a new house in New Hampshire from their suburban first-floor split level rental in Malden.  Jeff's parents never let him have a dog, and Katy grew up mostly having a dog in the house.  So they found a litter of puppies, picked out the one with the orange thing tied to his collar because he was the one who followed them around the most, and brought him home.  I used to "babysit" him when he was a puppy and before they even had kids for me to babysit for. 

They went to the effort to train him and for the most part he was an obedient and easy-to-live with dog.  I don't ever recall hearing of him chewing anything up.  They never gave him people food so he never expected it or tried to steal it off the table.  He never tried to run away because he just loved being around his people so much. 

His only bad habit was that he went absolutely bonkers anytime anyone new showed up at the house.  Now, he didn't bark or jump up on people, he'd just run up to you and sort of spin around in circles, step on your feet a couple of times and maybe eventually sit on your feet and pretty much convulse because he was just so happy to see you.  Most of us had adapted our own version of the Marley defense stance to prepare for his imminent, ecstatic greeting.  Except of course if his "dad" was home, in which case he would do his best to pretend he wasn't going to launch himself at your feet but you could tell it was taking every ounce of his control to remain somewhat calm. 

In spite of his craziness he usually wasn't completely out of control.  This is his baby sister, Moira, when Marley was only about a year and a half old.  To be fair, once the kids got older he'd been known to accidentally knock them over in a fit of running in circles all over the house in the excitement of a new visitor.  We all thought that once he got older he might calm down a little.  He never did.  If anything I swear two weeks ago when I went to watch my nephew and Marley came to meet me at the door he was even more crazy than usual.  He did always eventually calm down though so you could visit in peace, it was just the initial greeting.

In fact, about three weeks ago we were at the lake house and my brother had had some friends stay over after a nearby wedding, and when Marley arrived with my sister and there were six new people in the kitchen he was just running all over the place and sliding all over the wood floor, so excited and undecided as to which person he wanted to say hi to first since he was so overwhelmed. 

When Marley was about three, we became neighbors, so I got to see him a lot.  It was great, having lots of the benefits of having a dog without all of the responsibilities of having a dog.  I'd see him outside when I ran by and of course he was there every time I visited them.  He would also sometimes sleep over if his family was going away for a night or two. 

He was a lot of fun when they brought him to the lake when all of us were there.  He learned to love jumping off the dock into the water, which he would only do really if someone else was in there and he seemed to think they needed "saving."  Except one time he went up in November and jumped off the dock in his excitement and I'm assuming the shock of that one meant he wanted to see a human enjoying the water first to make sure it was warm enough.  Just last month I was outside with Marley and my niece and nephew watching them blow bubbles and watching Marley put in extensive effort to try and 'catch' every single one. 

He even went on the boat and enjoyed standing up front and catching the wind in his face.  That all ended when my dad bought the Chris Craft in 2006 and Dad was not that interested in having a dog in his nice, new boat (to be fair, the first week we had it Dad promptly spilled a huge cup of coffee all over the rug) but he still loved the lake. 

He loved to eat snow being shoveled, too.  I guess he did have one other flaw, and that was he was awful on a leash.  I mean, you could go almost anywhere with him and he'd stay right by your side, but if you put a leash on him all he wanted to do was pull you around.  To demonstrate this, last year when I picked him up to watch him Timberman weekend my sister told me to just look at him there in front of us, not going anywhere, perfectly content.  She clipped the leash to his collar and immediately started pulling her to the end of the driveway.  It's like he assumed having the leash on Timberman expo that afternoon on my way to the lake house.  My arms were sore the next day from reining him in. 

He had a gentle leader, which any other dog owners probably know is a leash that actually attaches to the dogs' snout.  It looks sort of like a muzzle, so once or twice when I brought him hiking with me and would pass people coming in the other direction they would assume he was vicious and it was keeping him from biting.  I don't think Marley ever bit anyone.  But at least he couldn't pull the leash too hard. 

As Marley got older, his fur got whiter and he looked a lot older but we always talked about how he just wouldn't slow down.  He was still as excited as a puppy and never had any physical problems.  So last week when my sister mentioned he hadn't been eating and wasn't feeling well I didn't think that much of it.  I was going to ride with Katy and Jeff to this open house thing at my brother's office last week so I went to their house to meet them and my mom was going to watch the kids. 

Upon my arrival, Marley did not immediately rush up to greet me at the door.  Katy and Jeff were still upstairs so I thought maybe he was up there with them.  Then I saw Moira in the kitchen and walked in to see Marley lying on the floor in the doorway to the next room, barely lifting his head to see what was going on.  Immediately I knew there was something drastically wrong with him.  He eventually decided to stand up and come see me and my mom, who might have been standing three feet from him and he had a terrible time standing, an even worse time walking to us, and his feet were slipping out from underneath him as he struggled just to sit at our feet.  He all-but collapsed. 

My sister came downstairs and said he had gotten dramatically worse just since that morning and it was decided that he would go to the vet that night.  I didn't think he'd make it until morning if he didn't see someone right away, although looking at him even then I figured this was probably it.  It was about 5:15 and he got an appointment at 7 so we went to the open house and my mom was going to take him in and we'd meet her there.  It took a minute or so to drag Marley to his feet so he'd go outside to pee, which he finally did and it was basically rust-colored which also of course did not seem to be a good sign.

When we arrived the kids were sitting in the waiting area and I sat with them while Katy and Jeff went in to my mom and Marley.  They had no idea what was going on and they asked me really important questions like, "Was Indiana Jones based on a true story?"  And, "Do you think anyone has ever built a real lightsaber?"  The minutes ticked by and I pretty much knew once again that this was probably it. 

Then my mom came around the corner with tears in her eyes and said, "Do you want to come say goodbye to your dog?"  Moira, who is 9, couldn't believe it.  Conor, who is 5, really had no idea what was going on and actually provided some much needed comic relief by blurting out random, funny things to ease the tension during this difficult moment.  My sister mentioned something about him going to sleep and Conor said, "He's gonna sleep here?"  And my mom said, "No, he's going to heaven with Papa."  

Marley was still just lying on the floor looking so sad and in pain.  He was almost like a zombie, not really that interested in being petted, not wagging his tail at the attention.  I never had to say goodbye to a dog before.  I petted him and then Moira came down to pet him and then Conor blurted out, "What, just pets and no huggies?"  So Moira gave him a hug and then Conor got down on the floor and gave him a hug, still really not showing any sign of knowing what was really going on and then me and Mom took the kids home while Katy and Jeff stayed with Marley in his final moments. 

Apparently he had liver failure.  Possibly he had cancer and a tumor that caused it, but it doesn't really matter.  It was amazing how quick that happened.  Like I said, less than a week earlier I'd been there and Marley was his usual, jubilant self.  Flipping out when I got there and making it very difficult for me and Conor to play Operation when he went to lie down on top of the game board.  He ran up the stairs when we went up there, ran down when I was leaving.  I suppose it's good that he didn't suffer long, and it wasn't one of those on the fence thing where you're not really sure if he still has some quality of life left, but still, it was an amazing shock.  We all expected to see him start limping around a bit in his old age before something like this happened. 

So Marley is gone and almost the minute we left the vet and weren't even in the car yet Moira asked, "Can we get a puppy?"  No word yet on any decisions there.  Probably a bit too early to jump into things.  It was so strange though to go over there for dinner the next night and not have Marley come rushing to greet me at the door.  Although for once I didn't have to contemplate which clothes to wear over there that I would not mind getting covered in dog hair and/or possible dog drool.  He was a great dog and we'll all miss him a lot. 

How cute is that puppy?  Anyway, I know this blog has become a serious downer.  Training starts officially next week and hopefully I'll have other things to write about that are more in the spirit of why I started writing this in the first place.  It's a long way to Ironman Texas and we can probably think of the next seven and a half months as my last chance workout.  Almost time to get serious!  Although I will say that this morning when it was pouring rain and dark and there was even a thunderstorm going on I did not so much mind not having a workout that I absolutely needed to get done.