Weekly Recap (10/24-10/30)

Monday: Swim—2550 yards
I headed to the pool early, despite being a bit tired from a late night for me.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (10 kick roll)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
10 x 100 @ 1:40
100 easy
3 x 100 sprint @ 3:30 (1:16, 1:16, 1:16)
150 easy
I swam okay.  I was hitting 1:25-1:30 for my 100s.  I wished I had been able to hit those final fast 100s a little better, but my legs were burning for the last 25 yards, and my arms were basically Jell-o by the time I was done.  It felt like one of those days where effort was more important than performance.

Tuesday: Run—8.4km (6 x 800m)
I headed off to the track before the sun came up for some 800m repeats.  I didn’t know quite what to expect from this workout, but I wanted to work on my goal pace for my 5k (6:45/mile).  So I decided to do 800m repeats because I wasn’t sure if I was ready for 1600m repeats at that pace yet.  I didn’t feel great going into this workout.  I had a bit of a scratchy throat and runny nose, and my legs felt a little heavy, so I was a bit surprised when I busted out a really solid workout.
1600m warmup
6 x 800m (200m jog between repeats)
3:15.5, 3:17.9, 3:16.2
3:16.5, 3:16.3, 3:08.2
200m (39.2)
800m cooldown
I was very consistent and ended up with a very fast (for me) final repeat.  I ran the first half of that 800 in around 1:37 and just hammered the last 400 as hard as I could.  I hadn’t planned on running an additional 200 at the end, but I realized I was just 200m away from running the full distance of the 5k at or below race pace.  So I took a minute of static rest after the final 800 and then ran a final 200 at a hard pace.  Since I’m naturally better as the repeats get shorter, I’m under no illusions that nailing this workout means I’m ready to run a sub-21 5k, but I’m hoping that over the next few weeks, I can increase the distance of these race pace intervals and feel prepared.

Wednesday: Swim—2250 yards
It was IM (individual medley) day at the pool.  These days are always a little rough for me because I suck so badly at strokes other than freestyle.  But it’s good for me, I guess.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
100 swim
4 x 50 (kick, swim)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 75 (rolling IM kick)
100 easy
100 IM (1:35)
4 x 75 (rolling IM kick)
100 easy
200 IM (3:25)
50 easy
I’m not sure I’m making any progress at all on my not-freestyle strokes which is a little frustrating.  These days are where I really feel my disadvantage as a mostly-adult-onset swimmer.

Thursday: Rest
I took Thursday as a rest day. There’s not much to note except that sleeping in a bit was enjoyable.

Friday: Swim—2200 yards; Run—4 tempo miles, 7.2 total (1:03:07)
We did a hypoxic workout at Masters which means we worked on swimming without breathing very much.  Hypoxic sets are rough, and I’m a total baby when it comes to not breathing, but I managed it.
200 reverse IM
200 IM kick
200 inverse IM
6 x 50 closed fist
8 x 50 @ 1:00 (breathe every 3, 5, 7, 9 strokes)
100 easy
12 x 25 @ :30 (20 breaths total)
100 total
2 x 50 fast (1 breath down, 2 breaths back)
100 easy
4 x 25 underwater
100 easy
The hardest part was the recovery. When you are limiting your breathing, you just require a ton more recovery before feeling up to the next set.  Throughout the rest of the day, I periodically made sure to appreciate the fact that I could breathe whenever I wanted.

I took a long lunch at work and did my tempo run.  I was aiming for four miles at a 7:30/mile pace.  I was feeling a bit shaky when I started out, but that happens often enough that I know it’s not the sole indicator as to how a run will go.  This was a hard workout, but I got it done.
1.78 miles @ 9:37/mile (17:08)
4 miles @ 7:22/mile (29:27)
1.42 miles @ 11:37 (16:30)
At the first time checkpoint during my tempo miles, I was supposed to be at 1:12.  When I glanced down at my watch, I hadn’t even hit a minute yet.  I don’t know how I started out fast by that much, but I slowed down to a more reasonable pace.  Still, the entire first mile was too fast, and I hoped I hadn’t tired myself out too much.  I struggled through most of this workout, and I honestly thought about calling it quits at 1.5 tempo miles (and then at 2 miles and then at 2.5… you get the idea).  However, I kept going and held a 7:30 pace pretty consistently.  I sped up a bit for the final half mile or so (I just wanted to be done!) and promptly stopped for some gasping once I finished my tempo miles.  After that, I did a shuffle-jog cool down.

Saturday: Bike—15.16 miles (1:06:42)
I was hoping to go on a longer bike ride on Saturday, but Rob and I had a pretty jam-packed day.  We went to see our friend in a cyclocross race midmorning, and we a Halloween party way up in the mountains that night.  So we fit in a short ride with cyclocross friend after the race.  We just did a coffee shop ride, or fifteen miles and a pastry, as Rob calls it.  Still, it was good to get out on the bike, and I needed a bit of a rest after the previous day.

Sunday: Run—9.6 miles (1:27:11)
I didn’t get a ton of sleep because of the Halloween party the night before, so I coaxed myself into a run by reminding myself that I could (and was supposed to) go easy.  I woke up a little after six and spent an hour or so waking up before heading off for a run.  I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to go, and I actually decided partway through the run to go a little longer than my initial plan.  It was a beautiful fall morning, perfectly overcast but still warm, so I wanted to take advantage of it.  The leaves were falling, and the neighborhoods were gorgeous.

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Old photo, but this is about what it looks like outside right now.
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Haunted 5k Race Report (10/22/2016)

I waffled big time about whether or not I wanted to sign up for this race.  On the one hand, the timing worked out well.  On the other hand, I could do a bike ride on Saturday.  On the one hand, I’m very familiar with the course.  On the other hand, there are a few hills in here.  On the one hand, I did want to see how well I could run.  On the other hand, meh.

Obviously, since you are reading this, I decided to run the Haunted 5k.  I knew the festive environment would be a ton of fun, and I wanted to get a good idea of my fitness since I decided I wanted to break 21 minutes in a Turkey Trot in November.  However, as usual, I felt less than confident, this time because I’ve been doing a lot of my runs by my office recently which means less built-in hill training.  Still, I set a goal.

I wanted to hit 21:44.  That would be a sub-7:00/mile pace and a pretty solid PR.

Based on my recent training paces, I felt that was feasible.  I also felt like I could easily surprise myself and run faster than that or disappoint myself and run quite a bit slower than that.  It just depended on the day and how I handled a course that was hillier than I’ve been running recently.

I picked up my number and swag bag on Friday afternoon.  Because the race was associated with a larger half marathon that day, the swag and expo were excellent for a 5k.  I got a long-sleeve t-shirt, a pair of knit gloves, and a few trinkets from the booths that were there, including a portable phone charger.

Rob and I watched a zombie movie (Juan of the Dead) to get into a spooky mood, and I went home and got to bed pretty early.

I woke up around 6:00am the next morning for the race at 9:00am.  I like to give my body plenty of time to wake up before racing.  I ate some cereal and a banana and had some coffee before heading out to the race site just before 8:00am.  I got there and started my warmup up by running to the bathroom, checking out the finish line, and then running back to my car.  It was the perfect fall morning.

sugarhousefall

I kept an eye out for Rob.  He had tentatively planned on riding his bike out to the race that morning, but I had let him know it was a good race to skip.  He loves Halloween, though, so I suspected I’d see him there sooner or later.

After I warmed up a bit, I headed over to a group of people congregating around the starting line.  I realized with dismay that they were setting up the start line a good tenth of a mile behind the starting line indicated on the course map.  I knew that the course map likely didn’t take tangents into account, but it seemed like a very long distance to make up for tangents in a measly 5k.  I was worried that the course would be wrong and that I would miss setting a PR for a frustrating reason.  Additionally, I knew that regardless of whether the course actually ended up being long, the extra tenth of a mile at the beginning of the race would seriously screw with the timing checkpoints I had set for myself.  However, there wasn’t anything I could do, so I lined up with the idea that, in a worst-case scenario, I’d get in a really hard workout.

The race started, and I quickly settled into the position as first woman, running right behind a guy that was aiming for a 6:30/mile pace.  I knew that was a too fast and tried not to keep up with him, but I got excited, and since I suspected my own timing checkpoints were useless, I stayed closer to him that I should have for the first part of the race.  Sure enough, I reached my first timing checkpoint in about 1:45 instead of 1:07.  Since I wasn’t running nine minute miles, I knew that the position of the starting line was to blame for the extra time.  But again, it was what it was, so I tried to use the guy ahead me to pace myself.  I slowed down some (still not enough) and let him slowly increase the gap.

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After I settled into my pace in the first mile, a woman ran by me.  She was running strong, and I could tell she was running comfortably, so I didn’t try to stay with her.  Most of the first mile or so of the course is on slight incline, and I stayed right behind a young guy (who was probably in junior high or so).  Not long before the first mile marker, we turned left onto a neighborhood road and started heading downhill.  I naturally sped up and went past him.  I tried to keep an easy pace downhill while still taking advantage of the free speed.  Unfortunately, there was no first mile marker, so I still had no idea exactly how quickly I was running.

Throughout the second mile, it became more and more evident that I had started out too quickly.  I held strong throughout the first half of the second mile, but even just halfway through the race, I was struggling.  I knew I had slowed down some, but I tried to stay strong.  I find when I’m tired in a race, thinking about my form or the “strength” of my stride is much more effective at keeping my pace up than thinking of running fast.  This part of the race was a slight downhill, so that helped as well.  During this part of the race, I was running alone.  I could periodically hear someone not too far behind me, but there probably wasn’t anyone less than 30 seconds ahead of me.

I ran back into Sugarhouse Park right before hitting the two-mile mark.  There was a mile marker for this mile, and I was surprised to see 13:5x on my watch as I passed it.  I figured this meant that the race wasn’t going to be long after all and that I had a good chance at a PR.  However, I was already struggling, and the idea of running another full mile (and then some) was tough.  Oddly enough, I think at this point, seeing the mile marker actually hurt my mental state.  I’ve run the loop around Sugarhouse Park dozens of times.  Thinking of the literal road ahead of me that I had to run would have been more manageable than thinking of it as the measurement of one mile.

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Still, I soldiered on.  I was struggling with slight side aches on both sides and focused on my breathing to try to keep those side aches from hitting the level where they would affect my speed.  The profile of the final mile was a fairly steep downhill section followed by a sharp uphill and then a gentle decline before turning onto the grass and finishing up cross-country style.  I managed the downhill, though by that point, the jarring downhill wasn’t much more pleasant than a flat course.

Then I approached the hill.  It’s not a horrible hill, but I was struggling as it was.  There was a spooky tunnel right on the bottom of the hill that distracted me slightly, but then I had to face the music.  I tried to power up the hill and not let it get to me.  It certainly wasn’t as bad as the hill workout I had done a few weeks ago, but my quads were in rough shape by the time I reached the top.  At that point, I was less than half a mile from the finish and knew I just needed to gut it out for about three more minutes.

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Three minutes?  No problem!

Those last three minutes hurt, but I kept pushing it.  The final quarter mile or so of the course took us over the grass and through some spooky inflatable Halloween decorations.  Just as I saw the finish, I heard someone coming up behind me.  Let it be a guy! The kid I had passed around the first mile marker sprinted by me to finish just ahead of me.  He had a stellar kick.  I pushed through to the finish line a few seconds later.  I saw the clock tick over to 21:44 just as I crossed the line, so I knew I was close to my goal, and since I had taken a second or so to cross the finish line, I suspected I had gotten it.

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I managed to make it over to a curb of some sort and sat down.  I was exhausted.

Suddenly, I heard someone behind me. “Good job, Goof!”

I turned around and saw Rob! (“Goof” is his nickname for me.) He had made it to the park after all.  He had gotten there just in time to see me start, and had been able to see me finish up the race as well.  We chatted for a moment, and I finally felt up to moving.  So I walked out of the finisher’s area past some hot pizzas (pizza at 9:30 in the morning after a race?), and walked over to the results trailer to get my official results.  I typed in my number, and the computer printed out a receipt.  Second woman overall with a time of 21:42.1.  The half marathon that was run along with the 5k attracted a lot of the more serious runners (the first woman in the half marathon ran a 1:18!), so I was able to make the overall podium for the first time ever.

After checking the results, Rob and I went and got my bag, which I had stashed next to a tree up near the starting line.  Rob ended up riding home from there, and I went back to the finisher’s area to wait for the 5k awards.

It was a cool experience to have my name announced and to stand up on the podium with the first- and third-placed woman.  Plus, the haul was pretty good for the size of the 5k field.  I won a short-sleeve t-shirt with the same design as the long-sleeve one, a pink trucker hat, a thin windbreaker (that will be great for early or late season bike rides), and free entry into next year’s 5k.

I was pleased with my performance at the Haunted 5k, but it didn’t exactly build confidence that I can break 21 minutes in a less than a month at the Turkey Trot I plan on doing.  However, I’ve got another three weeks of training time ahead of me, and I’ll have the advantage of a flat course and lower elevation in November.  Plus, my older sister is going to pace me.* I feel like I have a good chance of setting another PR in a month, but I’m just not sure how big that PR will be.

The stats
Time- 21:42.1
Average pace- 6:59.1/mile
Place- 2/401

podium

*I know it’s a little silly to get paced to a mediocre 5k PR, but she’s training for a 5k in mid-November, and we thought this race a couple weeks later would be a fun thing to do together.  And since she’s way faster than me, the only way we’d actually be running the race together instead of just running the same race is if she paces me.

Weekly Recap (10/17-10/23)

Monday: Swim—2850 yards
I had a fairly late night on Sunday, so Monday morning was a bit rough.  But I made it up and to swim practice.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
5 x 50 (10 kick roll)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
2 x 200 @ 3:00
100 kick
2 x 200 @ 3:00
100 kick
2 x 200 @ 3:00
100 easy
200 fast (2:37)
We were supposed to swim all the 200s except the last one at the same pace.  I didn’t do a great job at that, and my times ranged from 2:45 to 2:55.  It would have been better to have closer to a five second discrepancy instead of a ten second discrepancy.  However, I was able to rally and swim a strong final 200.  In fact, I ended up swimming it with a negative split.  And with the time I swam in practice, I think that a sub-2:30 200 is possible if/when I decide to swim the 200 in a meet.

Tuesday: Run—3 tempo miles, 5.95 total (51:40)
I went to work early so I could go for a run over my lunch hour. I was dreading this run. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to manage three miles at a 7:15/mile pace in a practice session, and I knew it would be a hard workout. So I put it off for as long as I could before begrudgingly leaving the office at 11:45am. However, despite my protestations, the run went well, and I hit my target goals and then some.
1.77 miles @ 9:43 (17:18)
3 miles @ 7:06 (21:17)
1.18 miles @ 11:04 (13:04)
This workout was hard.  I started out a little too fast and did slow down some, but I ran strong and stayed tough.  I think that I stopped at the exact right spot. Since there wasn’t a road right where I stopped, I based it on the driveway of an office building, and I think I stopped at the correct entrance. If not, I ran the tempo portion of the run around 15 seconds slower than reported above (or about a 7:11/mile pace).  I like this route for tempo runs.  It’s not quite flat, but it’s flat compared to the rest of the terrain in the Salt Lake area.  However, there are still a few bumps here and there to get your legs working.  I felt relatively positive about my upcoming 5k after this workout.

Wednesday: Swim—2450 yards
I went to Masters swimming, and much to my delight, we were working on freestyle as our stroke.  Thank goodness!
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
6 x 50 (10 kick roll)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
2 minute kick (~100 yards)
3 x 50 (some drill)
2 minute swim (150 yards)
3 x 50 (with 6-beat kick)
2 minute swim with overkick (~150 yards)
3 x 50 (hip drive)
2 minutes swim maximum yards (~150 yards)
3 x 50 (early vertical forearm)
200 fast (2:40)
I swam most of my “fast” swims around :40/50 yards, so my coach said that from now on, when we do 50s, I should try to swim them under :40.  It’s good to have a target to aim for.  I was a little disappointed with my final 200 and wished I could have swum it a little faster, but that’s how it goes sometimes.  For the most part, I felt good about this workout.

Thursday: Bike—16.11 miles (59:16)
It was nice to get back on my bike again.  I went on a fairly short post-work ride.  It was cool but not cold.  Perfect fall riding weather.  I rode hard-ish, but I didn’t go crazy out there.  There was nothing too memorable about this ride.  I got to see some nice fall colors and enjoy the cool weather.

Friday: Rest
I took a rest day because I was racing the next day.  I enjoyed sleeping in and having an entire evening to get some chores done and watch a movie.

Saturday: Run—Haunted 5k (21:42.1)
I’ll write up a race report for this, but the race went well, and I had fun out there.  It was a hard race, but I was satisfied with how I performed.

sugarhousefall
It was an absolutely beautiful day!

Sunday—Rest
Rob and I had some friends in town, so I took the day off. I’m going to try to hit it pretty hard next week and get a few solid weeks of run workouts in before my Turkey Trot in November.

Becoming a swimmer

Generally, triathletes are divided into two categories in regards to the swim: lifelong swimmers and adult-onset swimmers.  The former swam competitively throughout their childhoods and have no trouble jumping back into the water years later and becoming front-of-pack swimmers.  The latter often spend months or years frustrated in the pool as they try to learn a skill that is so completely different from the athletic events in which they participated while growing up.

I don’t really fit into either of these groups.

I didn’t swim competitively as a kid.  I took the regular rec center swim lessons that many American kids did while growing up.  I had to repeat a few levels.  It certainly didn’t feel like something for which I had a natural aptitude.  But I did take lessons long enough to learn the basics of all the strokes.  I mean, I couldn’t actually do all the strokes, but I knew the general idea.

When I was in high school, my mom brought up the idea of taking a course to become a swimming instructor.  She thought it would be a good summer job to have and would keep me from having to flip burgers or do hard labor (thanks, Mom!).  So I agreed, and my older sister and I took the class together.  This time, I actually learned how to do each stroke.  I didn’t learn how to do them all well, but I got the general idea.  It still didn’t feel natural, and I specifically had a hard time with breaststroke and butterfly.  The timing of the strokes was a huge struggle for me.  I didn’t quite have them down by the time the course ended, so I had to practice some on my own.  I would drive down to the local rec center and either attempt flail across the pool (butterfly) or spend half the lap floating when I should have been gliding (breaststroke).  And I just kept trying, lap after lap after lap, until something clicked.  The “click” didn’t turn me into a master of these two strokes, but it did allow me to have a basic understanding of the timing and of how each stroke should actually feel which let me properly demonstrate it and pass the class.

Then, I taught 3-6 year olds how to blow bubbles and float for a few years and promptly lost the ability to do those more advanced strokes.

I did, however, eventually start swimming for fitness.  Once I quit running track, I swam on and off fairly regularly, depending on what else was going on in my life and whether there was a pool available to me for free or not.  Even after taking year-long breaks, I could always hop back in the pool and swim far enough that boredom, not fitness, was my limiting factor.  I was slow, but I wasn’t struggling from wall to wall.  And I liked swimming.  I found it peaceful and comforting.

So when I decided to sign up for my first sprint triathlon (with a pool swim!), I wasn’t worried about the swim.  I knew I could get through it.  I felt the same when I started training for my half Ironman.  I knew I could cover the distance.  I was worried about the bike because I was a complete newbie to cycling when I started triathlon, so I actually cut out a lot of the swimming workouts and replaced them with more cycling.

And I totally managed the swim.  However, throughout my first few years of triathlon, I didn’t see a ton of improvement in that area.  So once I signed up for an Ironman, I decided to start attending Masters swim team.  At the very least, I figured the other swimmers and the structure would help me improve, even if I didn’t increase my actual yardage much.

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Sure enough, I improved pretty significantly last year.  So significantly, in fact, that my brain fell behind my ability.

Throughout the past year and a bit of attending a Masters group, I’ve been plagued by a lack of confidence.  This lack of confidence didn’t cause existential angst.  It didn’t bother me at all because until recently, I didn’t even realize it was there.  I just assumed I couldn’t hit times or learn strokes or hit certain milestones.  100s at 1:40?  I can’t do that!  And then when I did… 100s at 1:35?  No way!  A 1:04.95 in the 100yd freestyle?  That’s way too fast.  The time must be wrong.

I find myself doing this constantly, certain I can’t keep up with a particular person or hit a particular time.  A month or so ago, after mentioning to my coach that I hit the interval even though I was certain I wouldn’t be able to, he said, “You know, I think you need to start adjusting your expectations for yourself.”

And he’s right.  I need to start seeing myself as a capable swimmer instead of just as someone who can swim well enough to compete in triathlons.  I need to notice my improvements and get excited about improving further.  In short, I need to become a swimmer.

Even with my regular Masters workouts, I think I still have a lot of room for improvement.  I swim about 7,500 yards a week, a far cry from the 15,000-20,000 that “real” swimmers do a week.  While I don’t have the time to do that regularly, I’ve decided to do a swim-focused block of training this winter.  I am going to spend eight weeks focusing on swimming.  I plan on doing this in January and February for two reasons.  First, during that period of time, I’ll be happy to be indoors.  Second, it’s not a period of time that will be chopped up by holiday traveling.

I’m—dare I say it—excited about seeing where a more focused approach to swimming this winter takes me.  I’m sure it will help me in my triathlons, but I’m already trying to think like a swimmer and consider my open swimming times as well, not just this year but in the years to come.  It can take years of pretty dedicated swimming to reach your full potential, so I’m looking forward to seeing just what that potential might be for me.

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Weekly Recap (10/10-10/16)

Monday: Swim—2550 + whistle kicks
I felt much better waking up Monday morning than I have in a long time.  I think the weekend of sleeping in really did me some good.  We did a distance day, and I performed better than expected.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (distance per stroke)
5 x 50 (closed fist)
Whistle kicks (5 minutes)
200
300
400
500
100 easy
We were supposed to swim all the intervals at either at the same or at a faster pace than we swam the first 200.  I swam the first 200 just over a 1:30/100yd pace, so I was a little worried about keeping that up.  However, the middle two intervals felt manageable.  And the first half of the 500 felt manageable, if a bit difficult.  I turned it on a bit for the last 200 or so, but it was a bit difficult because I was starting to catch people at that point, so I’d swim hard, end up on someone’s feet and have to slow down, then pass them at the wall.  And there was a little miscommunication that ended in a collision right as I was heading into my final 25.  I still finished in 7:12, which is a practice PR for me, so I’ll take it.  I think under the right conditions, though, I could pretty easily go sub-7:00.  That’s officially on my radar now.

Tuesday: Run—Hill repeats, 5.13 miles total (57:19)
I struggled with my run on Tuesday, and I’m not sure if it’s due to my abilities on the day or because of the difficulty of the workout.  Since my next 5k is fairly hilly, I decided I should do some hill repeats.  So after work, I suited up and headed out.  I chose a steep hill near Rob’s place—so steep, in fact, that we never ride our bikes up (or down) it.  The portion I was running was .29 miles long, and I started with the notion that I would try to hit a sub-8:00/mile pace going up it, which comes out to about 2:12 for each repeat. It turns out that wasn’t going to happen.
1.57 mile warmup
4 x .29 mile hill w/ downhill recovery (2:25, 2:34, 2:28, 2:30)
1.63 mile cooldown
I started with the intention of doing 4-6 repeats, and halfway through the first, I knew I was only going to be running four.  My legs were already burning.  I’m starting to think maybe my choice of hill accounts for the difficulty of this workout.  The uphill was constant (except for a brief respite caused by an intersection halfway up), but the grade lessened significantly about two-thirds of the way up.  Even with that flatter portion, the overall grade of the hill (calculated later) is 8.75%.  Also, most of the hill workout stuff I read (after the fact, of course!) suggested hill repeats should be about 90 seconds long.  If/when I do this workout again, I’ll probably cut the distance in half and do 6-10 repeats up that shorter hill.

Wednesday: Swim—2300 yards
I worked on breaststroke on Wednesday, and it wasn’t horrible.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (kick, swim)
3 x 50 (closed fist)
4 x 50 (breaststroke with dolphin kick)
4 x 50 (3 second glide)
4 x 50 (two kick breaststroke)
4 x 50 (focus on form)
100 easy
4 x 100
50 easy
I have a lot of work to do to catch up with my current lane on stroke days, but it’s always a challenge, and challenges are good.  I’m hoping that consistently attending practice on Wednesday throughout the winter helps me improve in this area.

Thursday: Run—9.14 miles (1:18:34)
I went out for a long run on Thursday morning.  And it actually felt good!  This was my longest run by a couple of mile since my Ironman, so I was worried about how it would go.  But I felt strong the entire time.  I started off nice and slow.  I was feeling pretty tired at the end, so I worried I had started out too fast.  However, it turns out the reason I was tired towards the end is because I sped up.  I managed a nice negative split on this run.  It was a bit of a confidence booster that I needed.

Friday: Rest
I rested and drove up to Idaho for another wedding.  It was a long drive, and I wished a few times that I was going for a five hour bike ride instead of a five hour drive.

Saturday: Run—5 miles (39:31)
I ran with my dad, as I usually do when I visit my family.  We had a strong run and got faster consistently throughout the five miles.  In fact, I managed to run the final mile in just under seven minutes.  I felt strong while doing so, and my dad even commented that my stride looked easy and relaxed.

Sunday: Rest
I drove back to Salt Lake and spent the evening working on a time-sensitive project (hence the hurried nature of this weekly recap!).

Review: You Need a Budget (YNAB)

Disclaimer: I took advantage of the free trial offered to all new YNAB subscribers.  I have not communicated with anyone associated with the product.  All opinions are my own.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a money-hungry capitalist stingy frugal.  This has served me well throughout the years.  My financial awareness helped me navigate through grad school on an $800/month stipend without taking out any additional loans and helped me pay off my minimal student loan debt from my undergraduate degree (a shout-out to my parents for enabling me to take out only minimal loans!) within a year or two of graduating with my MA.

So I kind of thought I had the financial thing down.  When I first randomly ran across YNAB (You Need a Budget), I thought it was a nice system, but I didn’t think I had any use for it.  I was doing just fine.  However, after a few very large and unfortunately-timed financial mishaps (namely, stolen and wrecked cars), I found myself suffering from a lot of anxiety about finances.  My financial anxiety is probably the main reason I’m relatively good with money.  I learned that I’d rather have a large buffer of money than a constant large knot in the pit of my stomach.

One day, I was reading a story on the YNAB website about a family paying off their debt (that and Ironman race reports are what my inspirational reading consist of!).  I started exploring their web page, and I found myself at a list of their rules, which I had actually read before.  However, the first rule jumped out at me in a way that it hadn’t before, and I suddenly started to wonder if maybe I could use this product and if it might help reduce my anxiety about money.

YNAB operates on four basic “rules”:

  1. Give every dollar a job. This is the rule that I suddenly saw in a new light.  I had always left myself some buffer room in my budget, in case I went over in any one category.  Suddenly, I realized that this unaccounted for money wasn’t going straight into my savings.  I had no accountability for this money, so it was going this way and that way.  Sure, sometimes it covered something needed like a parking ticket.  But usually it went to Barbacoa burritos because I was feeling too lazy to cook.
  2. Embrace your true expenses. This was something I already (mostly) did.  Essentially, everyone has expenses that don’t happen every month, whether it’s paying $300 for car insurance every 6 months or signing up for your annual Ironman.  The folks at YNAB suggest that you sock away money every month for these “true expenses” so that you are prepared when it’s time to address them.  I did this monthly for the most obvious expenses (like insurance and Christmas), but not for less-obvious expenses like general gifts or car maintenance.
  3. Roll with the punches. Don’t freak out if you go over budget.  Just find another category you can slash to make up the difference.
  4. Age your money. This rule used to be “live on last month’s income,” which I think is a little clearer.  Again, this was something I was already doing.  At the end of each month, I’d have a full month’s salary in my checking account, and any extra would be transferred to my savings account.  The benefit is that I never had to worry about what bill was being paid when or about overdrafting because I forgot I hadn’t been paid yet.  With a full month’s salary in your checking account, you can just swipe your debit card and call it good for all regular purchases.

So, I signed up for a free trial, starting using the software regularly, and promptly forgot about this draft post in lieu of Ironman training.  Now, I’m coming back to it with my thoughts and opinions after using it regularly for several months.

The basic approach of YNAB is to only budget the money you literally have at the moment.  The question you are supposed to ask yourself is, “What does this money need to do before I get paid again?”  When you get paid, you put the money you have into specific categories associated with specific months and then spend from those categories.  In that way, it’s essentially a digital envelope system which is perfect for me.  I love the way an envelope system helps you visualize your budget, but I’m far too lazy to use a traditional cash-only envelope system, and having a bunch of different checking or savings accounts is overwhelming to me.

Once you’ve budgeted out your money, you spend from your categories instead of from your balance total.  In other words, if you go grocery shopping, the money you spend comes from the grocery category.  Once the grocery category runs out, you just have to stop eating. (Well, really, if you overspend, you can transfer money from another category to cover it.)  For me, this helps created a false sense of scarcity.  Sure, my dining out category and my gas category may be looking flush.  But if my grocery category is struggling, I’ll be careful about what I spend on groceries.  In other words, I see that I only have $15 left in my grocery budget (looks like it’s time for soup!) instead of seeing that I have $150 left to spend in all before the end of the month.

transaction
A sample transaction using the mobile app.

Throughout the months, I’ve fine-tuned my categories.  For instance, I found myself never wanting to buy deodorant or shampoo because it was just coming out of my grocery budget.  Obviously, I need those things.  So I created a new “Beauty and hygiene” category for that kind of stuff.  YNAB deals with this kind of flexibility and change very well.  I haven’t had any issues crop up after rethinking my budget categories.

I started using the software near the end of May with the express purpose of saving up for a “new” car.  In the five months that I’ve been using it, I’ve managed to save just under $4,000 towards that goal, and since I tend to buy older cars, that means I’m almost there.  I did that while in the build-up to my Ironman (expensive!), contributing (a little) to my retirement, and without making the big bucks to begin with.  I suspect I’ll be financially able to start looking for a car by the end of November.

A few highlights for me:

I knew I had to get my driver’s license renewed this year.  I also thought I would need to get a new copy of my birth certificate to do so.  I contributed money to my “Legal/Paperwork” category for a few months so I’d have the cash on hand.  And then, I didn’t need a birth certificate and my new license was way less expensive than I thought it’d be.  So I ended up being able to put a hefty chunk of cash in my new car fund.

I grossly underestimated the amount of money I’d spend on triathlon the month of my Ironman, and new race tires emptied out my triathlon budget (and then some).  So I moved some money from my Darn it Fund (which is a category created to fund any overspends or things I forgot about) to cover it.  If I hadn’t had that category, I could have essentially borrowed money from myself and taken it from a category I knew I wouldn’t be using for a while.

My fall is packed with birthdays and weddings.  Instead of spending a lot of money in September, October, and November, I started stashing gift money away in May so that all of the gifts won’t be an issue at all.

When I’m tempted to be lazy and get takeout or fast food for dinner, I am now able to see how much money I have in that category.  Usually, it’s not worth it.  Over the past four months, I have been so much better about deciding to get takeout or go out for dinner because I want that experience and not because I’m feeling too lazy to make a simple dinner.

A few lowlights:

I hate entering the transactions, and I’m really bad at it.  You can often sync YNAB with your bank, but I don’t like doing that, so I tend to get behind on transactions and enter them every few days.  It’s usually fine, but I can never remember if my Smith’s transactions are for gas or groceries.  This is not the fault of the software but rather the result of my own laziness.  The mobile app actually makes it really convenient to enter transactions as you go.

Periodically, I’ll click on something and suddenly that fund is full of money or a bunch of money (that I don’t have) goes to completely fulfill a goal I’ve set.  There’s always a brief moment of panic, but the undo button does its job and I try to remember what that particular click does for next time.

The goal functionality is a little annoying.  I had a goal set up for my gifts category (a certain amount by September, when the birthday and wedding tsunami started to hit).  Well, once I started spending money for those gifts, obviously the amount in that category started to go down and went below the goal amount.  So I just had to delete the goal once I reached it and moved past it.  It would be fun to actually check off the goal as finished or something like that.

My verdict after using the software for a few months?

Try it.

Unless you are already using budgeting software that works for you (and maybe even if you are!), you should give YNAB a try.

The number one thing that YNAB helps me do is see what I have left at the end of the month and make an actual decision with it.  Previously, as the end of the month approached (bills paid, planned contributions to savings account made), I’d take a look at my bank account.  If I had money left above and beyond my one-month buffer, I’d feel okay spending it.  On whatever.  It was “free money” at that point.

Now, at the end of the month, I can see which specific categories have money left over and can actually make a conscious decide what to do with it.  Twenty dollars left over in my grocery budget?  I’ll let it roll over to next month’s grocery budget because that’s the category I tend to overspend most frequently.  Thirty dollars left in my gas budget for the month?  I may stick it in my New Car category or I may put it in my Dining Out category so Rob and I can get some (really good!) takeout at some point during the next month.  But I make the decision consciously, and not on a whim.

YNAB costs $5 a month (or you can save a bit and pay $50 for a year).  However, they offer a free 34 day trial, and if you Google “YNAB 90 day trial,” you should find some special promotions by bloggers who wrote sponsored reviews for YNAB.  For me, the cost is well worth it.  Even though I was fairly responsible with money before YNAB, it has helped me save far more than an additional $5 a month.

And best of all?  It has helped a good deal with my financial anxiety.  It hasn’t completely taken it away, but it has given me the level of control over my finances that I need in order to help mitigate my anxiety.  I don’t necessarily like what my financial situation looks like, but I know enough about it to know what needs to change, and I have the tools to change it.

 

Weekly Recap (10/03-10/09)

Monday: Swim—2850 yards
It was another early morning at the pool.  I hadn’t slept great the night before (vampire dreams!), but I felt alright when I got in the pool to warm up.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (10 kick barrel roll)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
2 x 75 (kick, scull, swim)
10 x 50 @ :50
50 easy
6 x 75 @ 1:20
20 x 25 @ :30
50 easy
The individual 50 and 75 intervals were done at different speeds.  For instance, some of the 50s were fast all the way through while some were only fast in the middle, at the beginning, or at the end.  Same thing with the 75s.  They were tough, and my arms were fatigued by the end of the 75s.  The 25s after that were a challenge.  Making the interval wasn’t hard, but staying strong (as in, relatively fast with good form) took focus.  I felt good about the workout.  I pushed hard and stayed mentally strong.

Tuesday: Run—2 tempo miles, 5.15 total miles (47:00)
I had seriously been dreading this workout since I planned my week out last Friday.  I had initially planned on doing it Monday, but for various (legitimate, mostly) reasons it didn’t work out, so I decided to do it Tuesday morning instead.  It was cold outside—well below 40°.  So I actually wore a jacket and long tights.  The plan was 1-2 miles warmup, 2 tempo miles at under 7:00/mile, then a 1-2 mile cooldown.  And I nailed it!
1.78 miles @ 10:35/mile (18:52)
2 miles @ 6:55/mile (13:49)
1.37 miles @10:26/mile (14:18)
I hit the paces, and I actually felt relatively strong during the workout.  There was never a moment where I thought, “I can’t believe how much longer I have to run!”  I mean, it helps that I was only running hard for 14 minutes, but still… even one minute can feel like an eternity when you are struggling.  I was glad to be done, but I felt like I could have run further at that pace if needed.  It was a solid, confidence-boosting run.

Wednesday: Swim—2300 yards
It was a rough swim for me on Wednesday.  The workout wasn’t too bad.  We did strokes other than freestyle, and I’m not really good enough to push myself super hard at those strokes, if that makes any sense.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (kick, swim)
4 x 50 (closed fist)
2 x [2 x 50
2 x 75
2 x 100
50 easy]
I kind of panicked about doing other strokes.  And then I misunderstood the workout and messed up the first round of repeats and felt a little more panicked.  Plus, the lane was crowded and people were doing butterfly and breaststroke so I kept hitting and kicking people (and getting hit and kicked).  I actually considered getting out because I was feeling claustrophobic and like I might be getting somewhat close to a panic attack.  I didn’t, and I was able to calm myself down a bit and finish the workout.  I feel like I should clarify that this bad day wasn’t about swimming.  That’s where my anxiety showed itself, but it originated from a couple other areas of my life that I had already identified.  (Sorry to vague-blog!)  One of the things that has helped me manage my anxiety is being able to identify what the real problem is.  Even while I was feeling panicked, I knew that swimming wasn’t the issue, and that helped me calm myself down and finish the workout.  I knew that if things got worse and I could actually feel a panic attack coming on, I could hop out of the pool and leave the situation.  And I knew that there was nothing I could do about what was actually bothering me in the next fifty minutes.  So yeah, it sucked, but I made it through.

Thursday: REST
I spent the day resting and taking care of a poor, sick boyfriend.  (He’s easy to take care of… I just threw potatoes in the oven for dinner and walked down to the store to get him juice and cookies.)

Friday: Swim—1650 yards + leisure laps; Run—4.44 miles (36:29)
I got to the pool hoping there wouldn’t be any intensive kicking drills because I wanted to do a speed workout. And then it was a leisure lap day.
200 reverse IM
200 IM kick
200 inverse IM
6 x 50 (closed fist)
2 x 50
4 x 25 (underwater)
Leisure laps (5)
10 x 50 @ :50
25 easy
Starts
25 fast
Leisure laps are hard and are only named as such because they are done in the leisure pool.  You run against the current through the lazy river, up and around the beach start, back into deeper water, up the ladder out of the pool, over the bridge and up the stairs to the slide.  When you get down the slide, you’ve done one lap.  I ended up doing five (and was the fastest one there… yeah!).  And I was pretty gutted by the end.  After we finished up the workout and headed to work, I wondered how I was going to do a speed workout.  And then I realized I basically just had.

So I decided to just do a regular run during lunch.  It was cool, crisp, and sunny outside.  Perfect fall running weather.  I was just a little chilly in a tank top and shorts to start but felt great a mile or so in. The run was actually enjoyable.  And not just because I met an absurdly friendly cat halfway through the run.  I enjoyed running just to run.  I ran until I felt like turning around (I had a general idea just due to being familiar with the route), and I didn’t look at my watch at all during the run.  I ended up running just under 4.5 miles and even having a little bit of fun.

Saturday: Bike—36.11 miles (2:08:58)
I wanted to get out for a decent bike ride, so I headed out around 11:30am.  The weather was perfect, and I had a really fun ride.  When I’m not overdosing on cycling (in other words, training for an Ironman), it’s always a joy to get out on the bike.  However, I did feel more fatigued that I expected towards the end of the ride.  I did ride pretty hard, though.

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This is an old, abandoned mill out south.  I love riding by it.

Sunday: Run—7 mile (1:01:06)
Rob and I were out late at the opera on Saturday, so I decided not to set an alarm and to just plan on doing my run after church.  I slept in late for me (until around 7:30am).  And then church just tired me out which is really odd.  When I got back, I decided to go on my run, but I didn’t feel great.  I just didn’t have any energy, and the run felt really rough, despite the fact that I started out slow and wasn’t running all that fast.  I’m a bit worried that I’m getting whatever Rob had earlier in the week, but we’ll see.

Post-race slump?

As much as I loved Ironman training, I was ready to be done.  I didn’t have a post-race depression.  I didn’t wonder what to do with all my new-found free time (TV, anyone?).  And for the first weeks after the Ironman, I didn’t even have trouble motivating myself to exercise.  I had spent so much time doing Ironman stuff that I was actually excited to do some hard shorter workouts.  Masters swimming three times a week?  Heck yeah!  Track workout?  Heck yeah!  A “long” bike ride on the weekend? Heck yeah!

My mind felt so great the first couple weeks that I dared to hope I had escaped a post-race slump altogether.  But I’ve noticed a trend as I’ve been writing my race reports the last few weeks.

“I didn’t really want to get up for this workout, but I was glad once I did.”

“I told myself I could take it easy as long as I got out there.”

“I had to bargain with myself to get out the door and decided to do a longer run instead of intervals.”

“The workout was fine, but I just wasn’t feeling it.”

It’s not hard to see the pattern.

I’ve had some great highlights in the weeks since my Ironman.  I did really well in my first swim meet.  I won a 5k (and, more importantly, I think I hit the paces I wanted to hit).  I powered through to a PR up Emigration Canyon.

premig
PR!

But I’ve also been seriously struggling with motivation.  Some days, it’s harder for me to wake up for a five mile run than it was to wake up for a ten mile run during Ironman training.  There have been plenty of mornings where I almost turn my alarm off and sleep through swimming.  There’s nothing wrong with taking it easy, but I’m torn.  It’d be easy to know what to do if I were constantly sick of exercising—cut back.  But the thing is, when I’m not struggling with motivation, I’m very excited about future goals and new athletic pursuits.  And I know that winter is coming.  I want to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather and fall colors before this whole place turns gray for three months.

I’m of two minds.  And I’m having a hard time reconciling these conflicting feelings.

After giving it some thought, I suspect that part of the problem is my post-Ironman habits.  During Ironman training, I was always very careful to get plenty of sleep.  I’ve (understandably) been a little more lax on that front since the race.  But I’m a person that needs sleep.  If I mix get a fairly even mix of 7 hour and 8 hour nights, I’m pretty much where I need to be.  However, recently, I’ve been having way more 7 hour nights than usual, with a few 6 hour nights thrown in here and there.  And that’s bound to mess with my motivation and make it harder to get up in the morning.  Additionally, I’ve been kind of lazy when it comes to fueling as well.  I’ve been skipping breakfast here and there and choosing to snack instead of actually sit down for a real dinner.

I don’t want to miss out on fall running and fall cycling because I’m suffering from the side effects of not getting enough sleep.  So I’m going to try to focus on getting my sleep and on fueling properly and see if that helps my motivation and general well-being.

And for now, I’m going to keep at it, while offering myself plenty of opportunities to reschedule, rethink, and play things by ear.

That means that so far, in this week alone, I postponed a tempo run from Monday evening to Tuesday morning when I remembered that I had something important to do on Monday evening.  I also moved my planned Tuesday evening bike ride to Wednesday evening after I got to Rob’s house, saw that he wasn’t feeling well, and decided it was more important to be a decent partner and make him dinner than it was to go for a bike ride.

And that’s good.  There’s not much room for flexibility during Ironman training.  But there is now, and a part of finding a schedule that’s maintainable in the long term is embracing that extra wiggle room.

Weekly Recap (9/26-10/02)

Monday: Swim—3100 yards
I had a little trouble waking up (I swear I used to be a morning person!), but I did make it to swimming.  We did more of a distance workout which was welcome.  We tend to do more short stuff, and it’s sometimes nice to take a break from gut-busting 50s and 100s.  It didn’t make the workout easier, per se.  Just a different kind of hard.
300 swim
200 kick
100 pull
4 x 50 (10 kick barrel roll)
6 x 50 (closed fist)
2 x 250 build
5 x 100 descend
10 x 50 overkick @ :55
500 negative split (3:50, 3:28)
I switched off leading the intervals with another woman in my lane.  I led the five 100s, and I was determined to do it “right” and get faster with each one.  So when I popped up out of the water after the first one and saw I had hit 1:30, I was a little pissed at myself.  I didn’t think I was going to be able to each 100 faster than the last with a starting point of 1:30.  But I went for it anyway.  And I ended up nailing it!  My approximate times for the 100s were 1:30, 1:27, 1:23, 1:20, and 1:18.  I was pretty gassed at the end, but our lane didn’t push the 50s too hard which gave me a chance to recover before the 500.  And, despite feeling more tired than the last time I ended a workout on a 500 negative split, I ended up swimming it a couple seconds faster.  As I got out of the pool at the end of practice, I gave the coach a typical wow-I-can’t-believe-I-did-that spiel about the five 100s.  He said that I probably needed to start adjusting my expectations for myself.  And he’s probably right.  I need to start expecting a little more of myself because I’ve shown that I’m a pretty decent swimmer.

Tuesday: Bike—25(ish) miles; Run—3.5 miles (28:11)
I worked out twice on Tuesday!  My car was in the shop, so I worked from home.  I actually rode my bike to go pick up my car around the middle of the day.  I couldn’t find my Garmin before taking off, so I just rode without it.  It was a nice break from data.  I rode reasonably hard, but it was a great ride.  I’ve missed my bike.  The cooler weather and fall colors were amazing as well.  I used the opportunity to try out some of the cycling clothes I got from the employee sale with Rob, and they didn’t disappoint.  The shorts in particular were very comfortable.

After I got home with my car and finished working for the day, I headed out for a short run.  I was surprised at how tough it felt.  I guess I was kind of expecting that running would feel effortless since I had a decent race a few days earlier.  Obviously, that’s ridiculous, but subconscious beliefs often are.

Wednesday: Swim—2350 yards
I headed to the pool early (as usual) for a good, hard swim workout.  We did a shorter warmup because some folks were going to leave a bit early due to the water at the pool being shut off around 7:30am.  I’m always out by 7:15am anyway, so I wasn’t affected at all.
500 skips (swim, kick, IM, pull, swim)
3 x 50 (10 kick roll)
3 x 50 (closed fist)
8 x 75 (kick, scull, swim)
2 x 100 (fast)
100 easy
12 x 25 @ :25
100 easy
5 x 50 (2 turns)
Practice felt a bit rough.  I just didn’t feel on top of my game.  The 25s in particular felt hard.  But during practice, I miscalculated how long it was taking me to swim them.  I had a touch over five seconds to rest for each one.  For some reason (I blame the morning), I thought this meant I was swimming them in just under 25 seconds.  Clearly, since the interval was 25 seconds, I was swimming them just under 20 seconds.  Big difference there.

After work, I rather reluctantly geared up to ride Emigration Canyon.  I had something to get done in the evening, and I considered skipping the ride to work on it instead.  However, I decided to stick to the plan and do my ride.  I had planned to do some intervals, but since I wasn’t feeling super into it, I decided to just climb Emigration instead.  Lo and behold, partway up, I started to see some surprising speeds on my Garmin.  Huh.  So I pushed the pace a little more, and by the time I reached the start of the final grind, I was in a good position to PR the climb.  I pushed the final climb hard and ended up breaking that training PR by about thirty seconds.  Not bad.

emigrationfall

Thursday: Swim—2800 yards
It was the last Thursday practice of the summer.  And it was a rough one.  I was tired from the day before, and my arms in particular have been fatigued as I focus on improving my midpull which is using slightly different muscles now.
500 swim
300 kick
6 x 50 (distance per stroke)
4 x 25 (eyes closed)
8 x 200
The 200s were tough.  Swim Coach Max wanted me to swim them on a 2:45 interval (YEAH RIGHT), and he didn’t believe me when I said I couldn’t hit that (which is fair, considering all the hand-wringing I do!).  Well, I was right this time.  I couldn’t.  I did a few at 3:00 intervals, but had to bump that up to 3:10 for the last few.  I think on a good day, I could hit 3:00 intervals, but with my fatigue and my attempt at 2:45s, it wasn’t happening.  And that’s okay.  Not every day has to be awesome.

Friday: Run—6.5 miles (57:58)
I was supposed to go to the track.  But I didn’t.  I just decided against it, for no real reason.  I did go for a run in the morning, though.  And—surprise!—it didn’t feel great.  I went when it was dark, and it was just starting to get light when I got back.  I do like running at that time of day, but the rest of the run was pretty “meh.”  I took a half day and drove to Idaho with Rob in the afternoon for a wedding that weekend.

Saturday: Run—5 miles (39:31)
Since I was in Idaho, I ran with my dad on Saturday.  He is recovering from a knee injury (he fell into a crawlspace), so we started off relatively slowly.  However, we picked up the pace naturally throughout the run pretty easily.  I’m not sure if it’s having a running partner or the elevation difference or what, but it’s a lot easier to run in Idaho than in Utah.  Our first mile was 8:12 and our final mile was around 7:35, which is way faster than I’ve been running lately.  In the evening, we went to the wedding and saw the lovely couple get married.  Despite never wanting another wedding for myself, I’ve become a bit of a sucker for weddings lately, and it’s always a joy to be able to celebrate two wonderful people and their relationship.  So it was definitely worth the trip up to Idaho.

Sunday: REST
I took Sunday off for travel.  I had a late night, and I didn’t want to bother with trying to fit in a workout.  Rob and I left mid-morning for Utah to finish off our whirlwind weekend.