Wednesday, February 19, 2014

I'm Nervous

Tomorrow is my last day of work this week. This after last weekend went from a scheduled 4-day weekend to a 5-day weekend because of weather (rain, not ice). Friday morning, I'll be driving to Alabama to get ready for the Cheaha 50k trail run on Saturday.

I am very nervous about this race.

Why? Part of it is the distance. I've run 26.2 miles before. Well, I ran about 20 of those miles and then started taking occasional walking breaks after that. 50k is the same as 31 miles. Thirty one miles is longer than 26.2. Thirty one is 11 miles longer than 20 miles, which is the farthest I've ever run without stopping. I think I'm more nervous about the terrain. This race is in a slightly mountainous region of Alabama where you run up to the highest point in the state. There's a lot of climbing. I'm not good at climbing. I'm a big guy, over 200 lbs. I also live in a place where it is impossible to train on similar terrain on a regular basis. That's not ideal training.

There's also the fact that I ended up with a serious chest cold this weekend that still hasn't completely dissipated. I got winded walking up a single flight of stairs on Sunday. Add to that the fact that something weird happened to my foot on Saturday when I stepped on the threshold of my front door on the way outside and twice had a sharp shooting pain that felt like a wasp was stinging me from inside the bottom of my foot. It felt a little bruised a day or two later.

Luckily all of that is passed or passing. I ran again yesterday and my foot is fine. My chest is clearing up in a hurry, partly because I went to the doctor to speed up the process, although I'm still not 100 percent there. I spent a lot of yesterday's run trying to figure out how to run through coughing fits. It's harder than it sounds.

Despite these worries, I'm really looking forward to the challenge. I'm not sure I've been as excited for a race since my first Peachtree or my first triathlon. We'll see how things turn out.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Debates Are Stupid, But...

Photo: Anant Nas Sharma, Flickr Creative Commons

Before I get to today's post, I remembered this week that I created a blog last year that is not connected to this account so I could keep my running/biking/triathlon stuff off of this blog. I like to keep this blog semi-anonymous so I can be a little more open with what I write about, and it's annoying writing about all of that anonymously. No one will be offended that I'm a middle of the pack runner, so that stuff deserves its own spot. If you want to follow me there, leave a comment below and I'll get you the link. I don't want any direct connection between these two blogs.

As for today, I've watched/listened to about half of the debate last night between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. I may listen to more of it after work if I'm out of podcasts. Listening to it, I was reminded of something I'd read an hour earlier while teaching Thomas Paine to my 11th graders. "Yet it is folly to argue against determined hardness; eloquence may strike the ear, and the language of sorrow draw forth the tear of compassion, but nothing can reach the heart that is steeled with prejudice."

That basically sums up the debate and that basically explains my title for today's post. Ham has decided that a very literal interpretation of Genesis is the only option, and he freely ignores any evidence to the contrary. The irony in Paine's statement is that judging from his tone, he was at least as guilty of being set in his opinion as the Colonial loyalists he said should be kicked off the continent and whose property should be confiscated to finance the Revolution.

I don't think that specific irony applies to Nye and many like them. I believe them when they claim if that they were given real evidence to support the claims of Creationists that they would change their minds. After all, that's how science works. The modern understanding of evolution and natural selection is not exactly the same as the idea that Darwin set down in the Origin of Species. Since the publication of that book, new evidence has been discovered that has led scientists to modify the theory. True, Darwin and his most famous book are still taught and often revered in scientific circles, but, like Nye pointed out, any scientist would love to disprove such a foundational theory as evolution is to biology. It would make his career.

Besides, Ham never really made any real points. He has three main arguments (at least so far). His main argument, the one he keep coming back to is that we weren't there, so we can't know that things worked the same way throughout history. This is technically true. In fact, assuming systems like climate and ecosystems are unchanging would lead to bad conclusions. The problem is that his point is even more valid when attacking his own position. We weren't there when the Bible was written. How should we know whether to take the creation story literally or figuratively. When your only guide to the authenticity of the evidence is the item of evidence itself, there are obvious questions left unanswered. At least with science there are ways at looking at other things and seeing if they support the evidence.

He also kept referencing scientists and inventors who are creationists. It is true that some scientists are young earth creationists, but these are fringe scientists or people in unrelated disciplines. Trying to convince the public that these guys are more legitimate usually results in creationists having to resort to conspiracy theories, which is ridiculous. Like mentioned earlier, if these guys had good evidence, they would be stars in the fields of physics and biology and not outcasts.

His final main point is that if we allow science to go unopposed, religion dies and that's bad for kids. I think that people like Ham do more harm to belief in religion than any science textbook ever written. After all, what are intelligent children expected to do when faced with a preponderance of evidence suggesting an ancient universe and evolution through natural selection and religious fundamentalists claiming that their religion says the truth is some crackpot idea unsupported by the facts? I think that if I had grown up in a religious environment where the science was acknowledged and a figurative reading of the creation story was accepted that I would have never been driven away from organized religion. People like Ken Ham try to force believers to make a choice between reality and faith when the choice does not have to be made. While it is true that mainstream scientists to to be atheist and agnostic at a higher rate than the average American, that doesn't mean that there aren't completely mainstream Christian scientists. They just aren't Ham's scientists.

And this is why I hate myself. I just spent all this time writing this post about something not even Bill Nye should have given the time to validate by arguing the point.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Jamie Casino: Master of WTF Advertising

Unless you live in the Savannah television market like I do, you probably didn't see this advertisement. It was the first commercial that ran at the beginning of halftime during last night's Super Bowl. It's insane. It makes no sense. It's full of Orthodox iconography and a sledgehammer that makes dirt burn. It definitely made me obsess over who Jamie Casino is and just why he smashes his brother's gravestone with the aforementioned hammer.

Seriously. Watch it.

For a little context, Casino is a personal injury lawyer in Savannah and his brother was murdered in 2012 and he claims he was misled by police. After a little research, it turns out that issue was that the Police Chief said there were "no innocent victims" during a press conference and the families of the victims took offence. The police chief issued a statement saying that Casino's brother and girlfriend weren't suspected of any wrongdoing related to their deaths and the murderers were later arrested. Later, the police chief retired while being investigated for sexual harassment unrelated to the murder case. Still, Casino's a personal injury lawyer, not a prosecutor, so I'm thinking he's just cashing in on his brother's death. He's not really putting villains behind bars or even hunting them down for vigilante justice like the ad makes it sound. Despite all that, the ad is still insane and fascinating. Here's an interesting piece that appears to be written by Jamie Casino on CNN's citizen reporting site. That's his side of the story.

Here's my interpretation of the ad:

The guy is a personal injury lawyer whose brother is murdered. Casino realizes it's an interesting story that he can dramatize for a Super Bowl ad and create something that will really stick his name in people's minds. It sounds sleazy, but this guy is a personal injury lawyer who advertises heavily. When has that type of lawyer ever not sounded sleazy? I'll even accept that he was really ticked off about how the murders were handled.

And if you have any idea what the actual point he's trying to make in the ad (beyond "I'm a lawyer and I'd like your money"), please fill me in with a comment.

Because I still have no idea what's going on.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Wrestler

Photo: Alvaro Tapia, Flickr Creative Commons

It's difficult for me to know how best to teach my son to be tough. On one hand, a certain type of toughness, tenacity, is an incredibly valuable trait for a person. It's something I wish I had more of. On the other hand, sensitivity isn't necessarily a bad thing. Not only that, I want to be careful not to cross the line from trying to help the kid become the best he can be and being a total jerk.

This is part of the reason we signed him up for youth wrestling. I thought it would be good for him to do something that wouldn't come easily for him and have to really fight to succeed. Of course, that wasn't the only reason. He also really loves play wrestling at home with me, so I thought it would be something he'd enjoy. I was right. He looked forward to practices. He talked about going to tournaments after the team season was over. His first match impressed us with the toughness and fight he had in him. After all, he's like me. We're both gentle souls and neither of us are really all that driven to beat other people. We both like to win, but beating others isn't the motivation. Despite that, here he was doing everything he could to not get pinned (he never did) and try to pin the other kids (he did a couple of times).

The problem was after that, the matches didn't go so well. First, the kid is only 6. He was the youngest kid on the team, just like he's usually the youngest kid in his grade. This is easy to forget with his size (he's usually one of the biggest kids in his grade) and his vocabulary, which surpasses that of some of my high school students. He's often tired after school, especially on the days he goes to gifted, which happened to be the same day as the matches. Like his mother, he doesn't always handle being tired with the most grace. He tends to get emotional and let things gets blown out of proportion late in the day. In two of the matches this season, he spent half of the evening crying about little things that he'd normally be able to brush off. It took me until the second of these matches, one last week where we actually took him home early because he couldn't control himself, to realize the problem. He was frustrated. In the regular season matches, they don't weigh in. He would often wrestle kids who were older, more experienced and 10-15 lbs heavier. He wasn't winning. When he was trying, he was holding his own, but he couldn't win. This frustration led him to freak out because someone stepped on his foot or got him in a hold that was too close to his neck. Never once did he actually get injured, but he didn't have the emotional strength to fight through it. It was frustrating for us too. He was the only kid there who cried. Trying to talk to him at the time didn't seem to help. He just wasn't rational enough.

We did keep talking to him for the rest of the week, however. We kept telling him that it's okay to lose. It's going to happen sometimes, but as long as he keeps trying, we're proud of him no matter what happens. We even made a deal that we'd buy Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 if he'd be tough and really try at Monday's tournament. The tournament was the real deal. Instead of the refs just keeping the matches fair and safe, they'd actually be keeping score. Instead of a pin resetting the match and having the kids get up and start over, a pin would end the match automatically. The kids had to be weighed and put into weight classes. The winner got medals. This was the entire point of the whole season. I wasn't sure if that'd get him to really try or cause a freak-out.

In warm ups, I lost a little hope that he'd do well. While sparring with another kid on the team, he started crying. We're still not sure why, but after my wife talked to him, we knew he wasn't hurt. Luckily for him, the high school wrestlers who run the team and coach the kids have surprised me all season with how well they handle my son and the various other problem behaviors of the young kids they coach. They talked the boy down and by the time they lined up at the mat for their age and weight group, he was fine.

Then came his first match. The kid was shorter, but broader and seemed to be possibly stronger than E. The match started off not going in his favor. The short kid was controlling the play. E was taken down and never managed to take the other kid down. The score was close (4-6 before it ended), but all of his points came from getting out or reversing the other kid's moves. This kid kept going after E's head and neck, a trigger for his freak outs in previous matches, but I could tell he was really fighting to keep it together this time. He was also doing the moves we worked on with him on for the past week to give him more of a sense of control when the other kid had him locked around the neck or head. It was the last time that the other kid had taken him down, E on his hands and knees and the other kid locked around his neck that the match changed. E grabbed the kid's wrist, pulled away and reared back. The kid fell off onto his own back, E pounced, and within seconds, he'd gone from losing to winning by a pin.

I went down to to congratulate him and it seemed like his win hadn't registered yet. His response to my congratulations was, "I want to cry, but I'm not." He had been getting frustrated and it was that emotion that he still felt. The pin came so fast, joy hadn't had a chance to take control. It was a little sad to hear, but it made me proud. We've been trying to teach him it's okay for things to go wrong. It's okay to feel bad, but you have to keep fighting. Last week, he would have just quit and let the kid pin him, but instead, he kept working and got a win because of it. A few minutes later, I noticed he finally realized what had happened and he was grinning and celebrating with one of the teen coaches.

Of course, he didn't win them all. He lost his last match of the night. The other kid was closer to his height and after E deflected a few of his charges, the kid managed to get a hold on him and take him down. Instead of landing on his stomach, which would have given E a good chance to escape because he's hard to roll over, he landed on his back and the other kid was quick to attack. After an extended struggle, the other kid managed to get the pin. Oddly, he seemed less upset about this outcome than he had earlier, but I think the win helped ease the frustration of this loss. I went down to tell him how proud I was of him for working so hard and gave him a hug. After that, it was just a wait for the awards ceremony.

Turns out that he got second place. He's gotten medals before. He's gotten them for the reading program at school. He's gotten them for his running of the mile at local races, but this one seemed to be a bigger deal to him. He grinned like a madman on the podium with the other medalists. He ran up to us to excitedly show of his medal and then did the same to the coaches (who treated him like a star). When we got home, he demanded to be able to wear it to bed and he did (although under his shirt to keep it from tangling on anything). I think it's because he recognizes that this one was harder to get. Reading and school come easy for him, too easy, probably. Running the mile is almost as natural to him as reading. This, however, was hard. Things went wrong. He got upset. He fought through and was rewarded. That why it's important to him.

When I went in his room to see him this morning while getting ready he looked at me and said, "I don't deserve the medal or the movie."

"Why," I asked. "What did you do?"

"I just don't deserve it." He sounded dejected. We'd gotten home after 10 pm last night and his bedtime is normally 8. This is the moodiness I mentioned earlier. I worried that today was going to be a bad day.

"Yes, you do. Didn't you work hard for that? Didn't you keep fighting even when it was hard? Isn't that exactly what we wanted you to do?"

"Yes." He looked at his medal and paused. "Look at the cool flames on the ribbon. They're blue! Can we do those tournaments in Atlanta the coach was talking about?"

"We'll see."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

There's a Chance I Could Die

Photo: Outdoor Alabama, Flickr Creative Commons

I signed up for an ultramarathon. Remember my tentative goal to run one from my goal post back on January 2? About two days later it became a mandatory goal because I went ahead and signed up for it. Next month, I'll be running the Cheaha 50k up to the highest point in Alabama. This was a bad decision.

One may think, Jacob, you just ran a marathon less than a month ago and, despite horrible weather and your near drowning from rain, you dropped about 30 minutes off your best time. One would be factually accurate in thinking this, but that misses a few key issues. The first of those reasons being that tennis season started up just as I needed to resume serious training for this race. Normally, I'm off work and able to start running by 3:30. With tennis practices four days a week, I'm lucky to get started before 6 p.m., meaning I'm finishing even my shortest runs during the week in the dark. Getting up earlier isn't an option. I'm not going to run unlighted dirt roads in the dark at 4:30 in the morning just so I get home earlier. I'd need to be in bed by 8 every night to make that work. Back in the fall, working in training was easy. I'm actually having to work to find time for my runs now. I also should really be resting my right knee. I tweaked it on my second 20-miler of the fall. I took a week off and was able to continue running without swelling or pain, but it still gets a little stiff and clicky after my longer runs each week. I really need to spend a month where I don't run farther than three miles and spend most of my time on the bike to let it recover. Running 50-mile weeks is the opposite of recovery. Finally, I have no way to adequately train for this race. True, the highest point in Alabama is 2,000 feet lower than the highest point in Georgia, but I also live (and train) more than 2,000 feet below Alabama's highest point. The elevation difference will matter. In addition to the elevation, I have no way to match the terrain. Most of the land near where I live is pancake flat. Luckily, if I run near the river, which isn't far from where I work, the elevation drops around 100 feet and turns into rolling hills, some fairly steep. Still, there's never an extended climb of more than a half mile and usually much shorter. Even if I could find some really good hills to train on, I can't match the terrain. There just aren't any rocks. I've got a good trail that I do some of my runs on, but the soil here is so free of rocks that you're just running on dirt. It's relatively smooth and level. I'm not having to navigate rocky trail and only at the back end of that trail where the trees change from pines into swamp-loving deciduous trees do I even have to worry about roots. There is no way I'll be prepared for the terrain of the Cheaha course with its single track and mountain.

That doesn't mean I won't try, of course. It doesn't even mean that I won't meet my goals. That knee really isn't that bad. I just want to rest it, and I will after this race in a month. After this race, I don't have any race plans until late May and nothing that requires much in the way of long runs. And the terrain? I'm okay in the mountains and my speed expectations for this race are pretty low. Unlike that Jacksonville Marathon where I know the weather, the terrain, and the flatness match that of my home, I understand that I have no real way to know what I should be capable of so when I go out there. I'm going to run when I can, walk when it gets steep, and finish. I can do that.

I think.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

You Mean I Have a Life Outside of Running and Bikes?

Photo: Giovanni Orlando, Flickr Creative Commons

Actually, the answer to the question in the title is no, or not one I enjoy enough to actually talk about.

That's not entirely true. I usually like my family, but I try to limit writing about them here because I consider this a semi-anonymous blog. Despite that tendency, I may currently be willing to sell certain members into slavery at an Indian brick factory, but that's not a permanent state of mind. (The screaming. Oh, god, the screaming.)

Anyway, this week sucks and it's largely the weather's fault. I should point out that I don't have a problem with cold weather in a general sense. I don't feel cold as soon as the average person and I actually enjoy the feel of being a little chilled. Also, when you're running, cold is something very easily dealt with. A pair of running tights, a quick-drying hoodie, and a pair of gloves paired with my normal technical T and shorts has served me well down into low 20s and high teens. I've taken a warm cap on my coldest runs, but I usually end up taking it off after a couple of miles because it's too hot. The freakish cold was not the problem by itself.

The problem is that my house isn't designed to sufficiently deal with temperatures more than 5 degrees away from 70. It's build off the ground. It has huge windows. There's no insulation under the floorboards. Also, our hot water heater was installed in an unheated storage room off the main part of the house. We actually have to go out onto the porch to access this room. Even worse, the pipes from the water heater go through a wall to the outside of the house, down the wall and travel underground about 20 feet until they reach the point where the crawl space starts and they can go into the crawl space.

Now, these pipes that are exposed completely to the elements were insulated. We actually re-insulated them on Monday before it got cold in the hopes of making things better. I also hope to get around to insulating the pipes (and the underside of the house completely) sometime this year. I'm just hoping we get enough money from our tax return to pay for it.

This time, the foam insulation didn't help us. We left our cold water dripping that first night of the Polar Vortex, which left us with cold running water the next day. It probably also helped that all of those pipes are either underground or at least in the crawl space where the heat leaking through the cracks in the floor would have helped keep them warm. We didn't leave the hot water dripping because that seems a good way to burn up the hot water heater. Bad decision. We awoke on Tuesday to no hot water.

When I got to school, I got an e-mail from my wife saying that the oil light in the van had gone on suddenly and that she had had the local mechanic come pick it up. A little later, she said that the van had stopped working on the way to the mechanic and they had to tow it. Later that day, my parents texted me to tell me to check out our cars because one of them had left a giant puddle of oil on the carport. Due to a lot of business that day, the mechanic wouldn't be able to work on it Tuesday. Great.

The forecast for the day would peak above freezing, but only by 1 degree. When I got home after school at the end of the day, still no hot water, although that was no surprise. Luckily, my parents live just down the road and we were able to take warm showers that night, but there's something about not being able to take a shower in the morning that throws me off for the rest of the day. First, even though I washed my face the next morning (and even dunked my head in the cold sink so that my hair would behave), I feel dirty and tired. Of course, with the temps dropping quickly back into the low 20s Tuesday night, the hot water didn't thaw and we went about our Wednesday morning again with only cold water. This time, I was having to deal with my wife and son and getting them to school as well. Of course, getting all three of us moving at the same time pushed me back to the point that I didn't get to my room at work until after 7:40, which is when students show up for first block. Not having a chance to settle in before the kids show up is a horrible way to start the day. Luckily, the kids weren't that bad so my mood kind of idled along at merely crappy instead of getting worse.

When I got home, the first thing I did was test the hot water. Sweet! It flowed and with good pressure. Of course, it wasn't warm yet. There's a long trip for the water to get from the heater at one end of the house to the actual taps in the back, so I wasn't worried. I went about my business for a few minutes while it ran. When I came back and tested it, lukewarm. It had been long enough to warm up, so I shut of the water and went to test the breaker. Our breaker for the hot water heater has a tendency to trip (and without any discernible reason so far) so I checked that first. Not tripped. Just in case, I turned it off and then back on. Nothing happened. Normally, when we use a lot of hot water or when it's been off because the breaker tripped in the night, it makes a hissing or bubbling sound as the filaments heat the cold water. This time, nothing. Crap. Something about the frozen pipes had caused it to die. I called the appliance guy and set up a time for him to visit later in the evening and got changed to go out for my run. I was finally going to test out my new Skechers Go Run Ultras.

It's a good reason I wanted to test the Ultras. They're designed for trail ultra-marathons, so I was going to test them in the woods behind my house. If I had been running the roads, I likely wouldn't have gone behind this part of the house yesterday. After about 10 yards of running, I stepped in an unexpected puddle. Realizing that part of my yard was flooded, I noticed a faint hissing noise, turned toward the sound and saw a fine spray of water coming from the hot water pipe at the back of the house. Apparently the pipe had cracked when the weather was still freezing because there were these huge, globular ice formations on the ground near the pipe for about 6 feet and then just wetness farther out from when the pipes thawed and the water flowed more freely.

Run cancelled, which is enough to normally put me in a bad mood anyway, but now I had to fix something and I hate fixing things, mainly because I really suck at it and I'm not used to doing things that I suck at, or at least things where my suckiness is shoved in my face so aggressively as when I try to do basic home maintenance. Luckily, my dad isn't like me in that regard, so he came out, sussed out the situation and we went together to the hardware store for supplies. Before it was even fully dark, we had the pipe repaired, although it takes 12-24 hours for the pipe cement to cure before it can handle the water pressure so we'd remain with hot water this morning. Again, we took turns showering at my parents' house, although this time with the added joy of a toddler who napped really late and wouldn't fall asleep until 11. Normally this would have been hugely frustrating, but because I'm trying to get off some weight I gained in the last two weeks before I attempt the Cheaha 50k in February, I got on the bike trainer for an hour around 8 to make up for missing my run. Exercising that late makes it hard to go to sleep on time, so I would have been up to at least 10:30 anyway.

Today should have been better. There's reasonable expectation that I'll have hot water tomorrow, although at this point optimism is hard to come by. The new joints could fail. Despite the appliance guy saying the water heater seemed fine, the workload it had during the leak could have damaged it, but things are looking up. I got up, got ready, and left my room at about 7:05 to grab my bags and the kid to get on the road to school. Thursdays and Fridays are usually my worst days for being late because I have to take the toddler to daycare instead of my parents' house and that takes twice as long. Today was going to be an exception. I was leaving early. Except it was 7:27 when I got in the car. How did it take 20 minutes to do what normally takes me 10? I'm still not entirely convinced that time is completely linear. Today I didn't actually get to my room until the tardy bell rang. Not a good example to set for your students when they spend two of their first three days in the class waiting in the hall for the teacher to get to school.

We still don't know the full deal with the van, although I expect to know something today. It'd be nice if I'd won that huge lotto jackpot a few weeks ago. None of this would have been stressful then. What's the risk of a $2,000 car repair when you're using a million dollars in ones as your blanket at night?

Oh, and I just got the message. The worst case scenario is right. Looks like we'll be car shopping this weekend.

Hey, look on the bright side. Everyone dies in the end, right?

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Fitness Goals for 2014

This year I have four goals that I'm certain I want to pursue. First, I want to continue to improve my time at the Peachtree Road Race in July. Maybe I should actually do some real training in June this year for once. This was my first ever fitness goal, actually. In February of 2010, I decided I was too fat and convinced myself that if I registered for Peachtree that I would feel obligated to actually train and get in shape. For once in my life, I actually stuck with something that was hard and completed the 10k race without taking a step walking. My time was over 10 minutes per mile, but that was a huge success then. Because of this, Peachtree is important to me. I will run this race every year until I can't run anymore. One day, I'll have to stop setting goals of dropping my times, but I don't think I'm there yet.

My second certain goal is that I'm going to attack the 6 Gap Century again and this year it will be something I train for. I made the mistake last year of thinking that my early-year successes at much shorter distances in much less mountainous terrains would combine with my extensive running to make finishing possible, but I was wrong. Maybe I didn't take in enough calories. Maybe I just wasn't pushing myself hard enough. Whatever it was, I didn't finish last year and it's my biggest disappointment of the year and I want to correct that.

I want to maintain my exercise regimen through the summer this year. For the past four years, summer has been a rough patch in my training. Even when I have a set training schedule, I often let myself slide, sometimes for days at a time, because of a combination of travel, heat, and a lack of daily routines. Okay, I'll be honest. It's really just the last two. My training usually gets better when I travel because I almost always travel north where the weather is better. It's really difficult to get motivated when I'm sitting at home with nothing I actually have to do all day and it's 98 degrees and soupy humid out. It's easier to get out in the heat when I'm at work because something about having that automatic transition of work and going home makes it easier to make myself put on the shorts and shoes before I leave work and run. I also do pretty well in our long winter, fall, and spring breaks because the weather is nice. It's just that combination of heat and lack of routine that kills me. My job for the next four months is to decide how I'm going to go about doing this. Am I going to just suck it up and run or bike as late as possible when the low angle of the sun makes the heat more bearable, or am I going to get in the habit of getting up and running at 7 in the morning when I don't have to get up at all? I really like having a few hours after the kids go to bed that the summer gives me, but I can't stay up until midnight if I'm getting up at 7 every day. Still, this may be the best option. It'll create a routine based on transitions that may help me stick to the plan.

Finally, I want to get back under 200 again. I was there very briefly in December before Christmas and travelling and tapering on my marathon training did me in. I want to get back under 200 before the end of school and stay there until the end of the year. If I decide to go for the first of my tentative goals, this may be an easy first half of the goal.

Now for my tentative goals.

I'd like to complete a trail ultramarathon. I've really enjoyed the shorter trail races I did this year. The trail duathlon this summer was difficult, but a really refreshing change of pace. I'm not as good on the trails as I am on the pavement, but the trails tend to be a lot more fun. And while I struggle in the last miles of my road marathons, there are actually built in rests in a trail ultra. I'm not going to be running steadily for every step of a trail race. I'm not going to run the steepest hills. I'm not going to run the creek crossings. I'm not going to run really rough terrain. I think I could manage this despite the distance increase. Why is this tentative then? There's something else I'd like to do the same month and I can't do them both. I'm having to decide this week which one I'm doing. I think the timing is good, though. I'm only days off of my marathon training. I'm not injured, and carrying through to this should be easy.

The next tentative goal is to complete a half-Ironman distance triathlon. The race I want to do is in May and if I complete that Ultramarathon, I think this distance will be a breeze for the bike and run. The catch will be the swim. If it's a cool spring like it was in 2013, I may only get a month and a half to get swim conditioned. Sure, the half-Ironman distance of 1.2 miles isn't much farther than the 1.5k swims I've completed fairly easily the last two years at my Olympic distance races, but those have always been well into the summer. I also don't know if I really want to spend the time getting ready for the swim. There was a point last year when I was considering giving up triathlon just because I didn't really like swimming. This one I need to think about.