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And so it begins…

February 17, 2013 Fitness, Fun No Comments

Training.

Half Ironman training, to be precise. Today marked my first “real” bike ride. My first “real” climb since Ironman back in August. I guess it’s official that triathlon train has begun once again.

On all the “fun” rides I’ve gone on this winter, I’ve had to force myself to go. It hasn’t been enjoyable, even on the nicest days or the best routes. I just don’t care anymore. It’s a concerning feeling, going into training for the hardest 70.3 race I know of.

Today, I climbed Tunitas Creek. Greg and I stayed in The Van over on the coast last night, kind of on a whim. I threw my bike in the last minute, kind of on a whim… The idea being that I’d ride back home from the coast.

You know, forcing myself into it. No way out. One way home. UP AND OVER.

It was in the low 40s when we woke up this morning. Cold and overcast, but not miserable. We took Miles for an hour-long walk on the beach and I was delighted when the sun started burning through the fog. By the time Greg dropped me off south of Half Moon Bay, it was in the low 50s and mostly sunny.

The climb is significant, and I hit it just 1.89 miles into my ride. Luckily, I came upon another rider about a mile in. He’d never ridden Tunitas before and looked at me with bug-eyes, breathing hard, asking how long the climb is. It was with some veteran-of-this-climb pleasure that I informed him that Tunitas Creek Road is 9 miles from bottom to top. The serious climbing portion is about 4 miles, but the mental game of having to continue pedaling to the end of the road is quite taxing.

We made it up in reasonable time, chatting the whole way about our various endeavors and how much this sucked. I was certainly glad for the company. I can say with honesty that the entire ride was much better because I had someone along for those 9 miles. I burned a lot of calories today, I feel like I made a very big stride in my cycling training/fitness, and I will sleep very well tonight.

All good.

Dear Body

July 1, 2011 Fear, Friends 3 Comments

True confession: I am one of those girls that judges my body for not being “More This” or “Less That.”

I certainly do possess the perspective that my body is strong and healthy and valuable and mine, so I try not to be That Girl who is constantly telling others how unhappy I am with my not-flat stomach. There are parts that I do like about my body (my legs, for instance — scars and all). But I find myself focusing way less on the parts I like and obsessing over my self-proclaimed “downfalls.”

While I can appreciate my body in total for what it is and what it is not, I am not immune to negative self-talk. If I find myself in the company of a good friend (or in the dressing room with someone I trust), I’ll let it all hang out — my stomach, and my thoughts.

My friend Caryn wrote this heartfelt letter to her body at the end of a kick-ass weekend where her body helped her achieve things she maybe wasn’t sure she had in her. I could relate to several of her sentiments, as I’m sure many of us can. Thanks for sharing this with me (and my readers), Caryn!

Dear Body,
Every day, I look in the mirror and think you aren’t good enough.  Every day I think about food and how it will affect how you look.  Every day since grammar school, I’ve compared you to everyone else on this planet.

Dear Body,
Yesterday I asked you to run 11.5 miles during the hottest part of the day in preparation for a half Ironman.  You did.  Today I asked you to cycle 102.5 miles.  I asked you to push hard and average 20mph on the way into Davis.  I asked you to pull other cyclists at 21 mph for 10 miles.  When other cyclists were struggling with the distance, you were ready for more.  You sat patiently waiting for me to tell you to push. You did everything I asked.  All without complaint. Every day I ask you to do more.  To swim, to bike, to run.  Every day. And every day I continue to think you aren’t good enough.  I look in the mirror and think you are too fat, too bulky, and too just not right.  I often compare your shape to that of a tree.  I complain because clothes don’t fit the way I’d like.  I feel uncomfortable in a swimsuit and god forbid anyone see you naked. The two times I marginally began to like you was when I starved you due to life situations.  Without nutrition and sleep, I still asked you to run at least twice a day.  And you did.

Several years ago I stopped the negative self speak that most women engage in.  I sit quietly as I hear other women say their bodies aren’t good enough.  I sit quietly, in silent protest, meanwhile I whisper to you that you should pay attention and listen to these complaints.  You are too fat, too bulky, and too unshapely.

Dear Body,
Today is the day that, in addition to sitting quiet during these ramblings of women, today is the day I stop telling you that you aren’t good enough.  Regardless of what image I see in the mirror, I ask a lot of you.  Each time you give me 100%.  Any other being that has been treated this poorly will crack and fight back and stop giving to someone so unappreciative. But you don’t.

So today, today you are good enough, just the way you are. Tomorrow you will be good enough and each day after that you will be good enough. Today I finally appreciate you.

700 in 31 – Challenge Results

June 1, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun Comments Off

It’s June 1 which means May Is Bike Month is over. The monkey is off my back!

I pledged to ride 700 miles in 31 days, which was definitely a stretch goal. That’s an average of 22.5 miles of riding EVERY DAY. I had such lofty aspirations because we were planning a four-day ride down the California coast over the third weekend. I was squarely on track to meet my goal when the plan started falling apart about a week before the trip. It was going from a four-day trip to a two-day trip to just a 50-mile day trip. And then the trip got postponed indefinitely.

I knew 700 miles was out of reach at that point, so I decided to compromise rather than throw in the towel. I was estimating 200 miles in those four days, so I set out to hit 500 miles for the month. This decision was made on May 17. As of that day, I had ridden 169 miles. Sure. I’ll ride 331 miles in 14 days. NBD.

I went after it. I rode my bike and took the long way to most destinations. I made a 6-mile errand take 20 miles. I rode 102 miles in two days Thursday/Friday last week, just to cram it in. But was it enough?

No. It wasn’t.

*Sigh*

The goal was very clearly within my reach and I would have made it to 500 if it weren’t for two things:

1) We chose to go to Tahoe on Sunday/Monday (I still went for a bike ride on Monday afternoon upon our return)
2) It rained until 2 PM yesterday and I couldn’t get a ride in because of afternoon plans.

On my Facebook page, I challenged anyone who would take me on.

I got a few friends to engage: Greg estimates his mileage around 250. Caryn broke the 400 mile mark between road and mountain biking (MTB counts 2:1). But Joe knocked it out of the park! Within the first week of the month, he had already racked up 177 mile so I knew he’d be the one to beat. He killed it with 742 miles for the month. WOW! I owe Joe beers at the local watering hole. We both win this prize!

Note: I was able to successfully pull the data off my Forerunner 405 with the last week’s data. Whew!

Wildflower: The One and Only

May 5, 2010 Fear, Fitness, Friends 2 Comments

Thank you for letting me bask in my 11th place finish! If anyone asks what I’ve been doing with my time as an unemployed person, you can tell them that I’ve been training AND STOP ROLLING YOUR EYES.

The Wildflower Triathlon happens to be a bit of an icon in California and among the triathlon community at large; plus, it would do you good to learn something today. After all, you’ve heard me drone on from time to time about all the training for said event, so let me share with you the details of my race weekend.

The Wildflower Triathlon is one of the largest triathlon events in the world. The event is hosted at Lake San Antonio in central California and nearly 35,000 athletes, volunteers, and spectators travel to this site for the event. This year, there were 3,280 competitors in the Olympic distance event that I competed in. It was my first event at this distance. I knew it would be a good training event for the Half Ironman I am training for later in the season.

Part of the fun of Wildflower is seeing our friends from Kansas City and Santa Barbara there. We camp in the same spot every year and enjoy the camaraderie that goes hand in hand with the competition at this event. Greg, Kidder, Martz, and myself were all competing in the Olympic distance race on Sunday. A few members of the Santa Barbara crew were hard-core participants in the long (70.3) course and competed on Saturday, arriving back at camp pleasantly exhausted. We had a few cocktails and warmed up some homemade chili garnished with Fritos before retiring for the night. The double-edged sword of this event is that it doesn’t start at the crack of dawn, so we knew we’d have time to prep our race gear in the morning. Unfortunately for me, I don’t do so well with sleeping in a tent and I did not wake well-rested. I chalk it up to par for this race course and look forward to the reality of Greg actually owning a Sprinter van.

Race morning! Ever since I was a kid, I have enjoyed the jitters that accompany the anticipation of my participation in something. As we walked down the steep hill to the race area, the butterflies started and I could feel myself getting into race mode. I had quite a bit of time to wait before my start, but there was plenty to do in getting my transition area set up and supporting the guys. Every five years, they will all fall into the same age group — and this was the year. Martz at 40, Greg at 43, and Kidder at 44. The competition was fierce! As I watched them plunge into the cold lake water, my stomach was really fluttering.

My wave started a full hour after theirs, at 10:35 AM. This seems like a good thing when you’re going to bed late at night and have a lot to prepare in the morning. However, it means your bike ride and run will be in the heat of midday and that can often mean disaster. The forecast called for a sunny 78-degree day and it was already warming up fast. I made my way to the start line. As I was stretching out, the announcers called our attention to a swimmer who was coming out of the water momentarily. His name is Talmadge Atkins and he has cerebral palsy. This athlete had just swum 1.5 km (0.9 mi) by himself, alongside a companion swimmer. The announcer told us he was then going to ride tandem with a cyclist for 40 km (24.8 mi), and then his mother was going to push him in a “stroller” for 10 km (6.2 mi). Hearing this feat helped to put my own race into perspective.

I paused for a moment to take in the sights and sounds of the competitors and spectators around me. I am so grateful for the physical and mental ability to take part in these activities. Not only that I’m reasonably good at it, but that I am ABLE to do it. At the end of the day, it was helpful to put into perspective that it was less about how well I finished, but that I was able to start and finish at all. Let the race begin!

It was our turn. The women 35-39 age group. We had our chance to test the water, then lined up behind the timing mats at the start line. The buzzer sounded! It’s quite a swarm of flailing arms and legs as everyone runs and dives in, and not at all enjoyable. The only up-side is that it takes your mind off how cold the water is. It takes until about 100 yards past the first buoy for the crowd to thin enough to be able to get into a real swimming rhythm. Overall, I was pleased with my swim and how straight my path was, relative to other open water swims I have done. Clearly the practice has paid off! I only looked at my watch once to see how long I’d been out there (0:17:34), though I did not know how far I’d gone. When I finally made it to shore and stood up, I was pleasantly surprised to see my time right about where I wanted it to be at 0:30:36. I made my way up the ramp, catching my breath. I was refreshed and felt good going into my strongest of the three events: biking!

This was my first time wearing a wetsuit during an event, though it didn’t really slow me down in the transition area. I’m not known for fast transitions anyway, and this doesn’t bother me all that much. I felt reasonably speedy and was headed out in just a few minutes. Wildflower boasts a very hilly bike course. It’s an out-and-back, so there are no surprises on the second half of the course. This is good and bad, as you can imagine. Right out of the gates, we have to climb Lynch Hill. Admittedly, it isn’t an easy climb, but I was shocked at the number of cyclists walking it. Not just Team In Training people, but “real” athletes who have supposedly trained for this event. Talmadge Atkins was a distant memory at this point and I secretly scoffed at them. I actually feel kind of bad now…

I reached the top of Lynch Hill and refueled with a banana and some FRS (too much manufactured food upsets my stomach). I had ridden this course before and I knew what to expect — rolling hills that are less easy than you think they are. Only three women passed me on the way out, and only one was in my age group. I felt reasonably good about my “standings” at this point. I was passing a lot of people — including Talmadge Atkins on his tandem — and knew I was moving up in the world. On the turnaround, two more people passed me, but I was able to re-pass two of the people who had previously passed me, including the woman in my age group! Knowing I didn’t have enough fuel for the run in this heat, I ate an Accelerade gel and downed the rest of my water. I looked at my time and knew I could finish within 1:30 if I really pushed hard. I did…and came in at 1:29:22.

I quickly transitioned and headed out on the run. I was disappointed that I didn’t see or hear Greg on my way out, as I knew he had been finished for quite awhile by this time and had hoped to get his vote of confidence. It was 1 PM by this point and the heat of the day was bearing down on us. I had brought along my water bottle with a Nuun tablet in it and I’m glad I did. I was really unprepared for how hilly this run is. I like to tell myself, “You can do anything for two miles.” Not only is it true, it helps break something big down into manageable pieces. I simply had to “do anything for two miles” three times in a row. These are the mental games I play with myself.

I managed the first two miles without walking. It was hot and hilly and I was tired; I wanted to walk a million times. I told myself that I could walk the next hill if I made it through the first two miles without walking. When my Garmin showed I had passed the two mile mark, I almost begged for the next hill so that I could walk and catch my breath. My heart was racing at 170+ bpm. I turned a corner and faced a huge hill in front of me. I was sooooo prepared to walk and then I saw him: a challenged athlete running with a prosthetic leg like athlete shown in this picture. Again, my own race was put into perspective and I kept running. I made it to the top of that hill and then HAD to walk. My heart was going to pound out of my chest. As soon as I brought my heart rate down to a reasonable level (in the 150 bpm range, in ~10 seconds), I ran again. I had to walk a few more hills before reaching the road that passed by our camp — so I knew it was the last hill of the day. One more mile and it was all downhill! The Santa Barbara crew was there at the last corner cheering me in. I let gravity pull me down the hill, looking and listening for Greg as I passed through the 100-yard finish line. I raised my arms when they said my name as I finished and felt great!

I knew when I returned from the bike leg that I was doing well when most of the bikes around me were still gone. It felt great to finish and see a sea of bikes still on the racks in the transition area. No one in my age group had passed me on the run, so I knew I had done well as long as I had held my own during the swim. I finally caught up with Greg and Kidder and expressed my disappointment that they weren’t there to see my finish. He was sorry and admitted that he hadn’t expected me to finish for another 30 minutes and raced to the finish line when they heard my name being called. I was glad to be able to share my feelings with him rather than let it stew the rest of the day. We moved on to the next order of business: a cold beer! The final “event” after finishing a race at Wildflower is trekking up the steep hill back to camp. We made our way and celebrated with a few photos, a few margaritas, and some snacks with the gang. The Santa Barbara crew headed out and we enjoyed a few more beverages while waiting for the traffic to clear. Kidder and I continued to booze it up on the way home while Greg chauffeured us. After picking up Chinese take-out, Kidder successfully passed out fully-clothed and still wearing his contact lenses. Ouch! Greg and I checked our standings online. Hooray — 11th place!

Kidder didn’t have to leave until Tuesday, so we spent Monday at the beach in Half Moon Bay. After a 5-mile recovery run on the cliffs above the beach, we enjoyed lunch on the deck at Sam’s Chowder House and then had a couple of beers at HMB Brewing Company. It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

3 Steps Forward + 2 Steps Back

April 1, 2010 Family, Fitness, Food No Comments

My training has been going very well, if I do say so myself. I can go longer, harder, and with better form than I was able to go before. My times are faster. And certainly my fitness level for the end of March is leagues above what it has been in years’ past. I feel STRONG!

Until last week.

I hit a wall. It might be the wall of the “fitness plateau” so many people are familiar with, though I’m not totally convinced. My fear is that it is actually the wall of Hormone Hell. For those not familiar with this kind of phenomenon:

  • Getting out of bed seems like far too much work (unless the fire alarm is going off, which it is not).
  • Finally pull yourself out of bed to pee, realizing how hungry you are. You eat yogurt and granola and fruit and a piece of chocolate for breakfast.
  • An hour later, hungry again. You eat more chocolate.
  • Drag yourself to work out, only to find your average speed has dropped by 2 mph seemingly overnight and your legs have been replaced with heavy clubs.
  • After your shower, you put on street clothes, only to find they have shrunk. Back to the spandex!
  • While walking the dog, you are irritated to the point of near-strangulation every time he wants to sniff and pee his well-known favorite spots.
  • Thinking of what to fix for dinner, you settle upon something with melted cheese, carbs, and chocolate.
  • Husband comes home and you fret over why he didn’t ask a third follow-up question to how your day went. Is something wrong? Is he mad at me? I wonder what I did!
  • After either picking a fight or giving the silent treatment, you pour one more glass of wine and settle in front of the TV, waiting for the day to end. Tomorrow will be better!

No? You are not familiar with this? Hmm. Well, it doesn’t really matter what it is, I guess. It happens to the best of us (even men experience a shift in testosterone that throws things out of whack) and the best we can do is keep on keepin’ on. And that’s just what I did!

Greg planned a 50-mile bike ride in the East Bay for us to have a change of scenery. I was hoping for a nice, flat ride that would last approximately 3 hours. What I got was a ride with 5000+ feet of climbing and took nearly 4 hours, and it was the first real indication that things had shifted for me. I actually looked down at my bike several times, trying to see if something was dragging or my brake pads were rubbing. My legs felt like they should be propelling me at my usual speeds of 19-20 mph on a flat road. No, I was going 15 mph. Every hill felt like torture. In fact, if you look at this Elevation Chart, you can see a god-awful hill at about the halfway point. I wanted to die. What’s worse is that Greg wasn’t quite sure where we were going…so there was a good chance we were climbing for no reason. I was certain my eyes were shooting daggers at him, but it turned out just to be tears. I turned one switchback and saw such a steep grade ahead of me that I had to get off and WALK *gasp!*. I was only going 2.3 mph and could not figure how I was going to keep my pedals turning. I let a couple of tears fall and got back on to keep pedaling when the grade eased up a bit. Admittedly, the views from the top were spectacular, but I was not really in a good place to appreciate them. Near the end of the ride, Greg made another wrong turn and I rammed my chain ring into my leg trying to make a quick exit from my pedals. Not a fun day, my friends. Not a fun day. Perhaps you noticed the calorie burn for that ride on the Garmin page (3,761 cal)? Even this consolation only almost helps. It was that painful.

Sunday didn’t go much better. The prescribed workout was to run 100 minutes. I set out along the Bay Trail on that sunny afternoon. The first mile usually doesn’t feel great, but it improves from there. It didn’t this time. Nope. It didn’t ever improve. I was listening to my “happy juice” on my iPod and still struggling to find the groove. I knew I wouldn’t make it 100 minutes, so settled for 90. I walked for 2 minutes at the 7-mile mark to stretch out my right hip and try to get my form back. That worked wonders for me. Walking is a real mental no-no for me, but this time it really helped. I made it almost 10 miles in that 90 minutes and that was good enough.

The workouts the rest of this week have been reasonably light, which has been welcome. Things have still felt slow and heavy, but I am proud of myself for getting out there and doing it. My hope is that by pushing myself through the hard, tired, heavy times, I’ll emerge on the other side of this wall/plateau/hell and be stronger for it. I’ll gladly take two steps back to gain three steps when it counts.

Effort only releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.       — Napoleon Hill