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70.3 in 11 Days

April 23, 2013 Fitness 1 Comment

I have my *A Race* in 11 days and I haven’t talked a bit about my training all Spring. You’re welcome and/or I’m sorry. 

So, Wildflower 70.3. Let’s break this down:

The outlook was pretty poor from the start. My knees were the main culprit, creaking all the time and causing pain doing simple things like standing up  from a seated position and descending stairs. Things were really looking bad as I considered running a ridiculously difficult half marathon after swimming 1.2 miles and biking 56 hilly miles. But my magical chiropractor evaluated me and said that it’s the scar tissue in my calves that is causing the issue. He gave me some homework that I have been good about and things are going much better. I did have a literal run-in with Miles’ 85-pound girlfriend Lola — straight to the side of my left knee — and that has me a bit concerned. I went to yoga over the weekend and it was sore in Warriors 1 and 2, but it was fine on my long run after that. I will keep icing everything and hope for the best on race day.

My swimming is going well. I am in the pool at least twice a week and everything there feels very consistent and good. I have to remind myself to focus on my form (rather than figuring out what I’m going to wear to work, for instance) and that helps my interval times tremendously. Go figure. I expect the swim will be my best event at the race. Update: my goggles and Ironman swim cap were never recovered. Karma’s a bitch, people. Watch out. Miles and I went for an open water swim on Friday to cool off and I went on my first real swim in the Bay yesterday. It wasn’t as fast as I maybe would have liked, but it wasn’t a disaster.

Cycling is what it is. And by that, I mean I don’t care. I’m just not driven this time around. I bike three times a week, two shorter mid-week rides and one long weekend ride. I force myself into incorporating punishment like hills and sprints. I know I will be glad I did when the time comes, but I’m not enjoying the process. I finally got on my tri bike on March 16 — the first time I had ridden it since Ironman on August 26. This expensive bike had collected a lot of dust in the garage in that time. The good news is that getting back on it was a treat. I am actually far more comfortable on this bike than my road bike. The bad news is that not even a fancy bike can make me fast like proper training does.

As for my running, I am 98% hill-centric. I have done the majority of my training on very hilly terrain that largely mimics the Wildflower course: hot, dusty, hilly terrain. I am doing almost no speed work. My average run pace is slow, but very consistent. I’m fine with that; I left this race last year saying I’d never do it again. I realize that everything is relative, and I want the suffer-fest to be relative as well. Slow and steady will win this race for me.

I don’t know what kind of race goals I’ll put together. I want to say something arbitrary like, “Just have fun!”, but who am I kidding? First of all, that’s not a measurable goal. Second, I’m competitive enough that I’m sure I’ll endure a fair amount of discomfort if I see a lot of people in my age group passing me. The best news of all is that I don’t have to train for a full Ironman once this race is over. It will be a blissful summer compared to 2012!





Argus Update: The New Normal

January 31, 2011 Fido 1 Comment

Argus received his third chemo treatment last Wednesday and bounced back quickly. They preempted his vomiting by giving him an injection of anti-nausea medicine when they administered the chemo. It was clear he was more tired than usual for a couple of days, but things were quickly back to normal. His hair is coming in nicely and the incision is fully covered. Isn’t he handsome?

I was nervous going into this treatment. January 15 marked three months from his diagnosis. Our vet told us that the average prognosis for metastasis if we were to do nothing is three months. We obviously opted to treat him fully (amputation + chemo), but there are no guarantees. Argus has his blood counts tested every week and he is consistently in the normal range, and this visit also included body scans to see if tumors have formed on his lungs and liver. No spreading! What a relief!

I’m also proud of my big dog that he will lay still for the technicians while they work on him. When we first started our treatment there, they told us it is a policy that they have to sedate any animal over 25 pounds, but they make an exception for Argus because he doesn’t give them any trouble. I am sure it’s because he’s lazy and he enjoys laying down while people fuss with him. I’m just glad they don’t have to pump him full of more drugs! Remember the last time he was fully sedated?

Look at his poor little tongue hanging out

He has adjusted very well to life on three legs; I wonder if he even remembers having four… We have really worked to increase his endurance and he can walk a couple of miles at a steady pace with minimal stopping. Around 3 PM every day, he finds me and engages in a “conversation” to remind me that he would like to go out for a walk. It’s kind of like a low growl, usually with an exasperated “ahem” at the end. He does this when it’s time to eat, too.

Greg and I took him over to the beach for happy hour on Friday and I got a good video of him running with Greg. Walking is still very “hop-along” and it seems labored, but he can run almost seamlessly. He even has good control in doing a tight turnaround.

Thanks to everyone who has called and emailed and texted to ask how we’re getting along. Your concern is much-appreciated!


Race Recap: Title 9K

November 10, 2010 Fitness, Friends No Comments

Sunday was the First Annual Title 9K: Women on the Run. This logo is on the race shirt and I really like it. What are YOU running for? One of the options is “More Wine”!

I signed up with several friends about a month ago –some running, some walking, all of us looking forward to a fun morning together. This run was one week before my final race of the 2010 season and I was looking forward to it. I knew Caryn and I would be running together and that would help keep my motivation up for a strong finish. To say that I have been lacking in the motivation department for the last few weeks is quite an understatement…

It was a beautiful week in the Bay Area, especially considering it was the first week of November. Temperatures in the mid-70s and calm. PERFECT. By Saturday afternoon, we were all aware of the forecast: rain and wind. Unfortunately for the 1100 women who had signed up for the event, the meteorologists predicted correctly this time. It rained throughout the night on Saturday and we woke up to a cold and soggy race day.

Luckily this wasn’t one of those crack-of-dawn starts and I met my friends in Palo Alto for a 9 AM start. They had a Fun Run for the kids prior to the start of the race so we all stood around getting wet waiting for our turn. I don’t mind running in the rain at all, but standing around in it is no fun. Jane’s smile is genuine — she came fully prepared in her Gore-Tex!

Mirella was running her first race since having her twin boys two years ago and trained with an iPhone app that assured her she was ready for the race. Jane and Suzie were walking with Suzie’s mom Mike. Kriss was the one who got us all signed up for the event, though she had to travel to London at the last minute for a work assignment. I bet she was glad to miss it! Caryn was here with a couple of friends she had recruited as well.

The announcer finally called us over to get lined up. Caryn and I headed for the 8-minute mile pace marker. We were the only ones there! I have never been at the front of the pack before! I was actually kind of nervous about it, and luckily more people showed up (even a handful in the 7-minute mile group). Even so, it felt pretty good knowing I was in the “fast group.”

With the half marathon just one week away, I was looking at this as a test to see if I could hold a steady pace for the ~6 miles. Caryn and I agreed to push ourselves to hold 8-minute miles since I usually settle into a pretty comfortable 8:30 pace during my training runs. What would I do without my Garmin?! For me it becomes kind of an obsession, watching my pace and making adjustments on the fly.

The course was a nice loop through the Palo Alto Baylands. We made our way through an office park, then turned onto the trails. We fought a pretty steady headwind on the way out, so I was happy to make the turn just past 2 km. I held my pace pretty well, as did the others running in this group. Caryn fell back a bit, so I slowed down a couple of times to wait and see if she’d catch up. She wasn’t making a push to meet me, so I sped up to keep my average pace. It stopped raining for a little while around 3-4 km, but then started back up before we finished. Did I mention we were running on a dirt trail? Make that a MUD TRAIL.

Everything felt pretty good and steady, and I knew I’d finish right about where I wanted to. But by 7 km, I just wanted it to be over. My fingers were starting to go numb, my heart rate was high (170 bpm) pretty much the whole time, and I was just over it. Like I am the whole race season at this point… The distance between 8 km and 9 km felt more like a mile to me, but I finished strong amidst a cheering crowd. I was surprised at how many people came out to cheer us on! Caryn finished about 30 seconds behind me and we waited for our friends to come in.

Mirella’s pace was just over 9-minute miles and her twin boys stopped playing in the puddles to greet her when she came across the finish line. Jane, Suzie, and Mike turned around after about 30 minutes of walking to meet us back in the expo area rather than spend two hours walking in the miserable mud and rain. Smart!

Mirella had made a comment about enjoying a post-race beer, but there was none to be found in the expo area. Not to worry, she had brought some in the car! We retreated to the parking lot and celebrated.

After chugging the beer to get out of the rain, I drove directly to the gym to sit in the 170-degree sauna. I lasted 20 minutes without a break because I was so chilled. I then swam a lap in the pool down to the hot tub and sat in there for 5 minutes. Ahhhhh. I could finally feel my fingers and toes again!

Race results:
9K (5.95 mi by my Garmin) 48:04
7/158 in age group
32/910 overall


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.


Double Down

March 23, 2010 Fitness, Friends No Comments

I went to the College of San Mateo this afternoon for my weekly “track attack” workout. It was a gorgeous day on the hill, with Bay views that went on for miles. The baseball team was practicing on the adjacent field and they had great music playing to help pass the laps. Only a few community members were using the track, and I enjoyed the peacefulness of being there on a warm, sunny day.

Today’s workout was a mix of drills and a quasi-pyramid of decreasing lengths and increasing speeds. A woman caught my eye as I made my way around the track to complete the tasks on my workout log. She was visibly “older;” I placed her somewhere in her late-50s as I judged from a distance. She was working on the infield — 10-yard sprint, walk back to start; 20-yard sprint, walk back to start; etc… I saw her hitting 70-yard sprints at one point. I was impressed with her stamina and the obvious focus and determination with which she was running. As I came around the track the next time, she was laying down doing some serious core work, then popped up to do more sprinting. I had to admit that I was inspired by her! I was tired with every step I took, and yet thought, “As long as she’s out here giving it her all, so am I!”

I finished a 400-yard sprint and had a short rest before the next one when she approached me with, “Great job!” I stopped and replied with, “Likewise!” Each of us was looking the other over and I still placed her at late-50s. I’d love to know where she placed me. I detected a slight accent as we exchanged a few pleasantries about our respective approaches to track workouts. She asked if I compete, and I replied that I do and mentioned my triathlon endeavors. Before getting back to my workout, I returned the question. She lit up and said, “I do! Actually, I am a senior Olympian. I just won a gold medal in Australia!” She was beaming and it was contagious! Through the course of the next 60 seconds of conversation, she revealed that much of her motivation is being able to enjoy another glass of wine every night … and that she is 72 years old.

Oh.My.God. You’ve got to be kidding me!?!

Those were my actual words, and I’m pretty sure my face showed my utter surprise. It was meant as a compliment and I definitely let her know that I meant it as such. She said she competes at all of the “field-level events” because of her asthma, and that these events require attention to technique and persistence. We chatted just a minute longer about the art of competing, and she again congratulated me on my endeavors and said something like, “Keep it up! You’ve got awhile to go!”

As I finished up my workout and drove out of the parking lot, I thought to myself, “This woman is more than twice my age. She has likely been training and competing for as many years as I have been alive. What a role model!” It was humbling and inspiring all at once. I hope to run across her again at CSM or otherwise. I’d love to buy her a cup of coffee — or a glass of wine — and hear the rest of her story.