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Stunning Santa Barbara (and WWW: May 29)

June 6, 2011 Fitness, Friends, Fun No Comments

I spent Wednesday through Sunday in one of my favorite places: Santa Barbara! I was helping a friend after surgery, though I am sure I got even more benefit than she did. I enjoy helping others and this trip included hanging out with a cool 3-year-old, a Goldendoodle puppy named Henry, and celebrating a friend’s milestone birthday with the whole gang. On top of it all, running and cycling amidst such beautiful scenery helped motivate me. It was a great training week!

Here’s a shot from the trail that runs along the cliffs above the ocean, then winds its way down to the waterfront (taken with my phone):

My Saturday morning ride was overcast, with fog rolling over the hills. This shot (also taken with my phone) looks over the valley toward the ocean. It was a great 38-mile ride through the mountains and along the water. It doesn’t get better than that!

But it wasn’t all palm trees and sandy beaches. We did spend a couple of hours here, though it was a false alarm:

If you’ve been following along with my training for Barb’s Race, my long runs are up to 8 miles (which I completed on Friday this week). My SB tri girlfriends were going out for a recovery run on Sunday and I opted to join them. I’ve never considered a 10-mile recovery run (!!), so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel… but it went well. I wouldn’t have guessed I had it in me, and wouldn’t have even tried if I’d been on my own. So glad for the positive peer pressure!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 4 mile run + downhill skiing

Monday: 19-mile bike ride

Tuesday: OFF

Wednesday: 5 mile run

Thursday: 23-mile bike ride

Friday: 8 mile run

Saturday: 38-mile bike ride

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Sea Otter 2011

April 24, 2011 Family, Fido, Fitness 3 Comments

Greg competed in the 2011 Sea Otter Classic road race this year. He’s done it in the past and specifically signed up this year to get his “race legs” ready for Wildflower on April 30. Argus and I went along for the ride, enjoying a sunny Friday along the coast. The race is held at Laguna Seca Recreational Area just outside of Monterey. It was a little windy at race time (Greg’s race started at 3:35 PM), but otherwise a nice day.

The expo area was set up a little differently this year than in the past. Greg said you used to be able to drive right in the main gates and do a quick packet pick-up. That’s what we had intended to do, then I was going to leave there and find a good vantage point to watch the race. The course consisted of a short prologue out of the expo area and then six laps through the hills of Monterey County before an uphill finish back at Laguna Seca. This year, they re-routed us to a back entrance where we had to park and walk to the packet pick-up area, all of which was up the hill from the expo.

Argus made himself at home on a nice sandy spot in the parking lot while Greg got ready. He usually parks himself right in the middle of the lane, so I was glad he was mostly out of the way. He was about 5 cars down from us, exercising his independence.

We said our farewells to Greg as he made his way down to the start and went in search of a good vantage point. For all the other races I have been to, this usually requires a fair amount of jockeying to park and then walking … and then requires standing in a big crowd of people trying to see your guy as they all whiz by.

I had scouted the map of the area and knew right where I wanted to be. I drove right to it, only to find one other car and a Monterey County Sherriff’s car. I figured the area must be closed to spectators since there was no one there, but I thought I’d ask the policeman if he knew of an alternate spot to spectate. He said that I could park right in front of him and watch from right here. Score!

The only down-side to this was that I had intended to enjoy a glass of wine or two while waiting ~30 minutes between each of the six laps… but that wasn’t happening with it pretty much being me and the cop hanging out there. Oh well! We had a great spot in the sun and out of the wind — and we were right between two curves so the guys had to slow down each time coming around this bend.

There were a few age groups racing at the same time, but not many guys in each group so it wasn’t that hard to pick out Greg the first time they came through. He was riding around the middle of the pack that first time and he estimated it would be about 30 minutes between laps. His peloton ended up averaging 25-26 minutes each time and I was able to get a couple of good shots with my point-and-shoot camera since I had an idea of when to be ready.

By the second lap Greg was at the front of the pack and he stayed there for the next three laps that we watched. We left after the fifth lap to get back to the finish line. I was hoping that Greg was dropping back on the other side of the loop, letting other guys do the work while he drafted. The side of the course that we were on was heading into the wind and right between two hills. He was doing a lot of the pulling!

In the end, Greg finished 9th out of 21 riders. To me, the ranking feels really disappointing, especially considering he was in front the whole way. Of note, the time difference between the #1 guy and Greg was about 30 seconds. He said it was an interesting race this year, where none of the guys stepped up to take on the job of pulling. Most waited until the end, having drafted off of him (and others) for ~45 miles, and made their push right at the uphill finish. He also said his average speed was a full mile per hour slower this year than it was last year. Just a different group of guys, I guess. The “nice” thing is that several guys did thank him for doing a lot of the work, so I guess that’s sportsman-like.

The reason that Greg isn’t disappointed with his ranking is that he wasn’t going after a win. He was going out to use his race legs. If he’d wanted to win, he would have dropped back into the peloton for several laps and let other guys do the work — regardless of what that did to overall speed. His goal was to work hard and that’s what he did. He felt good about his performance and his endurance throughout the race; his nutrition plan was appropriate. The bike race during a triathlon is not draft-legal, so he won’t have the benefit of letting someone else pull him around for 56 miles next week. He will have to do the work then, so he went out at Sea Otter knowing he would do it now.

This illustrates the importance of setting your race goals ahead of race day. These goals are the things that are entirely within your control — not things like weather or a flat tire or a crash ahead of you that slows the field down. Set your personal goals and train for them, then do your best to perform well and meet them. In Greg’s Sea Otter example, if he had wanted to win, his race strategy would have been entirely different. His time would have been slower, he would have worked less hard, and he wouldn’t be as prepared for his first Half Ironman triathlon next weekend. Mission accomplished!

After the race, Argus tested Greg’s legs and squeezed a little more work out of them just for the fun of it:

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Best Laid Plans (and WWW: 4/10)

April 18, 2011 Family, Fitness, Fun 5 Comments

I have mentioned our annual Sisters Trip in a few recent posts. It’s a trip where five of us — me, my mom, her sister, my sister, and my sister-in-law-to-be — get together to drink a bunch of booze in a rented house on a beach, telling stories and peeing our pants from too much laughter. This year’s trip was hands-down the best yet!

Except for one mishap.

We borrowed a friend’s mini van and were pulling it into the driveway in front of my house on Saturday afternoon. My sister was driving and my Cabrio was hanging just a few inches over the edge of the driveway. I jumped out of the van and said I’d move my car forward to make room.

The keys were all the way in the house and I didn’t want to get them, so I took the Greg Approach. I opened the car door, put the car in neutral, and began pushing it forward. And it worked! The car was moving forward with relative ease. I AM SO STRONG! I BET THEY ARE SO IMPRESSED! WHO NEEDS KEYS TO MOVE A CAR?

And then my flip flops lost traction on the dried leaves in the road. My feet slipped out from under me and —

I was on the ground, my knee scuffed.

I popped up, my arms in the air to let them know I was okay! They all burst out laughing, but much to my dismay, they hadn’t even seen what I was doing. They weren’t impressed at all. I bandaged my knee and they called me a fool and we laughed about it some more. No harm, no foul.

(except for the huge glass of red wine that was spilled on the rug – unrelated to the car moving incident)

The trouble came about soon after waking on Sunday morning. At this point, I wish with all my might I had a hangover. Amazingly, no. I have an injured rotator cuff or something else related to my shoulder. Motherfucker. I must have tried to catch myself in the fall and grabbed the car, tweaking something in there. I can’t lift my arm up to shoulder height without sharp pain. Motherfucker.

My first race is in two weeks and my swimming had really come along well. I really thought I could improve my swim time considerably this year (my split was 30:41 last year). Best laid plans… It, of course, hurts to swim. So, I’m icing it a couple of times a day and using the TENS machine on it. If I can limit use, perhaps I’ll be okay come race day and still perform well.

Moral of the story: Don’t be a hero. Walk 20 feet into the house to get your keys if your car needs moved.

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: OFF

Monday: 2000 yard swim — NOT SMART

Tuesday: 24 mile bike ride + 3 mile run

Wednesday: 5 mile run

Thursday: 21-mile bike ride + 3.5 mile walk with a friend

Friday: 1800 yard swim — WHO WAS I KIDDING?

Saturday: OFF

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Stuck (and WWW: March 27)

April 4, 2011 Fitness, Friends 3 Comments

I went from snow bunny to dancing queen in a matter of 6 hours on Saturday. I rushed home from Tahoe, showered, and put on some go-out clothes, donning a lovely cocktail ring given to me as a hand-me-up from a friend. I don’t know why I’d want to draw more attention to my man-hands, but it really is a lovely piece.

It went on with no trouble. No trouble at all. I realize this may be hard to believe from the looks of those knuckles… I went out that night in San Francisco, celebrating a dear friend’s upcoming nuptials. I was on good behavior, though, because I had to drive myself home. When I got home at 1:07 AM, I quickly undressed… except for one thing. I couldn’t get the ring off.

Between two days of skiing, coming back down from altitude, a fancy dinner, and a few glasses of wine… This ring was settling in as a permanent fixture. I went to bed, exhausted, and figured I’d get it off in the morning.

Dehydration = water retention.

The morning situation was worse. I tried soap, oil, butter, an ice bath, and more oil. Nothing. I had to do a long brick workout, so I did it with the fancy cocktail ring. I think it added a certain panache to my workout ensemble. It actually worked kind of like compression socks, but on my middle finger — an obvious spot for needed relief.

I definitely wasn’t any less puffy after the workout (33 mile bike + 4.5 mile run), and I began to look at My Life With A Cocktail Ring as my new existence. I pictured myself swimming on Monday morning with the cocktail ring. I had a babysitting gig on Monday  as well — I’d look complete in the sandbox with such a lovely bauble.

Greg and I took Argus over to Coyote Point for happy hour on Sunday evening. At his suggestion, I kept my hand elevated above my heart. Also, the wind was cold. My hands do that crazy Raynaud’s thing anyway, so I was kinda hoping they’d become numb enough that I wouldn’t care if I scraped the hell out of my knuckle getting it off.

It worked! We got home and I juiced my finger up with dish soap and the ring slid off. WHEW!

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Sunday: 40-mile bike ride + 3-mile run

Monday: 2100-yard swim + 4 mile hike

Tuesday: 45-minute run with Sherpa + Tracy Anderson

Wednesday: Bodyrock.tv strength training

Thursday: 21-mile bike ride

Friday: Skiing

Saturday: Skiing

NOTE: My entire outfit is an ensemble of hand-me-ups: hoodie + T-shirt from Sarah, shorts from Mel, flip-flops (not shown) from Jane. The cocktail ring is from Tina. I am a grateful beneficiary!

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The Rest of the Story

July 22, 2010 Family, Fitness, Food, Friends, Fun 1 Comment

While I didn’t love listening to talk radio in the car as a kid, I learned to perk up when Paul Harvey would provide a factual tale with a twist at the end. Here’s the rest of the story of the Vineman Half Ironman. Can you find the twist?

Greg is pretty much a triathlon machine and a man of few words, so there won’t be all the belly-aching about training and emotions that you got with my race recap. Since I’m writing it and this blog is about me, it’ll mostly be about what I felt about his training and what I felt about his feelings.

WHAT?! You’re still reading?!

If you are, good news! Of course, I’m just kidding. This is a story about a great event and the fun you can have as a spectator. After reading this, I’m sure that everyone will want to go next year! Triathlon is not a quintessential “spectator sport,” but I have a few tricks up my sleeve to prove the average spectator wrong on that front.

You might remember me talking about Mike Kidder from Kansas City. He’s the one that talked me into doing a 70.3 in the first place… He and his wife Melanie came to town as well as our friends Mike and Nancy from Santa Barbara. Mike Kidder was here to participate in the Vineman triathlon (the other Mike completed his 70.3 in Kona in June). Our friends Mike and Tiffany joined us from the Bay Area as well. We had a full house of Mikes, competitors, and spectators!

Mike & Tiff were kind enough to offer up FREE accommodations in Occidental, which we promptly accepted. The three cottages on the property were exactly what I had expected — rustic and secluded. The environment was quiet, tucked away in the trees between the coast and the real world. Melanie and I enjoyed a vodka drink at our house while we packed everything up, then made it through a bottle of pre-made sangria I had picked up from Whole Foods while in the car — and all before hitting the Russian River Brewing Co. and dinner in Santa Rosa. You might call it spectator training for the big event! In the cottages that night, we enjoyed good wine we had brought from home, served out of coffee mugs that were available in our cottage. Melanie and Mike were on Kansas City time and she was the first to, shall we say, “retire” for the evening.

We woke up in a coastal fog on Saturday morning and it was quite chilly. The rest of the gang went in to Occidental for breakfast while I went for a 5-mile run along a less-traveled road through the hills and trees. Kidder and Greg packed up their gear for the transition from bike to run (this is a two-transition course) and we finally headed out for packet pick-up just as the sun was breaking through the fog. This is the 20th Anniversary of the Vineman event and a record number of competitors were registered (remember that I couldn’t get in?). We must have hit the Expo area at the right time — or maybe wrong time, as it was in the heat of the afternoon — because it wasn’t packed. We milled about there and made our way down to Johnson’s Beach so that the guys could splash around in the river they’d be swimming the following day. The rest of us proceeded to snack and drink and soak up the rays, just as we’d be doing the following day… It was a great day on the river!

Knowing that there’s often too much to do on the night before a race, I had prepared a big roasting pan of chicken parmesan ahead of time and brought along “homemade” pasta sauce, pasta, and enough fresh CSA greens for the whole crowd to enjoy on Saturday night… but then our crowd grew, and the oven didn’t work, and we all just conceded, “Let’s go out!” We ventured back into Occidental and settled in at Negri’s Italian Restaurant. Dinner out with a crowd of 10 takes longer than you want it to and we didn’t get out of there until after 10 PM. As usual, the guys still had a bit of race prep to do before setting their alarms for a 5:30 AM wake-up call. The night before a race is never what you want it to be.

Race day! We were up early and despite the sunshine outside, I was in a bit of a fog. I honestly can’t tell you how Kidder and Greg felt… When I asked, they mentioned they were hungry and there were several jokes tossed around about me being “drunk helpful girl” before going to bed, insisting on getting up at 4 AM to fix eggs and bacon. THANK GOD THEY DIDN’T HOLD MY FEET TO THAT FIRE. We loaded up about 15 minutes later than planned and headed to Guerneville. Melanie and I sent our men off with kisses and well-wishes and made haste for the Starbucks.

SWIM
Swimming is Kidder’s strongest sport — by far. Melanie and I were standing on a foot bridge over the Russian River, so we could see all competitors pass beneath us on their out and back trips. Pretty cool! Greg’s wetsuit has a bright yellow back (and is the only one of its kind that I’ve ever seen), so we knew we’d be able to spot him quickly. Our guys were set to start at 7:58 AM and had bright red caps on. As the red caps swam beneath us, we spotted Greg and knew that Kidder should have been ahead of him. We couldn’t find him and figured we’d missed him. On their trip back under the bridge just before the finish, we spotted Mike first and Greg was not far behind. Their times were great from our estimations (30:19 with ~300 yards to go)! We found out after the race that Kidder was still in line for the porta-potty when his race started. For some crazy reason, these race officials allowed spectators to use the same bathrooms as competitors. This was “important business” so Kidder did what he had to and subsequently started the race 4 minutes behind the rest of his wave. It didn’t matter; HE SWIMS LIKE A FISH. When we were able to check the final results, it turns out that he finished the swim in 25:49 and was the first man out of the water in his age group (the timing started when he got in the water) — beating 245 other men. What an amazing feat! He finished 13th in the swim overall, among 1259 competitors! Greg finished in a respectable 33:45.

BIKE
We had a great vantage point for all cyclists coming out of the transition area and making their first couple of turns onto the bike course. Greg had a fast transition (2:45) and we saw him very quickly after the swim finish. Kidder isn’t known for fast transitions (his was 5:54) and we knew they’d be gone for about 2h30m if Greg was on track to meet his race goals. This meant a transition for us spectators as well. Melanie and I met up with Mike & Tiff to assess our own race goals. On Saturday, we had visited the Safeway and purchased enough beverages to satisfy a small fraternity. It was just after 9 AM and Melanie quickly mixed up a bloody mary (I was driving) while we all snacked on chips and dip, looking at the map for the next vantage point. We decided the best idea was to head over to the bike/run transition area, which was also the finish. We’d be able to see everyone coming in from the bike, out for the run, and in to the finish.

By the time we got over there on the back roads, the sun was coming out and we all shed a layer of clothing once we found parking. There, we fixed up Leg 2 of our drink-athlon: blueberry vodka + Crystal Light lemonade. Delicious and refreshing! We packed a bag with our libations, a few snacks, and our cameras. Positioned at the bike dismount, we got to see everyone come in — Kidder and Greg, several friends from Santa Barbara and the EDH Tri Club, and friends of Mike & Tiff. We were in the right spot! Greg finished about where he wanted to at 2:32 and Mike came in about where he expected to at 3:11. They were quick in T2 (2:47 and 3:08, respectively) and we settled in for the last leg.



RUN
After two 32-oz Nalgene bottles of vodka drinks, Melanie and Tiffany were close friends by this point, I encountered pretty much everyone I knew in the triathlon community, and the world was a very sunny place (literally and drinkatively). Unless disaster struck on the run, we knew the guys would finish with flying colors and we’d all be celebrating — as long as their stomachs held out. The three of us girls cut each other off on story after story, all the while cheering competitors out on their run (“only 13.1 to go!”) and congratulating those just finishing (“just around the corner!”). With a run split of 1:43:44, we damn near missed Greg with all of this chatter! He came by looking tired but good and finished at 4:55:47. He wanted to finish in under 5 hours and he did it! We ran to the race finish to meet him there with hugs and good cheer. After Greg grabbed some post-race food and drink, he, Melanie and I headed back out to our vantage point to wait for Kidder’s finish. It was quite a sight as both Greg and Melanie ran with Mike as he turned the corner into the final gates at the finish. With a run time of 1:59:19, he finished in 5:45:30. Hooray!

POST-RACE
We wrapped up at the finish line area and the guys were gracious enough to postpone showers and rest to grant Melanie her one wish: to visit a tasting room on this visit to Wine Country. We drove the race course back out to La Crema, a race sponsor and the winery the runners had to circle, and found their only tasting room is in downtown Healdsburg. Off we went!  In addition to great wine (our third leg of the drink-athlon), Melanie got a cute T-shirt at La Crema and Kidder surprised me with a generous gift from Stephen & Walker Wines for “taking his challenge” of completing a Half Ironman this year. I was in tears with gratitude and friendship. Keep in mind , Melanie and Mike are the ones that introduced me and Greg. They are friends of the highest order!

After the guys showered at the cottage, we headed to dinner at a favorite place of ours — River’s End in Jenner. Mike (of Mike & Tiff) was sober enough to drive the rest of us tired and drunk “competitors” along the windy roads out to the coast. We got there just in time to see the sunset where the Russian River meets the ocean. Greg’s dinner recommendation did not disappoint and we all enjoyed fantastically fresh food and a race recap from everyone’s perspective. Of note, the clam chowder was different and better than any I have ever had. Of course, there was more wine served as well.

We got up on Monday morning and, luckily, Greg and Kidder weren’t too sore to pack up everything from our cottages to head home. We all thanked our gracious hostess and loaded up in the Element. Melanie hadn’t trained properly for her first drink-athlon and was not feeling her best. To this I said, “Bloody mary, anyone? I like mine with a twist.”

And now you know… the rest of the story.

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Less Fun Than It Sounds

June 14, 2010 Fear, Fitness, Food 1 Comment

I treated myself to a mock Olympic distance triathlon on Saturday and, much to my dismay, bonked during the run. As it turns out, calories matter. Who knew??

For those not familiar with the term, bonking basically means “hitting the wall” while engaging in endurance sports. In short, your body runs out of energy. It is not as fun as the word implies it to be, believe me! It had been a very busy and tiring week, starting with being out of town and drinking copious amounts of wine at a friend’s wedding in Florida the prior weekend. Saturday was my sixth straight day of workouts and I had done a hard 40-mile bike ride in the hills on Friday. I had a busy day and weekend ahead of me, but this training tri was important so I went for it.

I woke up early (6:30ish) and had a familiar breakfast. I didn’t want to overdo it since I’d be swimming in short order, but I knew I needed more than a banana. I opted for a corn tortilla with melted cheese, then I added black beans, half of a baked sweet potato and Cholula. I eat this often and thought I was doing myself a favor with the combination of carbs and protein. I left the house around 7 AM to set up my “transition area” at Mel’s house on the lagoon. It was a picture-perfect morning.

The swim was fine, nothing spectacular and nothing disastrous. There is a ton of new seaweed that has nearly reached the surface and that makes me feel kind of claustrophobic when I’m swimming. On the other hand, the water temp was great and there were no waves to speak of. I swam 31:40, which was a little slower than I’d hoped for because I had to deal with quite a few issues with my goggles (I’m concerned about this) and I changed course several times. I exited, got out of my wet suit and rinsed it, and headed out on my bike. I wasn’t timing transition areas, obviously.

I mentioned in a previous post that my cycling race course is entirely flat, so I opted to keep this training route flat. This forces me to work on pushing to keep my speed up and I knew I’d have a few “obstacles” in terms of pedestrians and other cyclists on the Bay Trail to keep it interesting. It was early enough (8 AM) that the trail traffic wouldn’t be horrible, and it saved me from wasting time getting through downtown San Mateo out to Crystal Springs and back. I felt very strong throughout my bike ride. My average speed was 17.1 mph, which included a few sharp turns and other weird slow-downs. On my last mock tri, I forgot to hydrate at all during the bike, so I was very proud of myself for finishing my entire FRS bottle and most of my water bottle. I paced myself to eat my AccelGel at mile 20 so it would kick in about the time I started to run. Clockwork!

I finished 25.09 miles in 1:28 and quickly transition into my running shoes, visor, and grabbed my hand-held water bottle. The first mile never feels good, so I’m not that surprised that I was pretty miserable. But at about 1.4 miles, I was really struggling. I brought it down to a fast walk and drank a lot of water, catching my breath. I was mentally beating myself up. Remember all that talk about, “I can do anything for…”? Well, it was no good on Saturday. My quads were cramping charlie-horse style. My stomach was cramping and I didn’t know which end was going to revolt first.

Bonk.

I walked 30 seconds and tried to run again, only to be plagued by more cramping. This went on for several minutes. I finished my entire bottle of water by mile 4 and I knew there were no refill opportunities. I pushed myself to run ONE-MORE-MILE and told myself I could walk back to my transition area from there, wherever that ended up being. It was ugly. It hurt. Not only was this so defeating, but I was putting myself really behind for all of the other things I needed to do that day. There was no time to be sick. Back at Mel’s, I grabbed a soda out of the fridge — it was cold and full of fast calories. I loaded my stuff up and headed home. Greg fixed me a protein smoothie while I showered and tried to put it all into perspective:

This was a very important lesson in nutrition. As often as I am “afraid” of calories, they are VITAL. Welcome them. Love them. Lesson: pack food in your jersey, even if you don’t eat it.

This was thankfully not an actual race day! I came home and the first thing I said to G was, “I am so glad I did not pay money to do that.” I would have been in tears if I had actually been trying to race against other people. As much as I thought my run at Wildflower hurt and looked bad, this would have been pure torture if people had been passing me and there was nothing I could do about it.

The battery ran out on my Garmin 405 so I have no way of knowing how slow my 10K run was. I have no way of knowing my average pace. This is a blessing.

I FINISHED. It wasn’t pretty and it felt even worse, but I finished.

Two more weeks of hard-core training before my July 4 race. One week of taper and travel. I rode 35 miles in the hills of Napa County on Sunday and took today as a rest day. Tomorrow, I hit it again.

Shake it off. And don’t make the same mistake twice.

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A Compromise

June 2, 2010 Fear, Fitness No Comments

I made a couple of Big Hairy Audacious Goals for the year on January 1. One of these is to write my memoir this year. I have nothing to report on this subject at this time. But please, do keep holding your breath. You look great in blue!

My other 2010 goal is to complete the Vineman Half Ironman. The entire post can be read here, but for those just joining the broadcast, the race registration closed before I had a chance to sign up. To be completely honest, it closed six days after I decided to do the event and eight days before I got around to registering. Lesson learned.

In the meantime, I was in correspondence with the race director regarding my entry. She explained the wait list rules and said there was a chance I’d be allowed onto the wait list in February. I waited patiently…and did not get chosen. She said there would be a chance in April. I waited patiently…and did not get chosen. I opted to take a charity slot, which means I’d donate $500 to cancer research in addition to my $265 entry fee. The race director said that the charity slots filled up…and basically that my incremental $500 was no good here. A girlfriend of mine is unable to do the race, so I asked if there was some loophole we could find for me to take her registration…and denied yet again.

I am a committer.

While it has been tempting at times during the training season to throw in the towel and shrug my shoulders with, “There’s always next year,” I have chosen to make a minor modification to my resolution. While I won’t be doing THE Vineman Half Ironman, I will be doing A Half Ironman — The Subaru Vancouver International Triathlon on July 4.

The July 4 date cuts two weeks off the training time from Vineman and will require a bunch of logistical bullshit that I wouldn’t otherwise have to deal with (bike shipping, hotel, ground transportation, etc…). However, I’m looking at the positives: the course is almost entirely flat, Greg will be there to cheer me on and vice versa, and I hope to parlay it into a mini vacation. I say SUCCESS!

Throughout the winter and spring, there was fear nagging me that I wouldn’t get selected to race Vineman and that I wouldn’t find another suitable venue. I kept wondering if all of my training was in vain. Now that my money has been sent in and I’m officially on the race roster in Vancouver, I feel very good about the way this has turned out. The flat course alone is reason to celebrate. I’m basically over-training every time I leave the house!

Now, the only fear nagging me is that my right Achilles will not hold out for a month of training. I did a little self-diagnosing today and it looks like I’ve got all the symptoms for Achilles tendinopathy. This is the new fancy name for tendinitis. I apparently have the acute kind — it hurts worse in the morning, screams at me when I flex my foot, painful to the touch, etc… I have been icing it a few times a day and using ibuprofen. I am extremely disappointed about this, as I have been running at least once a week in my Vibram FiveFingers shoes, I have adopted the Chi Running form, and this is supposed to be my “good leg.”

Either way, July 4 will be Independence Day for me — the 70.3 no longer hanging over my head and, of course, America’s birthday (which will be celebrated in Canada). How d’ya like that, eh?

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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

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Haiku

March 19, 2010 Fitness, Food No Comments

Training is hard work.
My body is strong, yet tired.
Please get me some food.

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Inundation: A Lesson Learned

March 4, 2010 Fear, Fitness 1 Comment

Here’s a little bit of marketing research geekery that you might not know. I assume that if you have not been living under a rock for the past ~15 years, you are familiar with the “Got Milk?” campaign. Part of the research behind this campaign was an “inundation / deprivation study.” People who drank milk all the time were forced to stop drinking it and record their experiences, and people who never drank milk were forced to drink it and record their experiences.

As it turns out, the people who were already milk lovers felt a huge void in their lives without milk in it (cookies and OJ, anyone?), and those who hadn’t been milk groupies found a new love and need for it in their lives. It became a new way of life for them based on being inundated. Hooray for milk!

But let’s get back to the matter at hand: me. I was inundated with swimming based on the prescribed training regimen for a Half Ironman triathlon. I had to swim most days of the week (often in addition to another activity). Immediately following the swim clinic, I experienced several bad swims. I knew I was doing it wrong. It didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel smooth. It certainly did not feel natural. I was fighting myself and the water the whole time — and this was in a pool! What was going to happen in open water?!

And then it clicked.

I went every day and learned to think about different things while I was swimming. I learned to assume my legs were doing the right thing while I figured out how to complete a high-elbow-catch stroke. I learned how to engage my core to breathe properly. I learned how to leave my leading arm extended while my other arm caught up with it. Can you hear the clicking??

Open water swimming is on the calendar very soon and it will be a new ballgame then, but I am thrilled that I was forced to overwhelm myself with swimming immediately following the swim clinic so that it is now becoming almost second-nature and I actually look forward to the swim workouts on the calendar.

If you’re up for a challenge, choose something that has been just beyond reach or just outside of “pleasant” for you and inundate yourself with it for one full week. See what happens!

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