Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Riding through the Strawberries

Some of you may have seen my Facebook post with the sad farmer's tan/burn I received as the result of not applying suntan lotion before a 6 hour bike ride. The caption was, "I rode a metric century, and all I got was this farmer's tan."

I'd like you to know that that is not accurate, and this ride did much more for me than ruining my beautiful Costa Rican swimsuit tan. First, I had a great day out with my rad riding partner, PH. I also saw some friends from my Meetup group and met some other great peeps. Third, I had some apple pie at Gizdich Farms, and most importantly... (wait for it)...

I now know that I can ride 65 miles, including some pretty steep hills! YAAAY! I even got off the bike and ran for a little bit. (Ok, it was about 6 minutes, but I did it!) Here's the route if you're interested.

*Virtual Crowd Applause (hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh)*

This ride was probably too soon in my training plan, but I really needed some piece of mind about cycling, training, and "Holy crap, can I actually do this half Ironman thing?!"

#1: Piece of mind about cycling
Cycling isn't a bad sport. Even though many things are outside of your control (ahem, like the bike or the road), the idea is that you start to conquer the bike. Besides, it's an opportunity to get out and see your surroundings. There is only so far you can walk or run, but you can see a lot in an hour bike ride. This 6 hour route, or 5 hours of riding time, from Aptos to Watsonville through the fields and forest is lovely. I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise. Seriously, why else would you go to Watsonville? (Awww, snap!)

#2: Piece of mind about training
Riding a bike, running, swimming, doing cartwheels over and over, or any other kind of endurance (Call it aerobic NOT "cardio" people!) activity is about knowing yourself and what you are capable of. It's understanding your body, your mind, and knowing when to slow down, or better yet - when you can take on more. Often your body is telling you something different than your brain. Once you can get your brain to shut the hell up, your body can do a lot more. My riding partner and I had different rides, but we stayed together most of the time. There were times when PH was pacing faster and I thought I wouldn't make it through the day. There were times when I was ready to jam up a hill and he needed  to take a break and throw some water over his head.

#3: "Holy CRAP, can I actually do this??!"
Yes. I can now easily (please understand that term loosely - I'm training to finish, not win) complete each leg of this half Ironman on its own - time to put the pieces together. This is the part that is going to be tough. Sure, I've done transitions before. You bike a few miles, change shoes and run a little so you can understand what your muscles feel like switching from one event to the other. It's humbling to think you know how to run and your legs are still going around in circles. This is the first time my training plan calls for: Swim 60 Minutes / Run 2:00 Hours. It's a complete workout, followed by another complete workout.

2 months. 2 months. 2 months. 2 months.

Here are a couple more pics from the ride.
 No shortage of bathrooms at this ride.
Getting passed my Meetup groupers. Next year I'm going to keep up with them!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Unsolicited parenting advice.

My baby lives out of the trunk of my car. Go ahead and call social services. I freakin' dare you.

I can only imagine what parents must deal with.

Like many new parents, I am constantly receiving advice on how I should be training, gear I should be using, things I should be reading, etc. Some of this advice is good, and I often pass along the advice to others. For example, 1) Born to Run (running) or Total Immersion (swimming) are great books, 2) never wear new clothes on race day (chafing), 3) never eat something new on race day (yacking), etc.

Then there is some advice that I really don't appreciate. It is either unwarranted, or doesn't take into consideration the plan I already have mapped out for myself, or negates it entirely. Or maybe it's just the source of the information, like people who don't know you at all.

Yesterday I met a guy in Cupertino who sometimes rides with my meetup group. He sold me his pass to the Strawberry Fields Forever ride this weekend, which is my first time trying 60 miles. He asked me what I was training for, so I told him. Then he asked about distances, and when I told him the half Ironman was a 54 mile bike ride, he said, "Oh yeah, 54 miles isn't very far around here," meaning that cyclists around the Bay Area have access to much longer rides and many will do 95 miles on a Saturday just for fun.

Well jackass, I understand that 54 miles may not be a long way for you, but it is a long way for me. AND I have to train to swim over a mile before, and run over 13 miles after I ride that mere 54 miles.

Of course I didn't say anything. He then went on to tell me what I needed to train - I need to download Strava, I need to find a real bike club, I need to do this ride, or that ride. I had just met this guy, and he just seemed a little too eager to give me cycling advice.

Then I went to my new gym for a swim/run day. I've been feeling really sluggish in the pool, and I really want to be stronger and faster but I'm not sure how. So, I started asking questions of the lifeguard on duty who gave me some really good tips on my swim stroke. Apparently, I'm just not pushing the water strong enough underwater so I'm not gliding along the water like I should be. I worked to push harder for a few laps and I was super tired.

I still feel pretty defeated, but I definitely appreciated her advice and will keep working on it. I might even pay her for a few lessons.

Some of the advice is good, and some of it is not very constructive. This is my baby, I spend a lot of time with it, and I generally know what I'm doing. When I want your advice, I will ask. Thanks.

Thinking about babies. (Not what you're expecting.)

Get it? Expecting. . .

This half Ironman is currently my baby. Perhaps like parenting (I have never been a parent) training this baby has often exhilarating, exhausting, wonderful, confusing, best time ever, and totally time-consuming.

I am constantly toting around a ton of gear and equipment needed for my baby. I have to take this stuff everywhere, and my car is total mess.

I post updates on Facebook about my baby.

I take photos of things related to my baby and post them on Facebook, but only if I look good in the picture.

I receive unsolicited advice from other parents (athletes) about how I should train, what I should wear, and the best apps and books.

I schedule "playdates" with other people and their babies: long bike rides, runs, and open water swims.

Babies are expensive. They need food, doctor's visits (bike repair shop), and education (trainers, gym memberships).

I feel like I neglect, or can't concentrate on the people I love.
I miss my baby or feel guilty if I'm away for a day.

I get up early, and pass out on the couch before 10pm.

It is thrilling to see my baby progress, and it gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment.

My baby is growing. Years ago it was 1 mile long, now it's 70.2 miles long.

My baby has made me weigh more than I'd like to weigh.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Heavy Medal

Back in the day (I can't believe I actually just used that term), I was a decorated runner. In high school, I ran the 100 meter and 200 meter dash, the 4x100, 4x200, and 4x400 meter relays, and ran girls cross country. I won a fair share of races, and went to Iowa Girls State Track a couple of times.

I also received a fair share of medals, which were hung lovingly on bulletin boards in my teenage bedroom. They now live in a container somewhere in my parents basement in Iowa.

These days, I never place or win an event, but my medal collection is growing rapidly:
I greeted my boyfriend at the door last night wearing all of these medals and said, "Just in case you didn't know. I'm a winner." LOL! I promptly took them off because my neck was starting to hurt.

If you pay for a race and you participate, they give you a medal. Simple as that. You could come in first place, or last place and you get a medal. Some of them are kind of cool, but I always feel weird accepting one when I come in 526th place. Also, what am I going to do with these medals? I'm not going to hang them on a wall in my bedroom or office at work. That would be strange. I guess I could wear them as every day jewelry, but my co-workers might think I'm either overly confident or, more likely, insane. And, as we all know - I'm not very crafty either.

Now I can see receiving a medal for something special: placing, running a personal record, maybe your first time running that particular race, or your first time doing a particular distance. But, I'm not big on giving them to every single person - I'd rather just pay less for the race. For some people, though, not receiving a medal is a deal-breaker. People just LOVE getting stuff for free!

This year I ran two of the Rock and Roll marathon series races, and, as a gift, they gave me yet another medal. (I received a medal for both races already.) Here it is. Pay close attention to the address label:

Thanks Competitor Group for keeping the US postal system in business.

They will give a medal to anyone. . . including the person who just bought your house or rented your former condo. Even if they did nothing. This makes me sad. Seriously, is this what our school system is doing? Rewarding everyone for everything, or rewarding them for absolutely nothing at all.

So listen up race organizers! Instead of giving medals to everyone, is there a way to give them only to people who accomplished something awesome at the event (first timers, personal records, best fundraising effort) -  or at least give people like me the opportunity to save some money, or donate them to a good cause. For now, I will continue to grow my medal collection, but I'm going to try and find an organization that might need them for a kids program or something similar. Any ideas?

Now it's time to conquer the t-shirt problem.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sweatin' it out in Costa Rica

I had completely forgotten what it was like to sweat without moving. Humidity is something I have not been accustomed to in, er, probably 12 years since I moved to California. Nonetheless, the humidity in Costa Rica was kind of refreshing (probably since we were right next to the Pacific Ocean). It was also a great opportunity to sweat out poolside drinks and fried plantains.

Some exercise occurred while in Costa Rica, as promised.

Hiking: My friend, Noelle, and I hiked in Manuel Antonio National Park, at the Pur Vida Gardens near Bijagual, and at Carara National Park. These were definitely more leisurely hikes - up to 3 miles each, but we did see a lot of wild things like leaf cutter ants, giant rats (Agouti), ardvarks (Coati), and a million plants and flowers.
Here is a picture from Carara National Park. I'm  standing by a tree with a very large buttress. I'm glad I didn't get a big buttress while in Costa Rica, although I did drink a lot of water. HA! I slay me.

Swimming: As expected, the resort did not have a lap pool, but I tired to go on "underwater adventures" as much as possible. Yes, I brought my goggles and went swimming in the pool which curved around the back of the hotel under bridges, near little waterfalls. The other tourists probably wondered what the hell I was doing, but damnit, I got some laps in! I also swam a little bit at the Manuel Antonio beach, and at the Los Suenos beach, but was kind of afraid to go out too far. When you are the only one swimming, you start to wonder what kind of ocean creatures are out there!

Running: I ran 3 miles on the treadmill our first evening, and did two additional beach runs (3 miles, and 4 miles) while on vacation. Not bad.
Here is the lava beach just out front of our lovely resort. The water temp was 80 degrees. No wetsuit needed here.

Yoga: Noelle and I took yoga class at the hotel. The instructor was American but she taught the entire class in Spanish. Here are some fun yoga terms en Espanol:

Vaca y gato = Cat and cow
Bebe Felizidad  = Happy baby
El Perro con la Cara Hacia Abajo = Downward Facing Dog

(Ok, that last one I had to look up online. But, when she said "perro" I knew what she was taking about.)

Extra points: Como se dice (this pose) en espanol?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Monkeying Around. . .

I'm headed to Costa Rica tonight. Not only does this mean it will be fabulous to explore a different country, but it also means I'm going to have to find some ways to keep training while on vacation.
I will go running, even though it will be humid and raining. I can't promise a lot of miles, but there will be determination. I will get in the pool and swim some laps, even if it is not a lap pool. I will get in the ocean if only to get more comfortable in it. I will hike for hours and walk as much as possible. I will use the gym at the resort, and do some cross training. I will also try some new activities that are sure to leave some sore muscles (in a good way), like surfing, or horseback riding, or doing cartwheels on the beach.

Hopefully the monkeys won't steal my stuff, or I won't end up with an iguana in my toilet. Then again, all good stories!

Buenos Dias. See you after May 10th with an update.