Monday, September 22, 2014

Tahoe 70.3 Non-Race Report

I would have loved to bang out a half Ironman this year, but it didn't happen. Wildflower was fantastic for an early season event, but to have ended with a great performance in Tahoe would have been the ultimate year. Unfortunately, due to the King fires near Sacramento, North Lake Tahoe was filled with smoke, which ultimately shut down the race - 10 minutes prior to the start. There are plenty of athletes who trained very hard to compete, and gave up many more personal and family obligations than I did to compete, not to mention those who came from a distance or another country. Furthermore, people are in risk of losing much more than a race, but their homes and potentially their lives.

I refuse to complain about my own ambitions. It wouldn't be right.

Top 10 Reasons I'm ok with IMLT Cancelation

1.) I am so glad I didn't cave and buy branded race gear! Win! (Suzanne +1, all of you other suckers who bought the jersey and shorts -1)

2.) I didn't have to eat 1000 calories of Clif Bar for lunch.

3.) This is the first event that didn't give me serious chafing, or a sunburn.

4.) There is no need to rest before going into fall/winter marathon training! It's on!

5.) I rode my bike from Kings Beach to Squaw after the cancellation announcement, and broke every one of my course records on Strava. 

6.) Free cookies, bananas, and Red Bull. They were just giving stuff away.

7.) I am pretty good at Swim, Bike, Run but am surprisingly good at Gin, Beer, Rum as well (not in that order)... I learned that endurance sport nutrition is more similar to endurance drinking nutrition than I originally thought: Pre-load on a bunch of protein, eat at least 500 calories for breakfast, and remember to drink water and eat consistently, and you'll be fine. Sherpas are recommended. (We had a lot of fun at the Irish Pub in Squaw.) :)

8.) I am lucky to live in the Bay Area, and Lake Tahoe is only a 4 hour drive. I spent 18 glorious days with some of the best damn people on the face of this earth. From my Trans Tahoe Relay gals, to Silicon Valley Triathlon Club, to all of the other athletes I met while training. You guys are my rock. Thank you for your support, and most of all, laughter. We had some great times up there in the altitude and blue water.

9.) I met a pair of Challenged athletes who inspired me. One was trying to finish his 25th Ironman, and the other trying to finish his 1st. 

10.) We all have our lives, and our health. We are all capable of training for another event.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Confession: Endurance Sports Make Me Cry

I'm a total baby.

Sometimes I get choked up during my own races. Suddenly, an overwhelming feeling of "Wow, this is awesome!" kicks in, and I have to hold it back (wastes too much energy). Most of the time, I cry watching other people compete - amateur competitors. Rarely do I get choked up over professional athletes. Professional athletes are amazing, and worthy of being lauded for their achievements. But, I typically don't know who wins a race. I can hardly pay attention to the first person over the finish line, when the real warriors are often an hour or more behind them.

October 2009 - My first big-city (San Jose) half marathon. I'd finished my race, and was standing at the finish line to watch the other participants - especially waiting for the arrival of my friend, Paul. Paul was involved in a nasty motorcycle accident 15 months prior to the race in which he broke his femur. He was probably lucky as hell to be alive. As a physical education teacher, he wanted to do a race to help overcome the injury both mentally and physically. So, he signed for for the San Jose Rock and Roll Marathon. He didn't have a goal time.

While waiting for Paul, I probably watched a thousand other people enter the finishing shoot, and run to the finish line. The sight of that big finish line banner makes people do the most incredible things (even if they were walking just moments before): they sprint, they smile, they find their loved ones and cherish the moment of the big finish. Some of them wear t-shirts in support of an organization, and some have personal messages on their clothing from a family or friend who has passed on. Some cry. Some turn on the engine at the last moment, and try to pass as many people as they can. This finish line is not just the end of a race, sometimes it is the end of another journey, or the realization of how wonderful it is to be alive.

Finally, Paul walked around the corner, and as soon as he saw the finish line, his face lit up with a smile and he picked up the pace, hobbling somewhat to the finish. I totally choked up. Shit, what a great moment for him. His finishing time was 2 hours, 38 minutes, but his race was so much more of a win than mine. Here is a man who could have possibly lost his life, battling 13 miles of a road race on a rehabilitated leg.

This summer, I volunteered for the California International Triathlon and was assigned to the absolute worst part of the course: the run turnaround at the top of a dusty hill. Man, people were really suffering on that hill in the heat, and they had to do it twice! At first it was exciting to see the competitive age-groupers conquer the hill, but as the crowd came down to the one or two who would walk most of the last two miles - my heart was full and so were my eyes - of tears. I wasn't at all sad for these people. I was so freakin' inspired.

As all good volunteers should do (take note), I decided I would stay until the bitter end and make sure the last runner returned safely to the finish line. Her name was Katherine, and she was the mostly lovely woman. Her calf read her age, which I believe was 66. As she came up the hill for the second time, she had to walk. So, I walked a bit with her. She started talking to me like a friend. She wasn't happy with her swim time, but didn't want that to stop her, and she knew she was either last, or the person behind her had decided not to finish. She wanted to see her husband at the finish line.

At one point, Katherine asked me if they had taken the finish line down. "It doesn't really matter," I said, "you are awesome!" I was so thrilled that the finish line was still up when she reached the final stretch. She raised her hands above her head, found her husband, and they hugged.

Then, the waterworks came!

Ok, I'll admit, watching Meb Keflezighi in the last mile of the Boston Marathon this year was pretty thrilling. But, typically my tears are reserved for the regular people, the common man, the weekend warrior who has overcome obstacles to be at the finish line. They didn't have the best performance, or the best time, but they endured. Everyone is on their own journey. Those who reign supreme, and those who "just finish" are fighting different battles, and have overcome something to be where they are. If you asked me who my favorite athlete is, I would probably say someone like Paul, or Katherine.

In about a week, I will be live and in person at the Ironman Tahoe finish line. I will need to pack some Kleenex.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

35 Years

When I was 25, I smoked Marlboro Lights. I could go out to a bar and drink four gin and tonics, eat very little, and be home by 4 a.m. with the ability to catch the bus and get to work at 9 a.m. My heroes were Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones.

At 35, I smoke fools on my bike. I can drink a gin and tonic or a glass of wine at home, eat every crumb out of my refrigerator (starving from workout), be in bed by 10 p.m., and get up to drive myself to work in a compact SUV and arrive promptly at 7:30 a.m. I'm don't have any specific heroes, but am inspired by everyday people who are awesome. Carrie Bradshaw isn't real, and I now realize that there is no way a lawyer, a housewife, a PR mogul, and a writer could have time to meet in a coffee shop once a week. It just wouldn't happen. And Bridget Jones is pretty much a basket case. How she ended up with a barrister is beyond me.

At 25, I had just moved back to California from Las Vegas. I took the $400 I had in my bank account, asked a friend to help me put my belongings into a moving truck, and moved the F#$% out of that town. Vegas has the diversity of the Bay Area, but drop the education and common sense by about 80% - and there you go. I probably contributed to that while I was there. Not my place in the world.

At 35, I'm "making it" (whatever that means) in the Silicon Valley and seriously kicking ass. I surround myself by quality people, because I aspire to be a quality person myself. I have a much better understanding of my place in the world.

Ten signs that I'm officially in my mid-30's

1.) I drive a compact SUV. It's a total mom car, except my children are bikes and wet suits. I love taking the kids to Tahoe!

2.) I seem to be suddenly more attractive to men in their 20's than when I was in my 20's. I also seem to attract men who could be my father. Eeewww.

3.) Eating whatever you want is a myth. Even if you work out, you can't eat whatever you want. Not at 35, or any time after that. I've heard that your appetite is supposed to decrease as you get older. This has not happened to me. I'm only getting more hungry. It will be interesting to see how much I eat when I train for Ironman Canada next year.

4.) My skin is on a revolt against my face. What I thought were cute freckles ten years ago are not - it's melasma (look it up)! Also, I'm having a strange case of adult acne.

5.) I bought a basil plant. I thought it was ridiculous to buy a pound of basil for a recipe that needs only a tablespoon, so the $2.99 plant made sense to be both sustainable, and economical.

6.) I considered cat ownership. Then, I thought about what it means to be a cat-lady, and decided that this is not the direction for me. Cats are pretty cute, and I saw one walking outside of my house last night (It's a sign!). I will resist the temptation for a furry friend. I would much rather have a dog anyway.

7.) People at the grocery store officially call me ma'am. I don't get ID ed either, except at the airport.

8.) I recently went into H&M and was horrified by what I saw. It looked like a garage sale multiplied in there. No wonder you can get a pair of pants for $5! I've been told that I am not old enough to shop at Chicos. .  . although that blazer is really cute. So, I have found a fashion stepping stone!  My new locale for age appropriate clothing is J Crew. That's right. I'm preppy.

9.) Speaking of preppy, I've decided that the term "yuppie" does not apply to me. Yes, I am still upwardly mobile, but I am not upper middle class - at least not in the Bay Area.

10.) I lived through three complete decades, and feel I can finally use terms like, "Back in the Day" or "Kickin' it Old School", and it is age appropriate. No one "kicked it" until the 80's. So if you don't remember the 80's - stop using that term. (Love, the Bitchy 35-year old.)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Donner Lake Race Report

I had a title selected for this blog already - a week before the race. It was going to be called, "Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride," in response to a 4th place age group ranking. This is usually where I end up in an Olympic distance triathlon - just shy of the podium - usually because of a slow swim time. My plan was to wrap up a race report with memories of being a bridesmaid. Kind of like the movie "27 Dresses": only less dress, more sweat.

That would have been a really funny post. But, I'll have to save it for another time...

The Donner Lake Triathlon was a planned "A" races this season. The event is a smaller, local event, but the course is challenging, and many seasoned triathletes come out to race it. I'd spent the last nine days at altitude already with some awesome training under my belt: Trans Tahoe Relay swim, a practice ride of the Ironman 70.3 course, and a few running opportunities. On the flip side, I'd also spent nine days eating everything in sight, and drinking some gin (also beer, wine, and a Wet Woody....). Don't judge. I was on vacation too!

After checking the results from the previous year, it seemed I would need to finish in around 3:00 or 3:01 to be on the podium for the DLT. My goal was to listen to my body, and start each leg easy. After spending nine glorious days at altitude, training and vacationing, I could still feel the lack of air, but knew I could manage if I could also relax into each event, and not hyperventilate. Plus, I've never really raced up a major climb before...

The Donner Lake Triathlon is mega scenic. The .9 mile swim in Donner Lake is a rectangular course with buoys to the swimmers left side. The bike ride up Donner Pass, passed the Sugar Bowl, into Kingvale and back is absolutely gorgeous, but also a challenging 2,100 feet of climbing over 24.8 miles. The 6.67 mile run around Donner Lake starts out flat, has one significant hill half-way through, then rolls to the finish line.

Swim: 34:21
The water of Donner Lake is clean and lovely, slightly chilly. The sun had risen high enough that the buoys were not completely out of sight, which was nice. The lake is very deep in the middle, so it suddenly goes from sand to a black abyss below. The ghosts of Donner Lake were messing with us swimmers because apparently no one was able to swim the course straight. (Thanks to Jimmy for putting the image of dead bodies in my head.) I never swim the course straight, so it was an average swim for me.

With Randi before the swim. She's a real swimmer. Like really awesome n' stuff. 
Bike: 1:31:12
There was no choice but to start out slow on this bike course - the course begins with a 3 mile climb up Donner Pass. So, I went into my lowest gear and churned at a comfortable pace. Such a gorgeous climb! The absolute best scenery of any climb I've ridden. Breathtaking. Lovely. . .

When I got to the top of Donner Pass - it was ON like DONKEY KONG! I knew there were only a few miles to take advantage of the downhill, so I got low and jammed down the other side into Kingvale like it was no body's business. Just before the turn around I saw a group of really strong women coming up the hill and I really wanted to catch them. I had taken it easy long enough, so I cranked it up a notch up the longer ascent up the other side. There were two short downhill opportunities where I saw other cyclists stop pedaling, but I knew I needed those few extra pedal strokes to make up some time.

This is the first year that I've felt comfortable descending, but I would typically ride the breaks a bit more doing down a hill like Donner Pass Road on a training ride. Not today, folks. That hill was mine! All mine! Wah ha ha! *evil laugh* I was shooting for 1:30, and it wasn't too far off.

Coming in from the bike. Photo credit: Pim K.
Run: 55:24
My first practice run at altitude was brutal. I thought my sports bra was on too tight, then realized it was just the lack of oxygen. I was prepared for this feeling again. It was difficult not to look at my watch, but I tried to run by feel instead of by the pace on my Garmin. The run would not be a sub-8:00 mile run unless, for some reason, I felt awesome a couple of miles in. The first 3 miles are typically difficult as my legs adjust to the road. I calmed to my 3 (in) - 2 (out) breathing cycle repeating:

This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)
This. Is. Your. (in) A. Race. (out)

I never felt "awesome" per say, but it was a good run despite walking one hill at mile three. No one passed me on the run, and I closed the gap between me and a couple of other women in front of me who weren't in my age group. Isn't it funny how during the race you think, "Oh my God, I can't go any faster." Then the second the race is over you think, "I could have caught them." Hindsight 20/20.

It would have been great to have been the sub-8:00 mile range, but I was happy with the run overall.

Photo credit: Pim K.
During the race, I didn't see a lot of women in my age group at all. This is a typical scenario. I always assume they get out of the water before me, and I never catch them. The only thing that kept me motivated during the run was knowing that I had set out to give it my all.

Finish time: 3:04:12

After the race, I found my compadres and awaited the results that (I thought) would put me in 4th place in my age group again. I didn't think my time was enough for a podium finish, and I definitely wasn't expecting a first place ranking - shit, third would have been really great! So, I was very happy with a first place age group finish at the Donner Lake Triathlon.

Finally! I'm a bride!! Er... podium finisher!

Podium ceremony, without a podium.. or the 3rd place AG finisher. Photo credit: Pim K.
Getting fresh with sweaty people after the race: With Jimmy, Kathy, Rune. Photo credit: Pim K.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Youth is wasted on the young.

What I wouldn't give to be 17 years old for just one 200 meter dash. . . or maybe two.
It is unfair that your body and your brain don't match up at the right times. There is a certain age when your potential is so great, but your mind hasn't figured it out yet. Or your mind is so keen on how awesome you could be, but your physiology has other ideas.

This thought occurred to me as I was reviewing the pace intervals prior to a Tuesday evening track workout.

Ok, so my VDot is 44, which means I should be running a 200 meter at Interval pace in about 48 seconds. Got it. 200's are pretty fun. I used to run them in high school...  

With a few Google search words I was able to find my 100 and 200 meter dash results from 1996 and 1997 Iowa Girls State Track. This made me feel slightly younger, knowing that the internet was invented while I was still in school. Thank you Al Gore! *wink*

High school, high school, high school...(fading, fading, fading)...

As a junior, I placed 5th overall in the 100 meter dash final, and wanted to go back as a senior even stronger. I did very well at the district meet, and qualified for the state track meet in both the 100 meter and 200 meter dashes. I even beat out my nemesis, Pam, who only made it to state in the 200 meter race and into a slower heat. Take that, Pam! I may have been more focused on beating Pam than actually doing well at the meet.

District Finals 100 meter dash. (Pam is to the right of the girl in purple shorts, not pictured.)
State track organizes multiple heats of each race based on the runner's qualifying times at the district meet. For the 100 meter preliminary, I was placed in the third heat, and in the outermost lane - lane 8 - the worst lane. I ran that 100 meters in 13.61, which was pretty slow, and I didn't qualify for the final. Similar story for the 200 meter dash. It just didn't have it that year, or maybe the competition was more stiff.
That's me, all the way to the right. Next to the girl in the purple shorts. The winner of that heat went to win the 100 meter and 200 meter overall. She was DQed from the 100 meter the previous year for a false start.
Looking back on the results, the winner of the 100 meter and 200 meter in 1997 was disqualified from the 100 meter dash the previous year because of a false start. She probably would have had a repeat win in both events. But, one little misstep, and she was out. One false move or breath can make or break an entire sprint. I didn't realize it then, as much as I do now. Yeah, you have to be fast, but your mindset has to be deadpan to really be competitive.

Endurance sports are much more mental sometimes that shorter races because you are dragging ass to the finish line after exerting your energy for hours. When you have more time, there is more room for error; even if a part of the race feels wicked hard, there are other parts that can feel amazing. In contrast, a shorter race leaves no room for error. If everything from tying your shoe laces to coming cleanly out of the blocks isn't perfect, it can have a .01 effect on your performance which can mean winning, or losing.

High school years were far from my glory days, but I still have dreams about high school track. (And totally unrelated - college Algebra.) If I had to pick a day to go back to high school with my 35-year old brain, it would definitely be that day of State Track in 1997, when I could have perfected just a little more, or pushed just a little harder. I was worthy of the challenge, and I totally could have done better with my current mindset. What I wouldn't give to have one day back on that blue rubber track in a 115 pound, 17 year old body. As they say, "Youth is wasted on the young." So true.

Who's to say that we shouldn't start perfecting things, or pushing just a little bit harder right now. In the scheme of things, our lifetime really is only a blip. Maybe more like a 200 meter dash than a marathon.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Never say never: I'm on Strava

I'm a sell-out. I've been uploading my workouts to Strava. It's true. I'm blaming it on work though. Someone in my office started an East Coast versus West Coast bike challenge. I did it for "the man." That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

In honor of backpedaling, let's make a list of all of my other "I never's."

I'll never say kale is delicious. It's not.

I'll never wear a tutu to a race.

I'll never move back to smalltown USA. i.e. I will never live more than 30 minutes from a major airport.

I'll never go to Disneyland or Disney World. (Maybe if my niece wants to go... )

I'll never date/marry a pharmaceutical rep. I feel the industry is kind of evil, especially the sales people.

I'll never get stuck going to one of these "parties" that try to sell you stuff. Been there. Done that. I always buy something I don't need, then feel bad about it. But, then I feel bad if I don't buy something.

I'll never hang some big inspirational quote on my wall or at my desk. I only like inspiration that comes from self-depreciation.

I'll never live in the city of Santa Clara. Santa Clara is a sell-out city. It's an airport, a mall, an amusement park, and a sports stadium. They have ruined any possibility of a downtown, and the university (the only cool part of the town) is too hard to find.

I'll never own a little dog, especially a white, fluffy one. Little dogs don't really do anything. That's why they are called lap dogs. My lap is too busy to be sat upon. So, unless I have a yard for a big, mean dog (preferably that needs to be "run") then forget it. Also, you are supposed to put your little dog in outfits? That's just dog abuse.

Here are some "I never's" that turned into, "Never say never."

I'll never work in the corporate world. The corporate world is for sell-outs! 
Um, the corporate world pays more money, so you can do those things than non-sellout people do, but you can actually afford to do it. Oh, and eat food, oh and retire, oh and not steal toilet paper from work.

I'll never to a marathon. Running for 4 hours? Hell no.
Well, all of my marathons have been under 4 hours so far. Does that count? Also, I've never run a marathon that I've liked. I hope #3 is a charm, because the last two were really, really hard.

I'll never go on a diet. I work out so I can eat what I want.
I believed this until I was about 30.5 years old. I still think diets are annoying, and people who adhere to one diet are missing out on some awesome taste bud opportunities. But, yeah, my diet has changed. I can't eat a whole pizza anymore. I mean, I can. I just don't.

I'll never drive an SUV.
Damn, really needed room for bikes. Yeah, I could have bought a car with a bike rack, but then you have to worry about the rack, and locking it properly, and ok. Fine, I bought a compact SUV.

I'll never do an Ironman. That's just stupid/unnatural.
Soon to eat my words.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Escaping from Alcatraz

The friends you meet on a boat to Alcatraz island:

1.) A very nervous girl who had her full wet suit on even before we pulled away form Pier 3 (we had 1.5 hours until the start of the race)
2.) A surf-y dude from So Cal who had done the race the year prior. Like, totally.
3.) A guy from Milwaukee who has also done the race at least two other years.
4.) A guy in a Superman kit from Sacramento who had also done the race in 2011.

This was a good group to be around in the hour leading up to my most difficult swim yet. I'd like to thank these guys for putting my mind at ease, and the girl for proving that I'm not really that nervous. In fact, we spent the entire hour talking and I barely looked out the window to see what conditions might be like for the Escape from Alcatraz swim. No matter what the morning currents were like, I was already boarded on that boat, and there was no escaping the inevitable "Escape".

As we lined up to jump from the boat, I zipped up my wet suit and my So Cal friend said, "Woah, sleeveless! You are brave, lady." That's right man, I am so fucking brave.

While adjusting my cap and goggles, the goggle strap broke. This was ten minutes before the start of the race. I looked up and saw some, "I'm glad it's not me" facial expressions. Superman looked worried for me. Somehow I managed to calm my shaking hands and get the little piece of plastic through the hole in order to tie it back together and tie it in a knot. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

I was near the end of the line out the door, but not really by choice. I picked a seat near the middle of the boat, and didn't know which doors we would be jumping from. Jumping from the boat is the biggest fear I hear from most people about this swim. But, honestly, by the time you get out the door, and see the ten foot drop, there isn't much time to think about it. The only thing I thought before making that leap was, "Wait until the person in front of you swims away so you don't jump on top of them." Then, it was just a matter of - GO!

I jumped with my legs apart and arms at my side as they suggested; no pencil dives into the Bay, and they only want the pros to dive. Fair enough. As my body fell into the deep, cold Bay water I thought, "Holy shit! I'm in the middle of the San Francisco Bay! This is so awesome!" As I came up, my goal was to find the Fontana Towers and swim towards them. They were relatively easy to spot, until the currents picked up.

About five minutes into the swim, I had a bit of a panic. The currents seemed to be coming from both sides, and I was swallowing water. If the currents would have stayed like this for the duration of the race, I would have had a hard time, but they seemed to only kick up three or four times during the swim. Each time I was able to deal with them better. I convinced myself that, if I didn't get a breath this time, that I would get one the next. Bilateral breathing is so important.

Luckily during the difficult portions, I remembered that there were safety boats who were watching me above the waves. I saw kayaks and paddle boards out there, as well as one water craft who decided to make a wake right in front of me - he better have been rescuing someone (!). Glad that someone was not me.

There is a lot of room to spread out in the Bay, so I often didn't see any other swimmers for a minute or so, but would look up and see a sea of colorful caps ahead of me, or another sea of black arms coming from behind. I didn't feel the mass-start panic that usually happens at the beginning of a race - no kicking or elbowing - which was much easier to deal with. My biggest panic situation has happened in a pack of people; it had nothing to do with water temperature, or sharks. It's people. Swimming is the one time when I'm an introvert!

I thought about sharks one time, but read that they stay on the bottom of the Bay, so I wasn't worried about sea life at all. The other thing I tend to think about sometimes when swimming is dead bodies.Yeah, I said it.

As Fontana Towers drifted out of view, my focus was on Fort Mason, which juts out slightly into the Bay and is easy to spot. My goal was to sight EXACTLY where the race directors told us to sight. Often when you think you might be headed, isn't where you are going. This is a good website with all of the things you might sight on when swimming from Alcatraz. For this swim, 1.) Fontana Towers, 2.) Trees at Fort Mason, 3.) Fort Mason, 4.) Palace of Fine Arts, 5.) Beach/Finish Shoot.

When I finally spotted the Palace of Fine Arts, the only thing left to do was sight the finishing shoot, but I would need to get closer to the shore. The currents, and my leading right arm made it difficult to go left. But, I didn't want to swim too far, and be pushed out to Crissy Field! This is where the currents seemed to give me a push because the Palace of Fine Arts seemed to come so close within a few minutes that I didn't realize it looming right in front of me, as was the finishing shoot.

I did end up swimming beyond the finishing shoot, and had to fight some current to get back to the right place. Good news was, I didn't drift into an entirely different area, and was still within the parameters of the beach.

For the first time in history, I am smiling in all of my finisher photos out of the water. They are still too hideous to post here.

Like many things in triathlon, this swim completely changed my perspective on a lot of things:

1.) If I can start swimming at 31 years old, anyone can. God, I hope I don't sound like an infomercial. But, I'm not amazing. I'm certainly not an amazing swimmer (you can say that again).
2.) You really have to want to do it, and then take the steps necessary to make the literal jump so it becomes a reality. If you don't have the desire to get up at 5:00 AM and swim in the cold Bay, it's no big deal.
3.) Not only did I want to swim from Alcatraz this year, I needed to - perhaps on a more spiritual level. I no longer have an excuse not to push the limits and try something difficult. After this, every swim should seem easier, right?
4.) I wouldn't be who I am without supportive friends. I have a group of people who believe in me, and it motivates me a lot. I'm not very good at swimming, but it has come to my attention that I am extremely good at surrounding myself with supportive people. (Maybe some trial and error has been involved.) Thank you, friends. Old, and very new. Even the nervous girl. You are my rock.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Gym review: Courtside

I've done multiple, extensive searches for the perfect gym over the years:

Golds (check)
Bally's (check)
24-Hour Fitness (check)
Club One (check)
Equinox (check)
JCC (check)
Gym at work (check)
That gym that used to exist in Los Gatos but doesn't anymore (check)

I kept finding myself back at Club One because it seemed to have the best facilities for the price: great classes, and a decent pool. Unfortunately, Club One isn't around much anymore either and there are no locations in my new hood. And I'm definitely not going back to one of these:

Gold's Gym Review
B is for Bally's

When it comes to gym memberships, I'm as fickle as it gets. I've been to just about every gym in the South Bay, and now, you guessed it - I am without gym membership. I recently dropped my membership to the Bay Clubs because I moved, and there isn't a location close enough to my house. A Bay Club membership is also expensive, and I'm finding myself outdoors more and more these days. So, I'm going to buy a TRX and go without an official gym for awhile.You will see me pulling my own body weight all over the city of Sunnyvale. :)

Honestly, though I'm not sad about never going back to Bay Club Courtside (Los Gatos location) again.

Upon mentioning that I was once a member at Club One, the guy at the desk at Bay Club Courtside was like, "This must be so much of an upgrade then, huh?"

I was like, "No asshole, it isn't. I pay more money to work out with mean old people, get killed by people dropping weights, and to use equipment from my college days. Just the fact that you would claim it was better makes you an arrogant prick. Have a nice day."

I didn't say that. But, I really wanted to.

The pool at Bay Club Courtside is lovely and there is always a lane open. They do an excellent job of keeping the kids in the kid pool and the adults who want to work out in the workout pool. Also, the pool is the perfect temperature for long swims - in the 70's, not the 80's.

In the summer, though, the pool is a huge show and tell. Golden bikinis, cougars, and cocktails. Not really my scene.

I also participated in a few spin classes this winter. Both instructors are actual cyclists: road and cyclocross. They both had impressive stories about their own cycling adventures, and put together a kick-butt workout.

Unfortunately pool lanes and spin classes are not enough to make Bay Club Courtside worth the money.

They have a big stretching room area, which is really great. Everyone is quiet and they have some relaxing music pumped in. Except . . .

When you go into the stretching room, there are balls and foam rollers in every corner of the room - except the area where they are supposed to be. No one puts their shit away! I went on a mission to find an eight pound medicine ball, and couldn't find one in either of their three workout areas.  The "Please return Equipment" signs are not working. At other gyms, the trainers will go around and pick up equipment and put it back when they between clients. So, if your members are lazy assholes, and your trainers won't help either - then finding equipment is nearly impossible.

Bay Club Courtside has THREE weight areas: one with circuit weights, one with pulley weights, and one that has a haphazard mixture of both. There are a couple stands with medicine balls, kettle balls, straps, and bungees, but a complete set is nary to be found. The gym seems to be more weight focused, which is a little 2001. People do all kinds of non-weighted activities now using their own body weight. It's pretty important to get with the times. They do have a couple of TRXs available, but you have to hook them to a pole in the middle of the weight room, or to a weight station. The people who want to use the weights don't like that. And I don't want to be in anyone's way, especially when they are carrying around barbells. Also, have you heard of ViPR? I didn't think so.

There have been numerous fights in the women's locker room about cell phone usage. Not kidding, a couple became screaming matches. Yes, it is annoying when someone gets on their cell phone and has a conversation while you are changing your clothes. But, politely telling them that using their phone is not allowed, and asking them to step into the hall is quite enough. Continuing to yell at them and going off on them in a verbal diatribe just leads to a defensive strike. Also, now that you are both yelling at each other about how awful a human being each of you are - it is even more annoying than the original one-sided phone conversation. Shut it.

I was flipped off in the parking lot. Parking can get tough, but there is no reason to flip someone the bird just because their luck was better than yours. No, lady. You weren't even close to the parking spot when I put my blinker on. And the fact that you are over 60 doesn't bother me either. Get a grip.

The "kids" who work in the cafe have been taught no work ethic. I stood for a good minute in front of the cashier while they changed the register tape, and I didn't get so much as a, "Be right with you." For the money you spend on a sandwich, the people who work in the cafe should have a little hustle and have some inkling about customer service. I know they probably think they should be working in daddy's law office, but they are not. So, give me a salad with a smile, and put the dressing on the side.

I hope the Bay Club turns this place around now that they are in full ownership of it. It's too down-home Los Gatos, which is a bunch of people trying to be something they aren't. Clearly they are putting more time into their hair than into their workouts. It seems to be more of a social place than a place to improve your physical fitness. It's high end, but when you get down to it, there really needs to be a lot of massive improvements made in their equipment, space, and generally their attitudes.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Transitions: Turning over

People transition differently. But we all have to do it.
Triathletes spend the least amount of time training for transitions, but when you think about it, the transition area is a symbolic place where we actually spend a lot of time agonizing over our race. We spend so much time worrying about how to transition - what to wear, what to eat, when to apply sunscreen? Will be get out of our wet suit without a calf cramp? Will my neighbor have racked their bike too close? When do I mount my bike? How fast can I lace my running shoes?

Typically, when you leave the transition area to start the swim, your area is perfectly set up with everything in place that you could need for the day. But, when you actually go through the transition - it's a total cluster f@#$ mess. Your legs have been swimming/biking for so long that you can barely run, you are trying to remember where to go, and there are other people running all over the place - everyone is trying to get out of there as quickly as possible. It's easy to leave important items behind, or go through the "Run out" shoot still wearing a bike helmet.

Another difficult part of the transition is what I like to call the 'turn over'. Although you are physically out of the transition area, you are now asking your body to become accustomed to doing another activity. It's a strange feeling, and no matter how good of a cyclist or runner you think you are, riding in wet clothes, and pounding the pavement after being on a bike just feels strange. Sometimes it can be a little painful. I've definitely almost fallen over while mounting my bike, or had numb toes for the first few miles of a run. It doesn't feel good. I like to do brick workouts in order to be prepared for the uncomfortable sensation of switching events, but the strangeness never quite goes away completely. It takes a couple of miles before I feel adjusted to the new movements in my body.

Life transitions are harder because you aren't well trained for them. Moreover, it's possible you didn't even sign up for this shit. Or, if you are lucky, you believe this transition will lead to better things. Sometimes it takes months or even years to even get into a transition. But, eventually you know, you can't swim forever - you've got to get out - especially when there are sharks in the water. It doesn't matter how right, or impactful the decision might be: it's still chaotic and painful. Like your transition area - it was fine when you left it, and now you can't find anything, or you can't decide what to take and what to leave behind.

Even after you make the change, part of you still longs to be back where you were, doing what you were once comfortable doing. Like turning over in an event, there is the part of the transition where you think you are doing okay, and everything feels pretty good. Suddenly, you get a cramp or a side stitch and you feel like you can't go any further. You tend to talk negatively to yourself, but the thought of giving up is not an option - you must keep going. Usually you reach out for something to console you - food, or a friend.

The other issue with life transitions is other people. In individual sports, you only worry about yourself in relationship to your competitors. In life, every decision you make in transition can affect others as much as it affects you.

But the fact remains, you have to move on. The race is not over.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wildest Race Report Ever: Wildflower Long Course

My secret cheering squad showed up on the wrong day. They didn't know I was racing the long course this year. Oh well, it was nice that they thought about me. (Just kidding, they were cheering for another SB.)
Despite changes to 2014 Wildflower Triathlon course due to the drought, I thought the year of the swim, run, bike, run was well organized. Kudos to Tri California for executing the alternate course. I worked at a college for seven years and I know how difficult it is to get 18-21 year-old people (volunteers) to give you clear directions. But, the students from Cal Poly seemed to know what was going on, even if they were slightly hung over. Mucho appreciado.

If you are a triathlete and you did not know there were course changes at Wildflower this year due to drought conditions, then you are clearly living in a hole. But, if you are a triathlete who raced Wildflower, and found out about the course changes while setting up your transition area on Friday. Wow. Just wow. Clearly these are the people who are angry when TSA makes them throw out their gigantic shampoo bottles from their carry-on bags at the airport. Haven't we been carrying around three ounce bottles for at least ten years now? Granted, the T1A, T1B transition change did make my mind spin a bit. But, I knew there would be two sets of gear, two sets of running shoes, and had mentally prepared myself for a very long transition from swim to bike.

No one really wants to hear what time I got up or what I ate. But, the transition area closed at 8:00 AM, and my wave didn't start until 9:25 AM, so I had to get up early and eat two breakfasts.

SWIM - 1.2 miles
The swim at Harris Creek was reminiscent of the regular Wildflower swim, but because the water was so low, it started literally on the edge of the boat ramp in a vat of mud sludge. Heading out on the swim, the water was black and so thick that you could not see the bubbles of the person swimming in front of you. About 100 yards out, it cleared up and was the typical brown, tolerable water of Lake San Antonio.

During the swim I had some sighting issues, and a boat had to yell at me to get back on course again. My right side is definitely stronger, but unfortunately it cause me to pull right. I wasn't going for a fast swim time, nor did I get one. It wasn't my absolute worst swim ever, but I could have saved myself three minutes with a few more sightings. All I could think was - "Keep your head down, and go!"

RUN - 2.2 miles
Everyone left the water with a muddy dirt beard. Luckily a nice woman out of the swim transition area yelled, "Oh, honey, you have a beard, wipe your face!" God bless that woman.

The run out of T1A was actually great. I kept up about a 8:30/45 pace, which I knew I wouldn't be able to maintain for much of the regular run. There was some sand that caused a slow down, and a hill back up to the bike transition area, but generally, I was feeling good.

BIKE - 56 miles
The bike ride was amazing. My goal was to be comfortable in the saddle, but as consistent as possible without putting too much burn on the legs to save myself for the run. I also wanted to eat more, and was able to wolf down two Clif Bars and a gel during the ride. Over Wildflower training weekend, I completed the course in about four hours. Because I typically race better than I train, I figured it would take me anywhere between 3:45 and 3:15. My total time was just under 3:30.

I've never yelled "On your left!" so much on a bike ride in my life. Mostly, I blame my slow swim time, but also - MOVE OVER, PEOPLE!! I crossed the center line at least four times in the first 25 miles of the ride which is illegal, and actually pretty dangerous. But, it was either that, or putting on the breaks, so I took a chance. Luckily everyone was safe, and I didn't receive a penalty.

My left hip and calf were really tight for the first part of the ride, but at mile 30 I was on fire. I got to the bumpy but flat section of the course, and my chain jumped. I lost about a minute to catch my breath and get the chain back on, but no mechanical issues for the rest of the course.

At the beginning of Nasty Grade, there is a sign that reads, "All Vehicles Must Be Inspected for Mussels." Because I am a nerd, I had to make a joke about, "Show me your muscles!" Fortunately, a fellow cyclist obliged by giving me his best muscle pose. The worst sections of the bike course, in my opinion, do not include Nasty Grade at all. The first 20 miles seem to take for-freakin-ever especially because of the slow climb up Beach Hill. (I'm sorry for the Olympic competitors who had to run up that thing. Woah.) But, the absolute worst part is the series of bumps after Nasty Grade. I knew there was still a chunk of the ride to be had with 16 miles left.

I felt amazing going down Lynch Hill and into the BIKE IN chute. So happy to had nailed that ride and still feel good. I could have ended the day right there, but figured I should stick out the impending horror run. Everyone else was doing it.

RUN - 10.9 miles
There are plenty of hills on the run that I would have typically run, but I didn't want to bonk. I knew before the race that I would not attempt to run the steepest hills, because it would waste energy. A few people tried to maintain a gait up those hills, and they quickly started to fall behind. Instead of thinking of them as "hills" I actually thought of them as "walking opportunities." Unfortunately I may have made a few easier grades walking opportunities as well, and I should have pushed through. But, my goal was to complete the race.

A woman I met in transition that morning started off really strong in the run and took me over in the first three miles. I could see her ahead most of the time, which motivated me to keep going. She was walking a bit too, as was everyone else, but it allowed me someone in the distance to pace.

I only saw one naked person on the run course. Unacceptable! He was WAY up on top of a hill and mostly out of sight. So much for the naked aid station - everyone at the aid stations were fully clothed. But, when a fully clothed person gave me ice on the course, I started to feel a hell of a lot better. I savored every bite of that cold-water goodness, except for the pieces I threw into my sports bra. I wanted more, so I took some pieces out of my sports bra and ate them. Salty and delicious. Are you gagging now?

The flat part on the course that I was so looking forward to did not disappoint. I heard my name yelled from my friends watching from their camp sites. It's amazing how much a few humans who know your name can make all of the difference. The end was near.

I knew a 6:30 finishing time was slipping away in the last three miles of the run, but all I could think about was the run down Lynch. I saw the woman I had been following while going to Lynch and decided to take the last negative incline as an opportunity to catch her. I hammered down Lynch, and finished one step ahead in BOR fashion (Beat One Runner). We followed our victorious race-end with a big sweaty hug. At that moment, really no one but you and the people on the course understand what you've gone through for the past six+ hours.

It's been a tough winter for me, both physically and emotionally. Lots of ups and downs: a knee injury, a couple of minor DNF (did not finish) races, re-learning a swim stroke, paired with a half marathon personal record, and lots of glorious hill rides.

Wildflower was as good/bad as I expected. There are things that could have gone a lot better, but I am in no way disappointed. There is still the rest of the season to be had!

Wildflower, I will finish you - again.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wildflower - Here it comes!

Wildflower Olympic 2013 was not my best race. This year, I'm upping the ante with the long course. But, mostly, I just want to finish. (Photo credit: Awesome stranger who took this photo.)
Long before the world of Ironman 70.3, there was Wildflower. I read this article after completing the Olympic course last year, and it really inspired me to try the long course in 2014. Before Ironman dominated the long course triathlon scene, Wildflower, or 'The Woodstock of Triathlons,' kind of ruled. Now Vineman 70.3 will sell out in 5 minutes, but Wildflower always has plenty of entries available.

But, that's a gripe for a later post...

Someone told me recently, that even after doing the course multiple times, they've never done Wildflower the 'right' way. Each and every time, something is always off. Then, this video was recently released. "If you can do a half here (Wildflower), then you can do a full Ironman." Really, I kind of hope that is not true. I have not done enough training for a full Ironman.

This year, there is a new and exciting twist on the Wildflower course: Due to low water levels at Lake San Antonio, the swim has been moved two miles to Harris Creek. Now the only way to get to the transition area is to run 2.2 miles back to the first transition. Due to the longest transition in history, they took 2.2 miles off of the run course. Seems fair.

I've decided to go into this event with the "Anything Goes" mindset. It's going to be a long, glorious day. Did I mention 'long?" Seriously, if I think about time, it will ruin me. I must think about finishing.

A few weeks ago, a group from Silicon Valley Tri Club ventured down to Lake San Antonio for a course preview weekend. I was fairly certain I was going to switch my registration to the Olympic course because I didn't feel confident with winter training. After the preview weekend, I was sold - I think I can do this.

Here are some observations I had about the course:

1.) The swim will be a swim. I hope to stay as comfortable as possible and not doubt myself. I didn't do all of those winter swims for nothing!

2.) I need to eat more - in general. Eat when not hungry.

3.) It's going to be hotter than blazes again. Must drink water - multiple sips. Don't guzzle. Sip. A lot.

4.) The 2.2 mile run after the swim could be great. My legs will be fresh, it will be a warm up for the bike, and I'll be happy not to be in the water anymore. So I don't kill my bike ride, I plan to run at an easier pace - faster than my 70.3 run pace, but not a 5k/10k pace either.

5.) On the bike - stay in aero bars as much as possible.

6.) There is a really bumpy part on the bike course. Best to inflate tired slightly lower than the max in order to save my lady bits. I've already replaced my old tires with something more durable, but race-worthy.

7.) Nasty Grade, aka the major bike climb at mile 42, isn't so bad. The worst part of the bike are the climbs AFTER Nasty Grade, when you think you are almost there . . . but you are not . . quite . .  there. . .

8.) The run course is mostly a trail half marathon course. It's going to take me 4 miles for my shins to warm up anyway, so it would follow that the first 4 miles of the run course are the worst. I am prepared to walk, as needed. There is a nice flat section in the middle where I can enjoy the day. I look forward to that.

9.) I want to see naked and drunk people. Last year I didn't see much on the Olympic course. I think they must have partied on the day of the Long Course and stayed in their tents for the Olympic course. Well this year, they had better be fresh. AND since my female 30-39 wave starts late - they had better hold out for the end. I'm ready to have a laugh mid-course, so don't hold back, naked people!

10.) I look forward to the SVTC camp site and aid station. I don't think I'll eat bacon if it is offered to me, but who knows. What sounds disgusting to me now, might look really good at the end of a run.

Due to my current physical shape, the timing (early in the season), and the course. Wildflower will be my toughest challenge yet. I'm ready for anything. Ready to report for duty. Over and out. (I'm going to be out of cell phone range this weekend.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Being dropped

My riding partner for the Solvang Metric Century ride. Deirdre is a lot faster than me, but she decided to have an 'easy day' of cross-fitness for her Boston Marathon training . She agreed not to drop me, but man, I still had to work for it.

  1. 1.
    let or make (some one) fall behind
    "The other cyclists were too fast for Susie, and they dropped her."

  2. 2.
    fall behind.
    "I looked over to enjoy the view, and couldn't catch up. I totally got dropped!"

As a newer cyclist, I've been dropped plenty. Here's the scenario:

You meet up with a group of cyclists for a ride. You think, "This ride will be exiting, fun, hard-core, and there will be some lovely scenery along the way." 

Everyone is chatting before the ride, and so friendly. "This is going to be an awesome day!" 

As you start out on the road, the group generally stays together . .  But, in no time, you are panting to keep up, your front wheel inches further and further from the person in front of you. Maybe you hold back and intend to catch up later, or maybe you stop for a second to check your back tire pressure. . .

and like that . . . they are gone. Every last one of them. You have been dropped.

I went on a club ride last summer from Almaden Park to Morgan Hill that I thought would be a good challenge. Little did I know, that the ride also attracted people who were toward the middle of their Ironman training. The ride started out great, and everything was going fine, until I found myself at the back of the line. And wouldn't you know it - somehow I got off of the back tire, and the other cyclists flew ahead of me like magical unicorns. Suddenly I'm overcome with emotions: I'm a loser, I'm lonely, I hope I know where I'm going etc. Other cyclists spent some time at rest stops along the route. But, I decided the only way to get through this ride was to go through the stops, and just let the group catch up to me again. The ride was personally successful: I got in the miles I needed, I rode with people most of the time, no one had to wait for me, and I only got lost once!

In order to deal with being dropped, I've learned a few things:
1.) Safety: Have the right gear, take a phone, take an ID, and have enough food.
2.) Course: Know the route, and expect to take some detours.
3.) Know yourself: Don't set up for failure, or underestimate abilities either.
4.) Don't blame others: If they are on a different level, that's fine. Do what you can.
5.) Practice: Just keep getting out there, and you'll get better!

After a few years of riding, you typically learn who your best cycling buddies are: who you can keep up with or vice versa, who wants to do the same number of miles, who wants to try the same climbs, etc. But once in awhile a friend takes a confident turn, or takes the steps necessary to improve spectacularly, and unfortunately they are no longer there to wait for you.

And sometimes, this friend is YOU.

I've been dropped numerous times, but I've also dropped some people. Truth be told.

I'm not a mean-spirited person, and I don't intentionally drop people, but I've been out on a stretch of road, comfortable in my saddle, looked back and saw no one. This is a feeling of "Woah, I'm awesome!" paired with "Woah, did I miss a turn?"

In many ways I feel justified in going ahead. Why shouldn't I go at my own pace? I've put a lot of effort into this, and maybe I don't want to have to wait all the time, or have to turn around. But on the other hand I'm not sure if I did something wrong, and it's quite lonely out on the road by yourself.

Clearly being dropped is a proverb for real life too.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why I won't wear a tutu.

Frills are great for bridal fashion shows when you are 5. Not so great for racing.
SELF Magazine definitely picked on the wrong person for their article, and should not have picked on someone who was making tutus to raise money for cancer charities. That's not cool. But, I agree - the tutu thing is kind of old. That was too kind - The tutu thing is VERY old.

Sorry all you princesses out there. Here are the Top 10 Reasons I won't wear a tutu. (Yes, there are more reasons.)

#1. I don't want to chaff.
#2. It's, um, like so 3 years ago. Um kaaay?
#3. I am not crafty enough to make a tutu. Fabric stores give me the heebie jeebies.
#4. Tuts are for ballerinas. Use the proper equipment for the proper sport. Wouldn't you be like "WTF!" if you saw a ballerina dancing in running shoes?
#5.  They are not wind resistant.
#6. It would take too much time in a transition, and I'm certainly not wearing one while swimming.
#7. Tutus take up too much space in the corral area. We are already wedged in there! Not to mention, it makes me have to run further to get around you.
#8. I believe we need less tutus and more Hawaiian grandmothers at events. Those tutus are really cool.
#9. When I'm racing, I don't want people to see me as a girl. I want them to see me as a female athlete.
#10. I don't need to feel pretty when I run. I want to feel powerful and strong. I'd be better off wearing body armor, but on second thought.. ouch (see #1)

Go ahead and hate. I deserve it. But remember, I'm not hating on cancer survivors, just tutus.  I also raised money for Vineman Cancer Charities last year.

We all have our own way. :)

Suddenly Susan

I said I would cover disappointments in my blog too. So here goes.

Susan is my alter ego, and unlike the Oatmeal's  Blerch, she is not 'the wall' but a bunch of pain and self-loathing. I've had The Blerch. The Blerch tells you when you are tired. It tells you that you don't have any energy left, and should eat snacks! That's probably because you are actually low on blood sugar and you need a cookie. The Blerch is that feeling your body gets when it's heavy, and you feel like you can't move another step. Susan, on the other hand, causes me physical and mental pain. She tells me I'm a piece of crap, and questions why I try at all. Instead of suggesting a cookie, she makes you feel bad for all of the cookies you ate, and calls you an unworthy pig.

According the his creator, the Blerch is a "wretched, lazy beast." (He's kind of cute.)
Susan looks more like this. She is a spiteful B, actively trying to kill me.

By the way, I don't even really eat a lot of snacks. F-it. Maybe I'll start.

I came into triathlon as a runner. Although I found a love for biking, and a non-hate of swimming, the run is still my 'A' part of the race, and where I feel the most comfortable. If I don't feel good on the run, I'm inclined not to do triathlon at all.

I decided to do Wildflower Long Course this year to show the course who's boss! Wildflower 2013 was not my best event. Susan swam with me in some choppy waters, and with the combination of a rented wet suit that was too tight, I hated myself for the entire race. But, at least I still had my legs on the run. This year I wanted to come back, stronger than ever, and conquer that course. This winter I've been able to climb the tallest mountain (ok, not really, but I got up Old La Honda and was pretty stoked), and swam the deepest swimming pool. . .

Swimming: I finally got some stroke coaching through Total Immersion, which is helping me swim more effortlessly. Thanks to Coach Mandy, and Coach Stuart! I've been swimming more slowly in order to get the technique, but feel confident that it will help me be faster and prevent injury in the long haul.

Biking: This winter's pedaling issue has been resolved with some more stretching and rolling. Although it made me back off of my first century bike ride, I had a great metric century ride in Solvang. The day after, I was able to hit the countryside for a decent 10 mile run. The weekend was a good test of my fitness - not quite where I was six weeks before Barb's race last summer, but very good considering the winter and an injury.

Running: A PR at the Kaiser Half Marathon was a surprise start to the season, and I've challenged myself to up the ante at shorter races. I'm finally in the sub-8:00 mode of my running career, where 7:59 feels amazing compared to 8:15, and I'd like to keep it that way. This year was looking pretty stellar.

But, during the March Triathlon Series last Sunday, my run suffered. Then instead of getting tough, Susan decided to run - rather walk - with me. I've never had to walk before. The swim was cold, and my feet were pretty frozen after the bike leg. When I put on my running shoes, it felt like running on peg legs but my endurance felt great, and the pace was good out of the shoot. One mile later, the feeling came back in my toes, as well as a sharp pain in my shins = worst shin splints ever. Yowza! Then my calves started to cramp. For the first time, I hated running. Really hated it.

Now I need to take a step back and think about what to do next. I'm not feeling great about running right now, and I refuse to run that hilly-ass Wildflower course with Susan. She is a B, and needs to be off-loaded. So how do I get rid of her?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hellyer 10K: Why the hell not?

If you have never done a race put on by Brazen Racing, you are truly missing out. I typically do a few of their trail races in the winter, but skipped out this year so I could put some extra miles on the bike.  Brazen has some fabulous trail runs that are well thought out, challenging, and well organized. Plus, I can't get enough of trail runner fashion. A beanie with tiny shorts, tiny tank and arm warmers? Sign me up!

 If you are a runner who needs some extra hills while training for a road race, or if you just want to do something new, check out the elevation profiles for some of these races. Some of the Brazen courses are really challenging. I've done the Summit Rock 10k and Half Marathon, and it is 2,500 feet of climbing - just enough for this speed junkie. Lake Chabot is also a rad course for a New Year's Eve run, and if you aren't tired yet, you can do the New Year's Day run, which is the same course in the opposite direction.

On the flip, some of Brazen's courses are no more challenging than a road race, but they are out in nature, so you get a wonderful scenery change. If you are tired of running through San Jose (we locals have now done it a million times), you can run through Quarry Lakes, or Sanborn Park, or Hellyer Park.

For those of you who won't run without the guarantee of a t-shirt or medal, their schwag is pretty nice too. The t-shirts usually have a simple design with a cute but determined woodland creature on the front, and they fit nicely. For the Hellyer run, it's a white rabbit. For the Coyote Creek run, it's a Coyote. Badger Cove has a badger, and you get the point. For additional medals, they do quite a few multi-race challenges throughout the year,  like the New Year's Eve/New Year's Day combo. Or you can sign up to be a legendary 'streaker' by doing all of their events (or volunteering) in a year. Brazen does an excellent job of awarding those who come out and support them. It's a great little community.

Brazen has really good post-race food: hot chocolate, coffee, tea, and forget bagels... they have pretzels, candy and apple pie! What, what? For those who don't feel their race deserves dessert, they also have bananas, oranges, and those bagels too.

A couple of friends were doing the Hellyer 10k and half marathon, so I registered late. Why not? It's been a long time since I've raced a 10k, so I figured this would be a good measure of my 10k fitness. My goal this year is to improve my short course / Olympic distance overall, so speed is important. Unfortunately I wasn't feeling the 7:35 pace on this rainy morning, so I decided about 2 miles in to back off, listen to my body and try to run as comfortably as possible. This is a flatter course, so there were no huge obstacles besides the rain and the mini-reservoir we had to run through at miles 2.5 and 5. Yep, we were drenched. But, we were all drenched together.

My insane marathon-training friends got up earlier, and ran 5 miles before the half marathon race. My friends are absolute beasts! I should probably take a queue for my next marathon, and do something similar so those dreaded 18-20 mile runs don't seem so terrible.

Anyhoo, I did fine. My pace was around 7:52, I was the 10th woman overall, and the 2nd in my age group. It's fun to do a local race and get an age group title. It feels pretty awesome after coming in 8,487th place at the Chicago marathon.

This weekend, I'm doing another local race - Go Green half marathon. I've promised myself not to race this one, but just enjoy it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why I don't use Strava

My apologies to the 16 of you who follow me on Strava.
Sure, everyone stalks each other on social media. Guilty! Studies have shown that Facebook causes people to be dissatisfied with their lives because we constantly compare ourselves to others, and we forget to live our own, personal existence. I find myself somewhat jealous of other people's vacations, pets, and that they have time to run in the middle of the day when I'm stuck at work. Maybe people feel the same way about me.

I do use Facebook and this blog to keep myself 'honest' about what I'm doing with my time. I like to get feedback about my activities, what I could be doing better, and am glad to start a conversation even if it turns into a disagreement. But, I'm not telling you about every aspect of my training, or my life, for that matter. My Facebook content is censored. Are you shocked? You really shouldn't be.

You  might have heard about my hatred for sites like Pinterest (and magazines, and Hollywood, for that matter). The only thing Pinterest is useful for is understanding that people, for the most part, are clones. We all like the same things. Re-pinning something with 10,000 pins is not necessarily a good thing. Pinterest is also a virtual world of what we could have, instead of what we really are. Most of the hairstyles on there don't work, and so much of the other stuff looks like it came from a catalog. It's a fantasy. It's a lot like #photostockgirl. She is a model for what we all want to be, but she isn't you. You are just fine the way you are. So am I.

Recently, I ran into someone who had asked if I have been riding my bike. I explained that I have been riding my bike - quite a bit actually. To which she said,  "Oh I just haven't seen you on Strava."

"I don't use Strava."

Strava is an app that records rides and runs like a GPS device. It collects pace, miles per hour, route, distance, and elevation. On top of that, it's also a social media app that allows the athlete to share this information with other users. People can "follow" you, or you can "follow" them like a Twitter or any other social media account. When one logs into their Strava feed, they can compare a workout to others in the Strava social network. They can also see who was on the same ride, and users can leave comments for each other. The course is broken into segments, and the app records each users best time on each segment and applies a personal record when a faster time is recorded. Also, users can compare themselves to all other users on each segment. That's where the competition comes in: the fastest athlete on the segment is named "King of the Hill."

If you use your Garmin once a year, and improve dramatically over that year - you will break a lot of personal records. Note: x 56!
There is this overwhelming peer pressure in the cycling and triathlon community to put everything on Strava. True, I do use Facebook and my blog to make myself accountable to others, but the stuff I don't feel like sharing, doesn't get shared. Strava shares just about everything (at least about riding and running). If Facebook and Pinterest make people feel dissatisfied with life - well, Strava puts it into numbers - which seems to be even worse. Who can I be the best I can be when I'm trying to beat so-and-so's time on such-and-such segment?

I already mentally beat myself up enough already.

I have a Garmin, which I prefer to use over any smart phone app. It's mostly for safety. I want the device right in front of me where I can see it, or have it safely secured to my wrist. Also, I don't want an app to run down my iPhone battery. We know how little time we have without charging these days. I don't want to track an epic bike ride, and not have the ability to call someone for help or look for directions. Yes, I tend to get lost. I track my workouts with my Garmin so I can log into my account and look up my past riding, running, (and now!) swimming history. There are still pieces of the Garmin that I haven't used to their full potential - a la the heart rate monitor. Baby steps.

It's great to see improvement, but I don't need to see what everyone else is doing or compare myself to others. When you use Strava, there is no getting around it unless you set up a private profile. But, Strava is definitely meant to be a social app, not private. You may have asked to follow me on Strava, and I'm certainly not going to reject you. I've also seen some of the awesome rides and runs that you have done, and I DO think you are really awesome. But using it on the daily would not make me feel good about my own goals, and my own efforts. Every time I see another athlete's epic workout on Strava I think to myself, "I could do that."

Or worse, "I'll never amount to anything."

If I start training for someone else, then I will surely be doomed. So, I move forward. Watching my own progress, and training to the best of my abilities. . . Strava-free.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Breakthrough and Mogwai: Kaiser Half Marathon Race Report

Having a breakthrough is like finding a mogwai. With great speed, comes great responsibility.
It was a stormy night, and I was in China Town buying presents for the family when I came across this strange shop where I bought a mogwai for my son Billy. Oh. Wait. Slightly different story...

It was a stormy morning along the Great Highway of San Francisco when my running buddies and I arrived for the Kaiser Half Marathon. Despite a temperamental quad/knee issue, I had signed up for the race, and didn't want to miss out. After all, it doesn't hurt to run! The strange Chinese man with one blue eye told me that I should be aware, go slow, and stop as needed. (Ok, the strange Chinese man thing didn't happen.) My goal for this half marathon was to use it as a training run, enjoy the Chi, and put one foot in front of the other. No pressure.

My running friends, one from England and the other from Ireland, made me hold my proverbial California tongue about running in the rain and cold. After the drought we've been having in California, the rain was a good thing, except I may have been slightly under dressed. Only one of us (not me) came prepared with a garbage bag. A garbage bag is this awesome invention that is meant for carrying garbage, but actually makes a handy throw-away jacket for the rain and cold. Make a hole for your head in the top, and you have a some schnazzy outerwear. Luckily, volunteers were handing our bags out in the bus shuttle line.We also figured out that a swim cap is an excellent rain repellent for an iPhone. These inventions should really be re-branded.

I have digressed.

There were thousands of runners out there in Golden Gate Park, set to run this early season half marathon. Good crowd. I seated myself at the front of the eight-minute mile pack, expecting that everyone would pass me in the first few miles, and I was mentally prepared for that. After a gospel rendition of the National Anthem, we were off! Mile one was good, at mile two I ditched my garbage rain coat, at mile three I got a little cramped, and by mile four I was moving along just fine.

Blah blah, moving on. I had an awesome race. Every mile except mile three was below an eight-minute per mile pace. I have been hovering around 8:02 and 8:09 for years. Granted, the course had a lot of downhill, but when I reached the halfway mark, feeling feisty, I knew I could set a personal record if I could just keep up the pace. Running along the Great Highway was flat, but runners also caught a headwind, which was mostly to our backs in the other direction.

I saw my entire track workout pace group from the turn around (around mile 10) until the finish. It made me proud to know that I hang with the right people at track workout once a week: Jimmy, Debbie, Matt, Gemma - we were all there within a minute or so of each other. Debbie, and two totally random girls picked up their pace for the last three miles, and I tried with all of my might to stay on their heals to the finish....

For a Personal Record! 1:43:52 (7:55 per mile pace)

Better yet, a PR in February, while I'm still losing holiday weight, and am injured. If this is any indication for how the rest of the season goes, I'm stoked. (Knocking on wood in fear of bad luck.) Honestly though, I got lucky. I was mentally prepared for anything, but broke rules that I wouldn't normally break on an important race day.

The rules I broke are similar to the rules of the mogwai:

1.) I'm not very "light" right now (holiday weight).
2.) I was wet (cold), didn't wear the proper gear.
3.) I ate pizza pre-race, after midnight.

Now, the pressure begins. I know I can maintain a sub-8 minute mile on a flatter course. But there is such a difference between 7:58 and 7:35. I'd like to get to that 7:35 pace and maintain it over 13 miles. Can I get there? And how?

I need to be more careful. With great speed, also comes great responsibility. Ability to improve is like the mogwai, and not caged up at a strange shop in China Town anymore. I need to give this new mogwai love, but also figure out how to live with it, and mostly, don't mess it up! I was forgiven this time, but I know the reality.

It's going to take a lot of careful training and foam rolling . . .or I will have to return the mogwai.

Injured Mogwai is prepared for battle.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

It's the Climb!

Remember that song by Hannah Montana? That is definitely how I felt about climbing 8,300 feet on my bike a couple of weekends back - until we reached the last epic hill. This is the story of how a Rock Star ride turned into a big, hot mess.

I was stoked, and maybe a little apprehensive to take on so many hills for a 70+ mile bike ride. But, I do like climbing in general! Everyone should feel the desire to climb: in life, in love, literally (on a bike). Upward is the way to go.

My cycling friends and I started out on the campus of UC Santa Cruz, and straight away, we were on Empire Grade. *Note anything with the words 'Grade' or 'Mountain' won't be a nice, flat road. Furthermore, any road with the words 'Creek' isn't going to be flat either, at least not in California. At least they could call it 'Waterfall' to give you a clue, but I suppose that name is too long for s a street sign. Empire Grade became Ice Cream Grade, which might be a 'cool' place, but it's just more climbing. Around this time, I noticed a very tired calf muscle. My calves are rather tight, but so far it hasn't deterred me from any exercise.

Our group stopped, ate something and we were off again. This was our first regroup after 1.5 hours and only 11 miles. All. Up. Hill.

We made it to the town of Boulder Creek, and safely made it out of some sketchy traffic, and even avoided a run-in with a large truck that didn't give us 3 feet (It's the law, people!), and a huge deer carcass in the bike lane. That was a close one!

There were some awesome descents too! I'm finally getting comfortable riding downhill as fast as a car.

For miles 25 through 55 I felt like a total rock star! I sprinted ahead a couple of times, I got out of my saddle and pushed up a couple short hills with all of my might. I was having the time of my life. God, it was a beautiful day! We saw breathtaking views of the Santa Cruz mountain (or valley, because we were ON the mountain), took some turns around a picturesque country Christmas Tree farm, and ended up at Big Basin State Park for a potty break, followed by another leisurely climb and some conversation.

I was completely doped up on endorphin! Man, that stuff is the shit!

There was a very comfortable assent through Big Basin State Park, but toward the top, I noticed my knee was not comfortable at all. I was having a hard time pushing down on the pedals without a sharp knee pain. It was the worst time for this to happen because we just reached Jamison Creek Road (the mega hill of the entire ride). "Here we go," one of my friends said as they started the climb. We had been aware of exactly when this climb was coming, and maybe only slightly aware of just how brutal it would be.

Because I'm such a 'Rock Star' I decided to start up the hill instead of heading back to town to wait for a ride back. I started walking, and felt fine, but each time I attempted to get back in the saddle, a sharp knee pain made me get off of my bike and start walking again. I got into the saddle a total of 3 times, and probably only getting about 100 feet each time. 1.5 miles of mostly walking up that hill, I decided I might as well walk the whole way. Who knows what that descent would be like. . .

Luckily, or unluckily, this road is not traveled much by cars. I missed three opportunities to ask someone in a truck for a ride. I thought about throwing my bike over the edge once. . .

So, I spent about 5.5 hours in the saddle that day, plus an additional 45 minutes walking uphill. In my cleats. Yowza!

Never did I imagine that I would injure myself on the bike. Everyone injures themselves running, right? Isn't running the devil? Maybe I have tight calves due to running, and it was just a gateway drug to biking.

Today I am going to rehab, i.e meeting with a Sports Therapist/Chiropractor today. It was just a matter of time, I suppose. I hope it's something that can be fixed, and I can help to prevent by not going overboard in the future. Otherwise, I'm going to have to go to real rehab and that will not be pretty, or cheap. But, like anyone with an addiction, it will probably be a life-long struggle.

The moral to the story is, don't take your legs out and think you are going to be Hannah Montana. It might work for awhile because you have impressive genes from your father, but there is a big difference between having some talents, and then knowing how to use them.

Don't become the Miley Cyrus of cycling.