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.