Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Recovery Week

I was scheduled for a 3rd week of Build (bike-focused) training before my next recovery week. But towards the end of the week, my aggressive workout schedule began to play it's toll. Maybe I was still recovering from the 13-mile, hilly trail run in 90-degree weather. Or the 109-mile ride up Mt. Hamilton, Mines Road loop in 100-degrees the following day. The 2-mile open-water swim? Doing weights, swimming, biking, and running in 1-day? Olympic bricks. Regardless, I had been nailing my workouts.

When I woke up hungry Friday morning, only rising to eat before falling back to bed, exhausted, I knew I needed an unscheduled day off. Something did not feel right with my body--pure exhaustion. I slept all day. Saturday, I went on a lackluster 16-mile run on flat trails. I took an ice bath and a nap, hydrated, ate well, and tried to recover after. I even stretched.

Sunday, we drove to the base of Mt. Hamilton. The plan was a 74-mile out-and-back up Mt. Hamilton to the Junction on Mines Road, and then back. The frontside, my style of climbing, was an 18-mile climb with an average of 3-4% grade. The backside of Mt. Hamilton is 6-7 miles with an average of 8-10% grade. The temperature was predicted to be between 96-100-degrees with the peak during the final climb up Hamilton.

As we set out, my spirits were high. I had done this ride, but longer the weekend before. I was sleepy, sure, but that was because we had awoken at 6 am. But I was sure the cobwebs would wear off after an 8-15 mile warm-up, as they always do. Eventually, I started feeling better and settled into climbing.

About mile 12-14, fatigue started to set in. I ate, drank, took a salt pill, slowed down and waited. The fatigue increased with the heat and by mile 15, doom crept in. This was not how I felt the previous weekend. My speed was half what it had been, as were my spirits. I began to absolutely dread the long haul out to the Junction on Mines Road. I knew climbing the backside of Hamilton would probably require walking. And a nap. A nap. Oh, a nap. The urge to pull off in the shade and lay down for 20 minutes, or an hour or two, became overwhelming. Getting to the top of Hamilton, usually challenging but confidence-building, was almost impossible this day.
Juneau recovering after one of our runs.

At the top, I raided the vending machines, downed a Coke, and sat in the air conditioned lobby of the Lick Observatory. I happily decided to go back to the car. Immediately, my spirits rose. There was no need to push myself on this day. I had nailed enough key workouts throughout the last 2 weeks that 1 climb up Hamilton would be enough.

As I descended 18-miles back to the car, I felt relaxed and relieved. I knew I had made the right decision. In addition, I knew I needed a recovery week. Previous experience shows that my body prefers 2 weeks on-1 week off, as opposed to the usually prescribed 3-to-1. Figuring out how to adjust training to meet the demands of your body is key. And I would adjust this week, instead of being a slave to the training plan.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

What a difference a month makes.

I have 8 weeks to go until Ironman Wisconsin. Training is intense but going well.

Garter snake from 13-mile Wunderlich run last weekend.

There are ups and downs, but overall, I feel strong and healthy. I've had some great key workouts, including the Rodeo Valley 30K Trail Run in the Marin Headlands at the end of June. I also nailed a 109-mile bike up Mt. Hamilton and back to Livermore on Mines Road last weekend in 100-degree heat. This was redemption for me since when I did it 1 month ago, I almost didn't finish. I felt like a different person the second time. Fast, powerful, and mentally tough. What a difference a month makes.



Pics from Marin Headlands Run:

















At the end of this week, exhaustion set in. Friday, all I wanted to do was sleep. I was scheduled for a swim, run, and weights. I ended up scratching all workouts (guiltily) and sleeping all day. I woke up only to eat. Instead of dwelling on it, I woke up this morning and resumed the workout on the docket for the day: 16 mile trail run. I chose the Crystal Springs Trail, since I had never done it before. I started in Edgewood Park. It was 80 degrees, sunny, and most of the trail was exposed, but not hot. I had plenty of fuel, water, and salt pills. Heavily armed, I set out. I felt a little bored the first few miles, but the Western fence lizards darting underfoot kept me occupied as I dance over them. I counted them to keep me occupied (25 by the end).

The trail snaked along Canada road, littered with cyclists and triathletes zooming back and forth. A deep sapphire blue lake emerged--Crystal Springs Reservoir. A police siren blared in the distance, immediately matched with a cacophony of off-key sirens blaring from the reeds and bushes by the foot of the reservoir (off limits for people). My first thought was rowdy teenagers, instantly replaced with clarity: coyotes. I stopped and peered into the bushes. They were so close. It sounded like there were dozens of them. Despite the raucous, I saw nothing.

By the time I had reached mile 4, my mind began to empty, my feet turned onto autopilot, and I felt I was in a dream. A brush touched my arm. Was that poison oak? Afterall, it was everywhere, glistening with oil and bright red with early fall colors. Another vine patted my ear. I turned to identify the perp--it was indeed poison oak. Shoot! Now, all I could think about was not touching anything and showering in TecNu when I got home.

I continued running along the reservoir, laughing at the stop-and-go traffic piled along Hwy 92, waiting to get to the coast. Then, I almost ran headfirst into a thicket of poison oak. The trail just ended onto the Highway. Later, closer inspection of the map would show that the connector between this segment of the trail and the north end has yet to be finished. Drat! I would be short 3 miles. Grumbling, I turned and headed back.

Along the return path, I took a detour into the Pulgas Water Temple, a strange park with pristine lawns and a swimming pool-length monument that leads up to tall, ornate, cement columns and lots of steps. No trails. Well, there might be, but they are all fenced off. There were, however, bathrooms and water.

A little further down the trail, I turned into another park, Filoli, to see what it was about. Apparently, it's a historic garden and house that required admission. I ended up running on the service road to the nature center, catching a glimpse of a family of wild turkeys, hurriedly whisking their young across the path and away from my very suspicious camera. As I continued running back on the trail, I spotted a small family of deer, grazing like cattle in the dry, golden fields of Filoli (I doubt they paid admission).

After mile 12, my pace slowed and my hips began to ache. Aches and pains began to rotate between toes, IT bands, knees, and hips. I no longer had delusions of grandeur of fitting in a swim that afternoon. I laughed at the absurdity and ignorance of that earlier idea. The only swimming I'd be doing would be in an ice bath. However, I was careful not to admonish my slow pace, happy to still be running.

I reentered Edgewood Park and took the long way back to the parking lot to make up the 3 miles I still needed. I couldn't believe how much the familiar trails, normally with fast downhills, hurt and slowly crawled by. I reached the parking lot at 15.89 miles and kept running to the road until my watch buzzed at 16. Finally, I could walk and stretch. Let the recovery begin.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Terrible Two 200K

This past weekend, I successfully rode the Terrible Two 200k in Sebastapol, a sub-event of the Terrible Two Double Century put on by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club. Although the double century is infamously and ridiculously hard (hence the "terrible" adjective), the thought of riding 120+ miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing was still formidable to me. I didn't appreciate the "Tolerable Two" nickname donned by seasoned double century riders.

Admittedly, I haven't been training much on the bike. Teaching 6 classes and training for the 50K Skyline to the Sea run has dominated my training plan the last 6 weeks. I have been clinging to what cycling fitness I could by riding about twice a week, with my longest ride being 50-70 miles. And those "long" rides hadn't been going well. Three weeks prior, I had melted down a  simple 45-mile ride during the last 8 miles. Yes, there had been some climbing (Geysers Road, which is about 8-12 miles with ~2400 feet of climbing, but don't quote me on that). Turns out, I broke a spoke and the last 10 miles was a false flat, but I blame my lack of training and lack of food for a ride that ended in a "Poor me" weeping session.

Last weekend (one week before the Terrible 200k), I had one last chance to push my cycling fitness up. I rode part of the Devil Mountain Double Century out in the east bay, a 106-mile loop that included Mt. Hamilton and Mines Road with about 8,000 feet of climbing. It was one of the worst rides I've ever suffered through. I felt fine until mile 42 (hmmm, same place where I had my last meltdown--notice a theme here?), at which point a strong headwind and hunger caused diabolical bonking that even a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke at the Junction couldn't cure. Miles 50 through 100 were pure torture. Everything hurt, especially my feet, my butt, my hands and wrists, etc. Turns out, I've been suffering from something called "hot foot" for awhile now, where a searing, burning pain in the ball of my foot makes pedaling excruciating. Unlike previous endurance exercises, the pain and suffering never went away. Slogging through at 12 mph on flats didn't help. Neither did the relentless headwinds. I wanted to quit. Badly. I can only thank my riding partner for not letting me. I felt so humiliated by my shameful performance, I didn't even feel victorious upon finishing the ride. I head my hung low as I drove home with lots to think about. First, there was no way I was going to do the Terrible 200K the following weekend. I just wasn't ready.

Somehow, a week later, I showed up at the start of the 200K, nervous, anxious, and prepared for a hard day of suffering. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to finish. I was worried about quitting and climbing aboard the SAG wagon. There were several scary climbs ahead of me: Skaggs, "The Wall", Fort Ross. Plus the distance--121 miles. Was I setting myself up for failure?

I started in the pack of about 50 very strong riders. Everyone took off, and I set my own pace in the back. I was one of the slowest riders in the bunch. Amazingly, I found a very tall rider riding about the same pace as me, and I tucked in behind him. Another rider tucked in behind me. A pack of about 4 of us drafted tightly together for the first 30 miles, which were mostly a false flat. I coasted easily at about 17 mph, a pace I could never have maintained that effortlessly on my own. At the first aid station, we all introduced ourselves, and I thanked the pack leader profusely for letting me suck his wheel. After gorging on Oreos and peanut M&Ms, I began the long climb up Skaggs. I didn't mind riding solo, preferring to set my own pace without worrying about others. I crawled slowly up the peaks for the next 12 miles, thankful it wasn't too hot (about 80 degrees) since it was open and exposed. I took in the singing of the birds that surrounded me and spotted a brightly colored garter snake and blue-tailed skink. I was working but I felt positive. Nothing hurt either. I had come armed with cycling orthotics, gloves, and lots and lots of Chamois Butter. All of these helped (especially the orthotics). I drank lots of water and popped the occasional electrolyte pill.

The aid stations were strategically located at the top of each gruesome climb. At each, I topped off water bottles and ate. I couldn't believe how hungry I was. Determined not to make the same mistake as my last several rides, I ate constantly, both on and off the bike. I couldn't believe how many calories I consumed. And, yet, I was still hungry. By the time I reached the second peak of Skaggs, I had consumed too many salt pills and my stomach was rumbling. I spotted an empty bottle of Tums discarded on the side of the road and took it as a sign. I pulled out my baggie of pills and chomped down 2 Tums. The relief was instant and magical.

I coasted downhill and rolled along for the next 15 miles or so, revving myself up for what would be the toughest climb of the day. Nicknamed "The Wall" I had heard horror stories of people breaking down on this 1.2-mile relentlessly steep climb of an average of 13% with pitches of 19%. People can walk their bikes up faster than riding. People have to stop and rest. I wasn't sure I could get up it, even walking. I wasn't looking forward to walking up a slick, steep road for over a mile in cycling shoes.

I crossed the bridge and forced myself not to hold my breath. "Time to Climb!" was chalked in the road. And then, there was no time to think. I was climbing up a never-ending road into the trees with turn after turn after turn. My breathing was fast and rapid. I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears like hummingbird wings. Each time I peered around the turn, searching for a break in the climb, I was faced only with what seemed like an even steeper section. I looked down at the road in front of me. Best not to look ahead. Best not to know what's coming. Some sections were so steep that the only way I knew to get up them was to get out my saddle and climb, forcing each pedal down with my entire weight at such an agonizingly slow speed that my bike threatened to topple beneath me. Each time I stood to climb, I was punished with a maxed out heart rate that was unsustainable. Snot poured from my nose. I didn't care. My face grew hot and red, and I was forced to sit, hunched over and grinding at the pedals. I leaned forward as far as I could to keep the front wheel down, gripping the handlebars and pulling them towards me with unrecognized upper body strength. I had no idea cycling would require so much from my arms, shoulder and back. My lower back screamed in protest. Finally, towards the top, I saw a turn-out near a more mellowed-out section. I had to rest. I could take no more.Wobbling my bike towards the turn-out I peeked once more up ahead. Was that the top? I decided to give it one last push. With whatever I had left in me, I gave it one more surge and unbelievably, crested the top. I crawled into the lunch stop, breathless and uncommunicative.

Lunch was such heaven after the Wall. The volunteers were unbelievably friendly and I ate and ate. We shared stories of surviving the Wall. Most had to stop and rest. Although I was slow, the others were incredulous when I told them I hadn't stopped to rest. They asked what my secret was. "Stubbornness" was all I could come up with. As I started to get cold, I knew it was time to get back on the bike.

I headed out towards the coast, pedaling easy up and down the rollers, heeding the unpredictable wind that threw me off my balance as it came sideways and forwards. Then, I saw the great, blue Pacific. I turned left and headed south, relishing in the ocean's beauty. The wind had died down and the sky was gray. A thin mist of fogged enveloped the coast. Surprisingly, with arm warmers, I wasn't cold. I rode easily and felt calm and peaceful as I watched the undulating waves. Campers and children along the 1 entertained me as I rode by. The double century riders lapped me, and I urged them on, in awe of their speed, endurance, and leg muscles like thick tree trunks. Suddenly, the Fort Ross rest stop appeared. I felt good at mile 83 and was pleasantly surprised.


After some hot chocolate and coffee and Ramen Noodles, I headed up for the last steep climb of the day. Luckily I had ridden it before. About 11% and 2-3 miles long, I wasn't looking forward to it, especially because I had suffered so much the first time up it several months ago. In addition, the broken pavement, branches, and gravel made it extra challenging. However, being prepared and knowing it was to come helped immensely. Yes, it was hard but I just took it easy and focused on pedaling, one revolution at a time. I stopped to pop some Advil after the first big peak to soothe my aching lower back. My quads were fatigued and felt like limp noodles. Someone had chalked a skull and crossbones in the middle of the road, which didn't help. Somehow, I made it up Fort Ross, and it was easier than what I had remembered.

Ecstasy began to set in. Here I was, pedaling along at mile 90, and I felt good. Nothing really hurt, and mentally I was on a high. I couldn't believe it. I felt immensely thankful and at peace. I took in the beauty of the scenic hills around me. I couldn't believe how much I was actually enjoying this. When I reached Cazadero, the highway began flat and smooth, and I screamed along at 18 mph for the next 15 miles in pure bliss.

I rolled into the last rest stop in Monte Rio feeling loopy and euphoric. The volunteers were especially supportive. I downed a Coke and ate some more Oreos. As I rode out, I received encouraging comments like "Way to represent!" (there weren't many female riders out there), "You go, Girl!" and "Ride it like you stole it!" I kept expecting the euphoria to be replaced with suffering. They say "If you feel good, don't worry you'll get over it," but that moment never came. The rest of the ride was essentially flat with one last little climb. I didn't mind it, however, because compared to the rest of the day, it was easy. Plus, it gave me more time to take in the sights around me, including a wedding, a goat climbing up a tree for fruit,  and, further down the road, a rocking blues band. At mile 120, I turned down High School Road. I realized I was going to make it. My chest swelled with happiness. I cruised into the finish, not caring that I had finished near the bottom of the pack. I had successfully finished the ride and had an amazing time doing it. This will be an experience that I will carry with me for a lifetime. I could even be talked in to doing another one of these crazy events!

Friday, June 15, 2018

School's Out!

Now that school is out, I can finally update my blog. It was a great year but teaching 6/5 (extra classes) really took it out of me. Somehow, I clung to a shred of my fitness and even did a few races, including the Half Moon Bay Triathlon and the Skyline to the Sea 50K two weeks ago. I also snuck in a couple of other trail races, including the Woodside Ramble half marathon (December), the Montara Mountain half marathon (February), and the Purisima Creek Crossover 35K (April). I guess I have a lot to catch up on.

I'm excited to focus on Ironman training this summer and prepare for Ironman Wisconsin in September. Never a dull moment, I'm going to try and survive the Terrible 200K this Saturday in Sebastapol and the Rodeo Rumble 30K in Marin in 2 weeks. I'm also scheduled for the Santa Rosa 70.3 in July.

Here's what I remember about each race (shame on me for not posting while it was fresh in my mind):

Woodside Ramble Half Marathon:
This was a cool and inviting winter half marathon in the redwoods of Huddart Park. Soft bedding of needles underfoot, gentle uphill slope to skyline then a wicked fast descent back to the start. Very enjoyable. I loved this race and had a lot of fun. Finished in 2:23.

Montara Mountain Half Marathon:
It was fun to realize that Pacifica is only about half-an-hour away from me with tons of new trails (and beaches) to explore. I was happy to be doing the half, which was challenging, since the ultra required doing several loops of the mountain. I hate doing the same course twice. The views were spectacular, and the course was extremely challenging, especially the mountain part. I finished in 2:35.

Woodside/Purisima Creek Crossover
We started in Huddart Park and ran up and over Skyline to the Purisima Creek Redwoods on the other side. It was chilly and rainy but enchantingly misty and dry at the same time, due to the magic of the redwoods. I needed a vest, gloves, and a headband, and I was still cold at times. I was nervous about running 20 miles, but after getting lost in Hayward at Garin Regional Park a few weeks ago and accidentally going 18 miles, I figured I could manage. And how was I supposed to run ultras if I didn't get my mileage up? The beginning of the trail run was crowded, just as they all are, and I waited patiently. I ran into a colleague up the first hill, and we walked and chatted to pass the time. Running buddies are invaluable. As the run progressed, I felt stronger and stronger and was able to find a solid yet slow running pace up most of the hills. Towards the middle, there was a ridiculously steep climb, where I was almost on my hands and knees. I don't know how anyone can run up that. I was so grateful for the aid station at the top. Oreos and Coke are the best! As I progressed back towards Skyline, I was disheartened to realize I was going to have a long 2ish mile climb back up the wonderful descent I had enjoyed earlier. I began walking and taking pictures to ease the pain, or more the annoying complaining in my head and fatigue that was beginning to set in. I also counted banana slugs to pass the time; I think the total count was 67. It was exceptionally muddy and slippery, making much of the trail treacherous and slow-going. Once back into Huddart, the rest of the run was a delightful downhill, and I cruised, relishing in the easy miles. The final mile back up into the park was slightly uphill, but just enough to torture me on my tired legs. It seemed like it would never come. When I finally crossed the finish line, I felt relaxed and happy. It took me 4.5 hours, but who's counting?




















Half Moon Bay Triathlon:
This was a great race. It was the first tri of 2018 and was good to know I still had my mojo. Great course venue and well organized. The swim was in a protected bay. The water was cold (mid-50s) but that was to be expected. The bike was flat, on the coast, and a few boring, uneventful loops. The run was also flat and fast and relatively uneventful. It was a good place to do some speed work. I will definitely be back next year. I finished in 2:59.



Skyline to the Sea 50K:
It had been 7 (8?) years since I had run an ultra. 30 miles isn't that much more than a marathon, but I was plenty nervous. The race was in early June, and teaching 6/5 had interfered heavily with my training. I wasn't sure I could even do the race a few weeks ago. Resolute, I threw out my training plan and focused everything on my running. I stuck to 3 runs and 2 weights a week with the occasional bike and swim. I did some miserable long runs and some uneventful, mind-numbing ones. I discovered that all of the trails in the Bay Area connected and would spend my afternoons running from one park to the next: Huddart--Skyline--Wunderlich; Arasterdero--Palo Alto Foothills--Los Trancos and back; Windy Hill--Coal Creek--Russian Ridge and back. And, if I wanted to keep going, I could continue to connect, threading together the Bay Area foothills into one long tangled web of exhaustion. By the time I got to the start of Skyline to the Sea, I knew I had done the training to help me survive the day. It was already hot at the top of Skyline, which I had never felt before under the redwoods. It would be in the mid-80s that day.

It's supposed to be a downhill race. I was glad I had done a 24 mile training run on the course 2 weeks earlier because there was a lot of uphill too. It was slow going because even on the descents, I had to pick my way around protruding roots, tangled rocks, creeks, and wicked switchbacks. I decided to slow down rather than risk falling or injury.

My fellow runners were courteous and more than happy to strike up conversation to pass the time. The aid stations were well-stocked and I swept food into my plastic baggie like a kid on Halloween so I could eat, walk, and digest. I gorged on Oreos, pretzels, potatoes and salt. I refilled my Camelback 2x, which I had never needed to do before. It was hot. There were 0 banana slugs. Lots of flowers, clinging to the late spring despite the encroaching summer heat. I took my time, stayed in good spirits, and somehow, didn't feel quite as exhausted as I had the last time I had done this on my training run. It took me 7:14 and I enjoyed every second of it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Unofficial Half Marathon Race Report



Last weekend, I was supposed to do a trail half marathon. I had signed up for a race, which ended up being confusingly canceled (apparently, I didn't get the memo). I showed up at Sanborn County Park last weekend for the nonexistent "Sanborn Trail Challenge". I was the first one at the park and surprised a family of deer grazing at the entrance. It had been raining hard. The clay/sand dirt trails, protected from the redwoods, remained dry enough to provide packed traction, perfect for running. I was early to hit the trails at 8:30 am and the sun was just starting to soak up November's early morning chill. As I started running uphill, I tucked my gloves and headband away and rolled down my arm warmers. I found a slow but strong jog as I began the 3 mile trek uphill around the switchbacks. The kind of switchbacks where you can look down for a mile and see where you've been and look up and see where you are going to be for the next mile. Every mile takes forever. My calves burned as I jogged/slogged uphill. I refused to walk. I've been training on hilly trails for several months now. At some point, I found a slow jog I could maintain. I enjoy the momentum it gives me. The hills are more fun now.

I hopped over a salamander and stopped to scoop it up. It's clammy red skin was smooth and damp. He looked up at me lazily and blinked. I carefully set him down off the side of the trail, where he would be safe from blind feet and continued up the path. Up a little further, I spotted a large banana slug, stretched across the path. At some point, I reached the Skyline Trail, near the summit, and the trail evened out. I recognized where I was. I had mountain biked here a few times before over the summer. This is where I fell into poison oak and suffered a persistent, itchy rash for the rest of the summer. This is where I had wished I was running instead of negotiating a mountain bike on a treacherous, narrow trail with creeks and roots. I had gotten my wish.

I visited Summit Rock, where the peregrine falcons nest. A shooting range echoed nearby with a cacophony of pop-pop-pops. This was the turn-around point. I headed back and began picking up the pace as the trail descended. I love downhill running. I had been waiting 6 miles for this. As I curved around the Summit Loop Trail, I prepared myself for the final climb back up to Skyline Trail. It was at this point, I headed off-trail. I chose the lesser-traveled trail and climbed uphill...in the wrong direction. It took me about a mile before I lost the trail completely. I circled nervously a few times. Then, made the hard decision to go back the way I'd come until I found the right trail. After my 1-2 mile off-trail sidetrack, I found the correct trail and finally began the final ascent back to Skyline (again).

Once I reached Skyline, my pace picked up. The temps were cool so luckily, I didn't need much hydration. This was fortunate because I hadn't brought a ton of fluid (I thought there'd be aid stations!). I felt surprisingly good, despite my extra run. Until I reached the switchbacks coming down. My right IT band seized up. It wasn't a gradual pain but a sudden stabbing pain that brought my gait to a hobbling walk. Downhill. I had to clutch branches and grab rocks to slow to an old-woman limp, staggering down the switchbacks. I rubbed my hip and knee to no avail. Somehow, I made it the 3 miles downhill. The pain eased to a dull ache, enough that I could find a comfortable walk/jog. I was frustrated and grateful for the arm warmers, gloves, and headband as my heart rate slowed. Oddly, the final mile back to the car was much easier to run since it was flat/uphill.

I took an ice bath after my half marathon (plus) run. And then purchased a foam roller and have been rolling out my IT bands. Ouch. However, the good news is that I've been running without any problems since my unofficial half marathon. Overall, I am really excited about having "raced" my first trail half marathon in (7?) years. And I already signed up for the next real half marathon--Woodside Ramble on December 16th.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Marin Triathlon Race Report

I turned 40 on the 27th of October. For my birthday, I gave myself an Olympic distance triathlon, the Marin Triathlon, in beautiful San Rafael. What better way to feel young, healthy and strong? It would be my 3rd triathlon of the season and only my 2nd Olympic distance after a 5+ year hiatus.

The weather was cool and mild the morning of the race. I felt strangely calm and collected. The water was glassy and smooth, like a swimming pool, at a balmy 57 degrees (Farenheit). I donned 3 swim caps (including a thermal cap), a wetsuit, and arm warmers and a rash guard over my tri suit underneath. Cold was not going to be my problem on race day.

My new age group was small and sophisticated. We all high-fived each other before the start. The horn blew and I dove in. Better to get the cold over with immediately, like ripping off a Band-Aid. I quickly settled into a smooth pace, and was surprisingly not cold at all, probably due to all my layers of neoprene. The buoys sailed by consistently, and I felt calm and sedate. I finished the 1500 meters in 30 minutes, 2 minutes faster than Santa Cruz, 1 month ago.


Out of the swim, onto the bike. I had trouble getting out of my wetsuit due to numb fingers. Guess I was colder than I thought. The bike was not a great course, but since I had prepared by doing a lap of it the day before, I knew what I was in for. The course was 3 laps out-and-back on a windy, course of rolling hills with broken pavement. The plus side? Gorgeous views of the Pacific. The downside? 3.5 miles out. 3.5 miles back. 3.5 miles out. 3.5 miles back. 3.5 miles out. 3.5 miles back. You get the picture. I was cold and stiff on the first lap, braking conservatively on every corner after my nasty fall 2 months ago. After the first lap, I warmed up and upped the pace. I began to feel comfortable on Torch again, refusing to break, leaning on the turns, dropping into the aero bars for longer stretches, and pushing a bigger gear up the rollers. I was grateful for the preview the day before and ended up averaging 16 mph, not great, but respectable.



Then, came my favorite part--the run. The hill coming out of transition was a beast but all my trail running paid off; I was able to maintain a steady trot. A rewarding downhill appeared after that, and I found my running legs. The rest of the course was flat and fast, and I eagerly took advantage. I felt fresh and my legs turned-over quickly. I relished in how energetic and springy I felt. The miles flew by. My toes were still numb--I couldn't feel them until mile 3 of the run. I yearned for more miles and trails but those are wishes of a spoiled being. I actually had enough gas in the tank to sprint across the finish. I ended up running the 10k in 8:45 min/miles (25 seconds/mile faster than my last race) and shaved 10 minutes off my last Olympic, finishing at 2:50. Overall, I surprisingly finished 2nd in my age group. It was a great way to celebrate a birthday and finish out the season. I will be switching over to some running races this winter before starting the new year with a fresh season. It feels oh so good to be back.



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Santa Cruz International Triathlon Race Report

I did my first Olympic distance triathlon in 7 years. It was my last race of my 30s (I turn 40 next month). I had a blast. The Santa Cruz International Triathlon is a famous race, which starts at the Boardwalk, where I used to go as a kid and goes along scenic Highway 1. I had a blast. It was such a fun speed workout!

Swim start in front of the Boardwalk.
Hiding nervousness before the swim.
sea lions, doing it right on Sunday morning, while I swim.
I was nervous before the swim. Mostly because the water was cold. 58 degrees. Once we started, I relaxed. I had done this many times before. After 5 minutes, everything went numb and I felt comfortable. I focused on staying in my pack this time in order to save time and draft. I usually swim to the outside, where it's much less aggressive but I was sick of swimming extra meters. I was quickly reminded of why I normally choose the long way around. Twice, the people I was drafting off of decided to stop to sight and I got a swift butterfly kick to the chest. Ugh. At least it wasn't the stomach. A couple of times, I got squeezed in between two swimmers, body slamming me on either side. Twice, I turned to breathe and the swimmer beside me splashed large siphons of saltwater down my throat. Luckily, I had popped 2 Tums just before the start. Despite the setbacks, I had a very smooth swim. My bilateral breathing came in handy and the body slamming was good practice for the Ironman (IMoo next fall). The 1.5k swim took me 33 minutes. Considering I've been swimming only once a week, I was very pleased.

Having a blast at the end of the bike. 
In T1, I had difficulty getting my wetsuit off because my fingers had gone numb. Eventually, I wriggled out of my wetsuit and into my bike shoes. I had to run up a long hill before mounting Torch but soon enough I was off and riding. Torch rode like a dream after his recent tune-up. I wound along Sea Cliff Drive and then onto the rollers on Highway 1. I had a blast. I felt strong from some recent climbs in the redwoods along the peninsula. The Bay Area is unbelievably hilly and it hasn't been taking much to increase my strength on the bike! It was a wonderful feeling to spin uphill and actually pass people. The 24 miles whipped by, and I was actually disappointed that the bike wasn't longer. It was, after all, very scenic with the ocean to the west. The rollers reminded me of Camp Pendleton. I was able to pull off about an 18 mph average.







Then, it was time for the 10K run. As I headed out of T2, I noticed two homeless people shooting heroin in the park. I guess we were all getting high in some sort of way. I nervously scanned the path for needles. Not too long prior, I had been running barefoot on the path next to them. I shuddered. I much prefer my endorphin high to theirs. 

feeling strong and relaxed on the run!
I noticed my tempo was way too high to be sustainable. I was running off the bike too fast, about 8-minute miles. I've only been running about 15 miles/week so a 9 minute mile is good for me right now. I focused on slowing down and settling into a rhythm. I absorbed the sights around me, which isn't difficult to do in Santa Cruz. I stared at the glittering ocean to my left, watching the surfers, the sea lions, and the pelicans. The miles cruised by. I high-fived a smiling homeless man, who was cheering us on. I drank Gatorade and water at the aid stations. I felt like I was doing more of a speed workout, rather than racing. I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I urged people on that I passed and congratulated runners that passed me. I was happy. I was exactly at the right place at the right time and was in no hurry to be anywhere else. Soon, I was headed towards the finish line. 

Midst a pack of runners, we all positively encouraged each other to "bring it home" and I could feel the adrenaline start surging through my veins about half a mile from the finish. My knees became weak and my legs became wobbly. I was frothing at the bit. I let myself go, trying to sprint towards the finish. It was a great fartlek, and I valiantly tried to pass the other runners in my pack. I wasn't successful but I pushed myself and burst strongly across the finish line. I felt amazing. I was honored to be among so many fit and talented athletes. 

My average run time was about 9:30 minute/miles. Definitely room for improvement but also not too shabby. I was very content. Overall, I finished in about 3 hours and 9th in my AG. But none of that matters. I had an amazing time, felt relaxed, and finished strong. I recovered quickly and can't wait for the next one! The last triathlon of my 30s was a great one. I can't wait to bring in the first triathlon of my 40s on my birthday next month at the Marin Triathlon!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ironman Wisconsin: 4th for 40!

I signed up for Ironman Wisconsin this week. Yes. I'm pinching myself. I signed up for another Ironman. Three wasn't enough. I thought I was donewith Ironmans. Shit, I thought I was done with triathlons. I'm pinching myself. I'm so excited. I'm so happy I signed up. It's been having a very motivational and healthy impact on my life. I'm starting to maintain some semblance of balance again, the first time since I've begun teaching. Feels so right.

It's been 7 years. I'm feeling really fit and healthy after training consistently for the last 16 weeks. I'm turning 40 in October. I would love to celebrate my 4th for 40 by showing myself I still got it. Why Wisconsin? I went to college there and haven't been back since 2006.

I crashed 3 weeks ago and recovered very quickly. I took 1 week off from training to let the swelling go down and the skin regrow. I was worried I had lost fitness; afterall, I felt stale and weak after a week of rest. Not to worry. I knew after a solid trainer ride, that I was back. A run, weights, and swim followed the next couple of days. 2 weeks after the fall, I did the Redemption Ride, except tackling Page Mill Road up before turning around and going down. It was a tough but rewarding and well-worth-it ride. I've been feeling stronger in my workouts since, almost as if I gained fitness in my week off.

Week's Laundry List of Workouts:
Monday's workout: HOT (91 degrees and muggy--it actually thundered afterwards) 5 mi run in Wonderlich. Up 2 miles, around the meadows 1 mile, then a fun downhill the last 2 miles. Quiet, shady, and wonderful.

Tuesday: Swim (2800 yds) --descending ladder (300 warm up, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 4x50, 500 cold down) in Burgess Pool. Times steady. Felt verrry tired at beginning of workout, refreshed at the end.

Wednesday: off--tired & busy

Thursday: 45 minutes trainer ride--Spinerval DVD ("No Slackers Allowed") surprisingly quick and effective. Followed by weights. I can't believe I eked out this workout after a 2 hour nap! I was soooo tired but I did it anyway. No regrets.

Friday: 5 mile run after work up Valparaiso. Pushed myself up hill by Sharon Park at halfway point. Felt quick and strong! Had a 90 min. massage afterwards!

Saturday: 8 mile HILLY run in Rancho San Antonio. Despite the crowds, I absolutely love Rancho. I can't believe I ran all the uphills! Remember, what goes up, must come down. Running in the shade downhill after hot, sweaty uphills is SO much fun! I needed water (it was in the low 80s). I'd like to go 10 miles with water next time.

At the end of the run, I was alone and enjoying the solace, having sought out the hillier, more exposed trails. Movement flickered to my right. I scoured the dry grassy field. Suddenly, I spotted a large animal, gracefully loping through the grass, his fur perfectly matching the tawny stalks. He looked half-dog/half-fox with a bushy tail, thin, muscular body, and large red ears. He was a very healthy, gorgeous coyote. I felt honored to be able to have spotted this shy fellow on such a busy day in the park.

On the final trail next to the parking lot, I saw a couple up ahead, pointing frantically to something that looked like a log on the trail. I realized it was a huge snake, 4-5 feet long. I stopped and approached cautiously before realizing it didn't have a rattle. He was thick and had dark chocolate criss crosses on his back, overlying a lighter tan/yellow color beneath, which matched his belly. Tiny specks of sepia brown flecked his sides as if they had been splashed on with clay. He was beautiful. He didn't like me studying him for he quickly slid off into the grass with impressive acceleration.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

My First Real Fall





I've been riding a road bike since 2003. The only time I've ever fallen was in the very beginning, when learning how to use clipless pedals. Those falls happened embarrassingly at stop lights, invariably with lots of people watching. After 3 or times of falling, I learned how to use clipless pedals with nothing but a bruised ego. I kept pedaling.

I'm not a super fast or strong cyclist. I admit--I got into cycling for triathlon. But I enjoy exploring the  countryside, and I love the workout. Whether it's a tri, road, or mountain bike, I love spinning my legs on days they need to rest from the run. Lately, I've felt ready to start challenging myself with some more hills. I'd heard about the hills in the area and decided to tackle Old La Honda Rd.

I took off after school on Pandora, my quick road bike. I headed up Sand Hill Road, which became Portola Valley Road. I spun my legs as the road gradually began rising upwards. Eventually, I turned right on Old La Honda Road. 4 miles up with switchbacks. I loved the cool trees and tall, dark redwoods. The temperature dropped and my ears popped. In some places, the pavement was so steep, I had to rise out of the saddle, throw my weight forward, and pedal rhythmically (mountain-bike style) to make it over the steepest part of the switchbacks. The challenge was real, but my fitness was there. I felt great. Then, the 4-miles was over.

I turned left on Skyline Blvd towards Page Mill Road. I passed Windy Hill, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge, and many other trails that need to be explored. Although cars zipped by on Skyline, the road was wide, and there was plenty of room. To the right, I could see the clouds hugging the horizon above the blue ocean. To the left, in the distance, I could see a glimpse of the Bay. A spectacular view.

I turned left at Page Mill Road. For the first 2 miles, I was still going uphill. It wasn't steep, but I had thought I would be enjoying a descent by now. Was this some sort of cruel joke. In my experience (and knowledge of physics), what goes up, must come down, especially when riding a loop, right?

Then, the descent began. My tired legs and butt enjoyed the break. I rose up out of the saddle and leaned into the drops, letting the bike hug the turns. I focused on moving the inside pedal up so as not to scrape the pavement. Scenic views of fields, trails, and oak groves lined the road. Hawks lazily swooped to the tops of trees. I felt relaxed and happy. I hadn't zipped down hills like this in a long time.

The descents became steeper and windier. I shifted my weight back and used the rear break more, slowing down before the turn. The slope eased, and I dropped forward and let the bike speed up again. A right-hand turn. I'm much more confident in right turns, being right-handed. I leaned into the turn to increase speed. The pavement was slick. It had just been repaved. I squeezed the back break as I leaned in the steepest part of the curve. It felt like the road had suddenly dropped out from under me. As if in a bad dream, Pandora fell away from me. I collided with the pavement beginning with my right thigh, hip, elbow, shoulder and right hand. My computer had read 24 mph just before I'd gone down. It happened so fast that I didn't have time to react. All I could think as the bike fell away from under me was, "Uh oh. This is going to be bad."

After I had slid to a stop, the first thing I could think of was, "Get out of the road." I pulled Pandora and myself off to the side of the road to catch my breath. Then, I realized I was on the narrowest part of the curve, and therefore, the most hidden. I looked around me and scrambled to the opposite side of the road on the shoulder. I sat in the dust. The bike seemed okay. I didn't seem to have hit my head or broken anything. My right hip was on fire, and I was dazed but miraculously okay. I was still 10 miles from the car on a remote road with little traffic. If I wanted help, I would have to wait at least 30 minutes. I knew I would get cold and potentially go into shock. Without thinking too much about it, I decided to see how it felt to ride the bike slowly, especially since most of the 10 miles was downhill (I had done all the hard, uphill work already).

I didn't have to pedal much at first. The road wound downhill like a spiral roller coaster. I breaker and shifted my weight back. I went very slowly. I started to feel shaky and I could't stop my feet from quivering violently against the bike frame. I focused on taking deep breaths and pedaled slowly. My hip screamed and my elbow hurt. The handlebars felt slick with sweat. I looked down. The right side was dripping with blood from my right hand. My knuckles had also kissed the road.

The slow pedaling helped move the warmth of my blood back into my extremities. I relaxed and stopped shaking. I became thirsty and drank lots of water. Somehow, the more I pedaled, the better I felt. I was exhausted but exhilarated when I made it back to the car. I was so relieved. I was alive. I hadn't broken anything. It could have been so much worse.
Right elbow, immediately after the fall. 
48 hours later.





Monday, August 21, 2017

Sandman Triathlon Race Report

I hadn't done a triathlon in 7 years. After changing jobs, life and laziness got in the way. I always felt like a part of me had died. I didn't intend to become flabby and out-of-shape. It just happened. Then, in May, I started working out regularly again. In July, I noticed my fitness had increased. I decided to get my mojo back. Afterall, I'm turning 40 in October, and it's kind of freaking me out. So I signed up for a couple of races, including the Sandman Sprint Triathlon, August 20th, 2017.

School started on Wednesday, August 17th 2017. I'm a high school biology and chemistry teacher. My head began to spin with the daily onslaught of activities that regularly boggle my mind--part of the job requirement. I began to think racing the first weekend of school was a bad idea. However, I'm also motivated to continue training while teaching this year. Balancing both seems like an essential plan for my long-term health.

Wednesday night, I spent 2 hours gluing on new tubular tires to my race wheels, which had been hanging in my garage for 7 years. I tried them out on Thursday. The brake pads rubbed and the gears slipped. I didn't have time for a tune-up. What had I gotten myself into? I knew my training was solid but familiar race nerves crawled up my throat. Why was I doing this to myself? Waking up early, plunging into a freezing-cold ocean, and pushing myself to the point of almost puking did not seem like a good way to spend a weekend.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 5:30 am, plenty of time before my 8:05 am start. Eating breakfast was the worst part of my whole day. This activity basically involved staring loathingly at small pieces of a cereal bar for 5 minutes before forcing a small chunk down my throat. It took 30 minutes to eat a banana and half a cereal bar. I simply couldn't get down any more.

Once I got to the race site, I calmed down immensely. Everything felt familiar, and I knew what to do. There was no more stir-crazy downtime. I set up my transition area, got body-marked, made a trip to the bathroom, and slid into my wetsuit. I walked to the beach and tested the water. I had heard people say the temperature was in the 50s but my toes told me low 60s. The surface was glassy and calm. The skies were overcast and the air was cool, but mild. Conditions couldn't have been more perfect. There was nothing more I could do to prepare. I was ready.


Before I knew it, I was lining up with the women. I hopped up and down to warm up. The horn blew, and we took off through the sand and plunged into the ocean. The waves were small and easy to navigate. I found myself, as usual, to the outside of the pack on the 3/4 mile swim. I was surprised at how familiar everything felt. I was calm and enjoying my first ocean swim in over a year. The swim went by quickly; there were several turns and buoys so there was lots to think about. I couldn't believe how relaxed I felt. It was just like riding a bike (pun intended).



When I ran up into T1, I felt hot, out of breath, and disoriented. My heart rate must have been through the roof. I took my time getting onto the bike and then clipped into Torch, my old, steady race steed. We took off into the hills of Aptos. The bike was scenic but hilly. Lots of racers were on road bikes (not to self for future Sandmans). The first few miles, I tried to spin, eat some GU, and get my heart rate down. It took me about 3 miles to warm up and settle into a sustainable pace. I felt more like I was on a fun bike ride then racing. This was fine by me. After all the races I have under my belt, I just want to enjoy myself, get a good workout, have fun, and maybe make some friends when I race this time around. Goal achieved. After many ups and downs through redwood trees, horse stables, and farms, the 13-mile bike ride quickly came to an end.

When I rolled into T2, the person next to me had dropped my bike in my spot. I ended up covered in grease and blood from her rear cassette by the time I had racked her bike, and then mine. Rude! But, soon enough, I had my running shoes and cap on, and I felt surprisingly springy for the run. After all, running has always been my favorite part. Then, I hit the sand. The entire 4-mile run was on the beach (hence the name Sandman). It was a tough beach run! Between the tide coming in, seaweed, uneven sand, and people running this way and that, it was more like an obstacle course. I focused on maintaining a steady, strong pace, as opposed to speedy. I leaped over 3 logs each way. My shoes were soaked. But I loved it. Not once did I feel bored or in pain. With so many things to weave in and around, there was plenty to keep my mind occupied. The miles flew by. Before I knew it, the finish line was in sight. The last stretch before the finish line involved deep sand. I forced myself through it, giving it all I had left. I had no sprint in me, only 1 gear. But I did it--I finished strong and felt great afterwards. I high-fived the woman who had rallied with me to the finish line, and headed over for bananas and water. I'm so excited to be racing again!


As I packed up to leave, I felt calm and at peace. I'm very excited to be back and racing again. Racing ensures that I will maintain my workout/training plan. Right before I started rolling out, I heard a gasp from the spectators. I humpback whale had just breached right off the beach. I watched in amazement as a pod of humpbacks surfaced, spouted, and frolicked peacefully in the exact spot where I had swam only a few hours ago. It felt like a good omen.










Friday, August 11, 2017

First Brick

I did my first brick in 7 years today. It was amazing. Bricks make me feel like a true triathlete, following a bike immediately by a run. Not only do they get your legs used to running off the bike, but for some reason, I actually like them. I take awhile to warm up, and I've found I actually run faster off the bike than running alone. Today was no exception.

The other day, I had to slog through an awful 3 mile run. My body was feeling under the weather, and I couldn't muster the strength to move my legs. My body felt like lead, and my stomach sloshed around nauseously. It felt very hot, even though the weather was a breezy 73 degrees (thanks Bay Area for perfect weather!). I wanted to quit. I wanted to beat myself up for running so slowly. But I made my mind go blank and just focused on getting it done. Not every workout is going to be stellar. What's important is that I still do them and not give up. Those tough, crappy workouts are the ones that will make me stronger on race day.

I was happy I pushed through. I took the next day off and have rebounded since. Today, I did a 21 mile bike, followed by a 3-mile run. I felt strong and fast. My average bike pace has increased by 2 mph since I've started, and I'm going faster up the rolling hills. Although this is not the first time at the rodeo, it is interesting to assess the difference in training since I've lost so much fitness. The gains seem to be coming back faster this time around. It helps not being injured or overtrained (probably for the first time in my life). I feel wiser and better at listening to my body. Let's hope I can maintain this new, more patient perspective.

The bike and run today were blissful freedom from my racing mind. School starts on Wednesday, and I've been caught up in back-to-school activities. It will only get worse. My goal this year is to maintain balance and be able to juggle a demanding teaching career with my training schedule. Even though I was tired from work and my mind was racing, as I biked down the road, my legs spun my mind into blankness. My to-do list which had been on repeat in my brain suddenly paused. I did not think of the upcoming race next weekend, nor the Ironman I want to do in a year. I did not even think of the run I had to do after the bike. I thought of nothing. My legs repeatedly revolved in a rhythmic manner, and my body became a well-oiled machine, quieting my anxious mind. As my mind went numb, I reached that blissful state I can only achieve for brief periods of time when I attempt to meditate. I relished in the freedom, taking my peaceful stat of mind with me into my run.

I finished the bike, grabbed my dog, and trotted off down the road. My legs continued to rock steadily in a high cadence. I thought of nothing except the space between each footfall and watched Juneau's tongue lolling out of the side of her mouth. The miles flew by. It was a wonderful workout, and I'm hoping sleep will come easily tonight.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

My Annual Fall

I took my annual fall this week. It seems I fall while running once a year. I was having a very pleasant, 7-mile road run with my dog, Juneau. A construction zone appeared ahead with traffic cones, funneling traffic into a narrow lane. The shoulder was being repaved. No room or signs for pedestrians. One of the construction workers was standing on the newly paved section. After a quick assessment, I decided to run where the construction worker was standing. If he could stand there, I could surely run through there, right? However, I did not see the "trip-wire" blindly hanging about 2 inches off the ground. Juneau gracefully hopped over it as my right toe hooked underneath of the string. I flew across the pavement, Superman style, landing on my knee, stomach, elbows, and hands. I grunted, heaved myself to my feet, and dusted myself off. The workers stared at me in disbelief.
"Are you alright?" one asked.
"Yeah," I replied in annoyance. I was not happy that falling was becoming so routine that I wasn't even phased. I brushed myself off and kept running, knowing a) my injuries seemed superficial and b) all inflammation and pain wouldn't begin until 30 minutes after my run finished. Besides, I still had 2 miles to go and running would get me home faster than walking.
I'm healing nicely and my injuries did not prevent me from further workouts. In addition to the knee wound, I have poison oak scabs all over both legs from 3 different trail runs/bikes. Apparently, I'm very sensitive, which is not a good recipe for living in Northern California where poison oak is rampant. Did you know that the itching lasts for 3 weeks?

I'm slowly clawing my way back onto the exercise wagon. I feel like I've reached the first tier of fitness. I'm back in shape again. I can swim 2500 yds, bike 30 miles, and run 7 miles. I feel healthy and ready to add more miles. Now, I want to start racing again, building endurance, and see where it takes me. I have to be careful not to bite off more than I can chew and end up inured or burnt out again. However, dreams of Ironmans and ultra marathons are dancing through my head. I have a long, long way to go. It's frustrating because I can see how much I've lost. It's hard to be patient and let my body absorb the workouts. However, I do best when I just enjoy the workouts, don't push, and let my body tell me when it's ready. I'm excited to see where this takes me.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Resurrected!

I've decided to breathe new life into this blog again to symbolize my return to endurance training. It's been a year since I posted. How did that happen? I guess life got in the way. Once the school year started in 2016-17, I dove into the classroom and didn't surface again until June.

Now that I've had the whole summer to work on myself, I've been doing lots of training and lots of reflection. I've realized that endurance sports are a strong part of my identity (as well as teaching). My goal this year is to somehow meld the two. I've worked hard to gain a modicum of fitness this summer, and I'm not going to give it up easily. I'm signing up for races and can't wait to give you some race reports! (See sidebar for list of races). Another goal I have is to not lose myself in the endurance training either, but to lead a more balanced life between work and play. I want to workout at a sustainable level. Burning out is not fun, and it's taken me years to recover.

I ran in Wunderlich Park today, a hilly, shady network of trails in the Woodside area. It's gorgeous, quiet, and full of redwoods. I felt like my complete self as I battled the hills, huffing and puffing, refusing to walk. It was exhilarating. For those 7 miles, I felt lost in my footfalls. I savored every minute of it. I'm excited to see where this journey will take me.

In addition, I'm turning 40 in October. I'm using it to motivate me. I'm excited to get my mojo back. I'm considering doing another Ironman. I didn't think I wanted to do that distance again, but after a few weeks of reflection, I've realized I have the hunger again. It would be a great way to get redemption. I can't think of a better birthday present for myself. Now the question is, which Ironman?  I would love to pick one in the summer when I'm not teaching. Any suggestions?

Monday, August 08, 2016

Sweating and Loving It

Got another bike ride in the books. Woke up at 5:45 am (which is what time I need to wake up for school starting in a week) and decided to get my workout over with. I was a bit nervous since it was 25 miles and included some hills.

I headed out from my home in San Jose. Unfortunately, I have to ride through 10 miles of gross urban traffic before getting to the scenic foothills. I live in the valley, apparently. Although my ride started out easy and flat, I somehow got stuck behind 2 garbage trucks. It was trash day in south San Jose. Not only did I have to swerve around haphazardly placed garbage cans but the smell of rotten food and other jetsam and flotsam made me extremely nauseous. I think the truck actually had decaying corpses in it; the smell was that bad. I felt the urge to vomit, and slowed, downshifted, and breathed deeply for several minutes until the feeling passed.

Finally, I reached Hicks Road and began riding through the foothills between Los Gatos and Almaden Quicksilver Park. Shade blanketed me and the morning dew still clung to the trees. I immediately felt a cool mist refreshing my skin, legs, and spirit. By the time the climbing began, I was ready. I found a steady but slow pace and settled in as I climbed. In the lowest gear, I struggled to get up the hills but knew I was strong enough to make it. I focused on each pedal stroke and my mind escaped in each pause and rest between rotation. There was nothing else except push....rest....push...rest. It was glorious, relaxing freedom. My skin shined with a thin coat of sweat, and I realized I felt the best I had felt in months. I always feel the most amazing when I work out. It's wonderful to be strong enough to finally enjoy each workout.

The rest of the ride was smooth. I zipped down the downhills and, back in town, the uphills felt like tiny bumps. I practiced pedaling uphill in a higher gear and practiced spinning at high rpms on the downs. My legs felt heavy with muscle and strong.

I have 1 week left until school begins. Now, I have the rest of the day to do whatever I want. Yay for morning workouts!

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Building Fitness and Self-Improvement

Over the past 6 weeks, I have suddenly resumed working out regularly. I even signed sprint, and olympic triathlon! I have many transitions over the summer, and I feel my old self finally coming back.

I've been going through a lot lately. Seems like I say that a lot. My saving grace is that I've been working out consistently. With all the turmoil spinning around me and inside my head, my workouts are a constant, comforting lifeline that I can always rely on to lead me in the right direction. That's all I can say right now. It's purposely vague. For all the gory details, well, you will just have to wait for the book...

I'm starting to get a base back. It took 4 solid weeks of running 3x/week, suffering through each workout, taking walk breaks, and being humble, before my running legs came back. I'm still slow and have many miles to build but I can now run 4-6 miles at a steady pace comfortably without needing to stop. I can finally run for mental peace and active meditation again. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Swimming has been coming back a little faster. I can swim a mile in the pool without stopping...slowly, but pretty close to my old base pace. I will be tested in two weeks when I have to swim 3/4 of a mile in the open ocean. The Pacific up here is so much colder, and the waves are much bigger. I will need to practice...

Biking has gone very well. I don't know what my pace is because I've purposely failed to replace the batteries in my cyclometer. I'm riding 25 miles on road and even throwing some mountain biking in. My training goals are just to have fun and resume fitness for mental health purposes right now. Since I suffered such a long burn-out, I want to come back into endurance training slowly and with a different (less competitive) focus this time around.

I definitely need new running shoes! My old Brooks Adrenaline model has been replaced with a completely different model that doesn't work with my orthotics. I did a trail run at Rancho San Antonio Park and got a little excited. I felt so good, that I accidentally ran 8 miles, besides the horrible pain in my toes when they pounded the toe box on the downhill. I ignored the pain because, well, that's what I do. My toenails have since been a gorgeous deep violet that I'm thinking of marketing as "Black-and-Blue". I painted the rest of my nails blue to match. No chipping and it lasts for weeks!

On my next run, I decided to take my favorite running partner, Juneau, along with me. She always smiles when we run and jogs when I talk walk breaks. She always pushes the pace. Whenever I'm suffering, I just look at her happy face, and it takes the pain away. Unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention to the bushes that jutted out into the sidewalk, narrowing our path. With a car parked to my left and Juneau to my right, there was simply not enough room for both of us at the same time. She leaped left, directly under my knees, causing me to fall H.A.R.D. on the sidewalk. I sprained my right hand and tore a lot of skin off my right knee. Hey, at least I have cool battle scars to show off. 

one day later














I will continue to transform myself by being active every day (or almost every day--I'm going to listen to my body). Stay tuned for motivating updates!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

South Bay Roadie Ride

I am still working out regularly, suffering through each one. Today's workout was a road ride. Since my workouts have been slow and tedious, I wasn't expecting much. I decided to ride from the house to make it easy. Unfortunately, it takes 7 to 8 miles to get to somewhere cool from San Jo. Even though it's been hot, I felt good. Zipped down the road on Pandora and, surprisingly, quickly settled into a comfortable pace. Maybe walking the dogs around the block first had helped me warm up.

I couldn't believe how quickly the miles flew by. It was hot, and I am out of shape, yet this ride felt easy. Of course, I pulled a little trick on myself--I took the batteries out of my computer so I have no idea how fast I was going. That way, I would avoid negativity drills. I reached Hicks Road and began climbing. The climbing was hard, very hard. However, I was still able to settle in and find a pace.

Very soon, I was winding my way through Los Gatos and Saratoga. I felt great, and the tough hills were behind me. I was amused at a couple of male cyclists who hammered past me, only to pull off at the top to drink water as I passed them again, slow and steady. I wove Pandora through crowds of pedestrians, bikes, and cars around the Saratoga Village, avoiding a huge weekend festival. Soon, I was headed home again. I still can't believe how quickly the 22 miles went by. I feel great and even followed it up with some core and upper body weights.

I am pinching myself. This is the first workout that has felt fun and "easy", relatively speaking. It makes sense that it would be a bike ride and not a run (although running is my favorite). I can't underestimate the thousands of miles I put into the road bike years ago for my IM training. Is there such thing as muscle memory? I guess I'm going to find out. I'll keep you posted.