Tuesday, July 16, 2013


It's been over a year since I posted. Thought I'd drop by and give it an update. My life has been such a whirlwind. Over the last 5 years, I've been "remodeling". I guess you might even say that I turned 30 and went through a quarter-life crisis (I'm planning on living a long time). Five years later, I finally feel like I'm moving forward and am on the other side of the tunnel. I'm on the right "path" again, so-to-speak, and not just spinning my wheels. Or, to be literal, I got divorced, quit my job, went back to school, and changed careers. Next week, I'll be moving 500 miles north, from San Diego to the Bay Area (where I grew up). I'm very excited about moving close to my family again. I haven't been close (location-wise) since I was a teenager.

I decided to be a scientist when I was in 8th grade. That went really well until, at 30 years old, I discovered during my postdoctoral fellowship, that I wasn't excited about my career prospects. I loved doing science in the lab, but something was missing. After much soul-searching, I discovered that "something" was teaching. In 2008, I spent 6 months trying to find a job in biotech. Not only was the economy dismal, but I realized I was dreading potential job offers following each interview. That wasn't a good sign. St. Patrick's Day of 2010, my sister and I went to a psychic in the GasLamp Quarter downtown San Diego. It was the first time either one of us had been to a psychic. To be honest, I didn't think she was very good. However, she did say something that struck me: "Don't take a desk job. It will cause your soul to suffer. You need to be on your feet and moving around. You have a lot of energy. You like children. You should be a teacher." Hmmmm. A teacher? That didn't sound like a bad idea. To be honest, the idea had been growing in the back of my head since graduate school when my professor expressed concern at the amount of time I spent teaching the undergrad course I was TA'ing, rather than spending time in the lab. I had never been brave enough to take the plunge and make the switch. Now I was unemployed and dreading my job prospects. What did I have to lose?

I got my start as a math and science teacher at a small private school in Orange County. A year after not being able to pay my bills, I went back to school. I quit my job to attend the single subject (high school) teaching credential program at Cal. State Univ., San Marcos full-time. The program was extremely demanding and rigorous, requiring a full year of student teaching, instead of the typical 8 weeks (which was one of the reasons I joined the program). I recently earned my California state credential in biology and chemistry and just earned a job up near Palo Alto! I LOVE teaching. Every day is new and exciting. I LOVE the interactions with the students.

I am exuberant about my new life. I'm moving to the Bay Area next week with my 2 dogs and bf. School begins in August. I have SO much work to do. But, one of the things I want to do most is to begin working out regularly again. I let my fitness go completely. I would love to get it back again. It will help me stay healthy and happy during the school year.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'm Alive

Thought I'd drop in and let everyone know I'm still alive. Haven't been posting...and, sad to say, haven't been training either. :( My teaching job, on the other hand, has been fantastic, albeit all-consuming. I'm hoping I have more time to breathe so I can post more (and train more) soon. I have an interview for a teaching credential program next week. Wish me luck!

Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Carlsbad Half Marathon Race Report

I decided to do the Carlsbad Half Marathon at the last minute this weekend. I wasn't going to do it. I hadn't trained enough. Plus, I'm signed up for the Wildhorse Half Marathon next weekend. Two in two weekends? It felt like too much. Then, I agreed to let a couple couch surf the night before the race at my place. Afterall, the start was within walking distance of my front door. I knew I wouldn't be able to control the jealousy of watching others benefit from my awesome location without doing it myself. Without much thought, I went and found a bib.

I was a little wary. I hadn't been training. The longest run I logged recently was 8 miles. Furthermore, my week leading up to the race had been a zero week, due to a very hectic work week. I just hoped I could make it to the finish line! I don't remember ever being this undertrained for a half marathon before.

Race morning, I was relieved I had procured a bib. Below my balcony on the street, I watched masses of runners park and file down the sidewalk to the start. I dragged myself out of bed only an hour before the start, knowing I wouldn't have to battle traffic, fight for a parking spot, walk miles to the start, or stand in a long port-a-potty line. Star treatment! It's AWESOME living so close to a primo race!

The gun went off, and I started running for my life. I was seeded in the 2nd wave, and the crowd of speedsters swept me along breathlessly for the first 2 miles. Finally, I slowed and settled into a relaxed pace. It was so hard not to let the adrenaline push me to the max. I reminded myself to take it easy, and just aim on finishing the run. Trying to push it on undertrained legs was too high of a risk for injury. Nonetheless, I was clicking off 9:30s. Not bad for someone who hasn't been doing much!

I found my sweet spot, the pace where I float along above my legs and enjoy the ride. I watched surfers catching the waves, calm and peaceful, juxtaposed the the busy mass of runners toiling down PCH. Crowds of spectators and bands lined the street, cheering, singing, yelling, and urging us on. There were tons of motivational signs (including my favorite, the one that simply read: "Motivational Sign"). I had forgotten how infectious the energy of a large race is, spectators and participants combined. Running the course almost felt like cheating; I simply allowed everyone's energy to fuel my strides.

My hips started hurting at mile 9. Then, a hot spot developed on the ball of my right foot. Then, my calves began to cramp. At first, I scoffed at the aches and pains. I had felt pain much worse many times before. My body knew better than to whine. It started as a mild protest, knowing my legs wouldn't get much sympathy for me, much less mercy. It was only when my stomach started to churn that I begrudgingly slowed. The pain increased and subsided in mysterious waves. It was bearable at slower paces. It was hard to convince myself not to settle into a restrained run. Then, the pacer with the 2:00 sign started to pass me, and a jolt of determination burst through me like a shockwave. Grimacing, I flailed my arms and legs wildly, coaxing them into a faster pace. I knew I couldn't keep it up much longer.

All of a sudden, I was flying down the final hill to the chute. How had I reached the end so quickly? I didn't even remember battling last, dreaded uphill before the finish. How had it snuck by me unnoticed? I sprinted down the hill, blocking the screaming pain in my calves out of my head desperately. I had nothing left when I reached the finish but I felt victorious. An incredible training run, fully supported right out my front door. And lots of motivation and some speed work to boot. Not a bad start to the 2012 race season!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Squeezing in a Swim

First off, I've begun officially doing Yoga again! Our school has a Yoga instructor so I asked if she would be willing to give me a private session after school Monday nights, and she said Yes! What a great way to finish a Monday! I had forgotten how wonderful Yoga feels for the whole body and mind.

This morning, I was supposed to wake up early to go for a swim. The plan was to wake up at 5 am, do my hour commute first, swim up in Mission Viejo (where I work), and then shower, change and go into work. I get home so late, and my planning for the next day takes so long, that I'm lucky to be in bed, lights out by 11:30 each night. I can skimp on sleep twice a week to wake up early but after that, I start to fall apart. There was no way I could get up when the alarm went off at 5. I readily traded the extra 1.5 hours of sleep and moved my workout to the evening.

All day, I was itching for my swim. As soon as my last class was out, I ran out the door and headed down the street to the Mission Viejo Rec Center (http://cityofmissionviejo.org/DepartmentPage.aspx?id=12474) for a swim. $8 to drop in, and the pool is open from 5 am until 8:45 pm. Nice hours! I got to the locker room and realize I had forgotten my cap, goggles, and suit. Doh! My heart sank. I dug around to the bottom of my bag and found a bikini and an old pair of goggles. I could make that work. I had a hard time tying up my hair so I didn't choke on it, and my goggles kept sliding down my head, cutting into my ears, but I made it work. I was going to swim, dammit!

It felt soooo good to jump into the water after a long day of work. So convenient too! Maybe it was the bikini, but the lifeguard, a cute, little teenage boy, kept chatting me up every time I rested on the wall. Questions like, "I haven't seen you here before. How often do you swim here?" It was kind of adoreable and definitely flattering but also a little creepy considering he was the same age as most of my students! I banged out 2400 very slow meters and spent 5 minutes in the hot tub with the jets massaging my sore lower back.

My New Years' resolutions continue to be a success. I love how it's all centered around 1 word: Balance. I've been drinking more water, eating in more, brown bagging lunch, and eating much more healthfully as a result too (not to mention saving a ton of moolah by not eating out). My body is thanking me. I have more energy, and my attitude is very positive. Go Me!

Today's workout:
200 free warm up
3x150 (50 breast-50 free-50 back)
500 free
3x200 free
5x100 free
100 cool down

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Workouts Continue

My workouts are continuing to go well. I've noticed that as the week progresses and the responsibilities of work builds and takes its toll, I get progressively more tired. I've planned Thursdays as my regular rest day to try to compensate for this (I get Fridays off).

Last week started out great with Tuesday kicking off with a 5:30 am run and Wednesday with a solid hour workout on the trainer. Thursday and Friday, I crashed and burned, completely exhausted. Then, I dislocated my jaw. Ugh. It's the 4th time (although it's been 7 years since the las time). I had a ton of oral surgeries when I was a kid. As a result of multiple jaw dislocations during surgery to make my mouth open wider, I now am at risk for dislocating my jaw simply by yawning. Every now and then, I forget to yawn "small" and dislocate it. My jaw gets locked open, i can't swallow, I can't talk, I can't eat or drink, and a visit to the ER is called for. This Friday evening was no different, unfortunately. The agonizing hour-long wait in the waiting room was the worst, as I held my head up by my hands, catching drool with a Kleenex. I used mental toughness drills to block out the pain, learned well from many grueling races. All that suffering comes in handy in day-to-life situations! The doctor and assistant used lots of pushing and pulling, heaving and grunting, and finally cracked it back into place. No more yawning for me!

Saturday evening, I groggily hit the trails (Lake Calaveras http://www.carlsbadca.gov/services/departments/parksandrec/trails/Pages/lake-calavera-trails.aspx) in east Carlsbad for a 4-mile run (2 loops around the lake), much to Travis' delight. I finished up with weights. What a great way to spend a Saturday evening!

Sunday, I enjoyed an awesome ~20 miles of mountain trails on a borrowed bike around Lake Hodges (http://www.sdrp.org/trails.htm). It had been awhile but I was pleased to see I retained all my skills and could still navigate over rocks, through creeks, and up and down hills. Fun!

This morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 5:15 am to squeeze in a run before work. I did not want to get up. My saving grace was that I had laid out my clothes the night before. It seemed a waste not to use them, and I knew I would feel down all day if I skipped my one chance at a workout. I slipped into my running clothes, gloves, headband, headlamp, and warm-up jacket, braving the dark, early morning cold. Travis didn't seem to mind at all, even though he didn't have the benefit of any warm-up clothes.

I ran briskly, trying to warm-up. Man, it was cold. I know I'm complaining about upper 40s but it always feels coldest right behind the sun rises. I welcomed the long, steep hill I had to toil up right out of the gate. There would be many to follow. Carlsbad is riddled with hills. I felt good, however. I refused to walk, no matter how slowly I jogged, I forced myself to run up each incline.

I reached the ocean and felt so good, I decided to extend my normal 4-miler. Travis has been running better and better. I can see his fitness improve with each of our runs. I hope it's a reflection of mine as well. I paused at the ocean, and turned off the ipod, listening to the deafening pulses of the waves crashing into the sand. In between each wave was a perfect, peaceful stillness with silence so loud, it was all I could hear. During those moments of silence, I could feel my hearbeat and breathing slow, and for those brief moments, my thoughts became still. Even though the stillness was brief, I lived so completely in those moments, that they stretched on endlessly, as Travis and I watched for the next crest of wave emerging from the stillness to repeat the cycle. The swollen full moon glowed brightly in the northern sky as the southeastern horizon became a golden pink with the impending sunrise. I stood there, watching the waves for only a minute or two, but during those precious minutes, I was reminded of why I drag myself out of bed in the cold and the darkness each morning to squeeze in my runs. Those runs are some of the few peaceful moments of my day where I am free of all worries.

I continued on my run, heading back home. It must be getting late; I better hurry if I want to make it to work on time, I reasoned. I turned down a residential street, which wound around, and then turned into another street, and then another. I could see the ocean coming towards me again. Wait a minute. I need to be going east, not west! Suddenly, I hit Tamarack again. I had just added on an extra mile and made a full circle. Not to mention another unnecessary, extra, steep hill. (Never take a road called "Skyline" unless you want to climb). I started booking it, much to Travis' dismay. Not only had I run an extra mile, but the only way back now was the long way home. Time to suck it up. Finally, we made it home, 7.6 miles later. Oops! How did a 4 mile run turn into almost 8? Poor Travis!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Year's Resolutions Underway!

Today is Day 4 of implementing my New Year's resolutions. So far, it's going swimmingly (no pun intended). I've been more balanced, eating healthier, and working out every day. I feel more organized. more positive, and more energetic, despite my sinus infection.

This morning, I was able to successfully wake up at 5:30 am, and I am NOT a morning person! Not to mention that I slept like crap because I can't breathe through my nose. Ugh. Travis was surprised when I woke up and asked, "Run?" Despite his sleepiness, he couldn't resist the three-letter word. His excitment helped me follow as he bounded out of bed. He watched impatiently as I put on my running clothes (I couldn't find my damn cold-weather running tights! Grrr.) and fumbled around for my headlamp. Ick. It was still dark out.

Undeterred, we headed out into the early morning blackness. I braced myself against the cold. Travis didn't seem to mind at all. He seemed to keep up a lot better with me this time. I guess dogs build fitness too. My stomach was churning from the antibiotics for my sinus infection but I ran on. I carefully listened to my body, however, slowing my pace and walking the tough hills, guilt-free. I was just happy to be out of bed and mustering a run, no matter how slowly. Around the turn-around point, the burning in my stomach turned to nausea, and I was forced to walk. I remained totally positive. I felt very alive, and my sinuses had completely opened up. I ran whenever I could and walked when I had to.

My early morning workout paved the way for a successful day. I felt chipper and energetic all day, much to the annoyance of my co-workers. Tomorrow's workout? Hopefully, a bike on the trainer. The bike is all hooked up, the DVD is in the player, and my clothes are laid out. No excuses!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Another Workout Done--Swimming

I've been off today. Some sort of sinus infection, blech. I started the Z-pack tonight. I was VERY tired today. However, it was also my last day of freedom. Tomorrow, I will resume my hectic teaching schedule. I didn't have a fever. I wondered if a workout would make me feel better. I had a swim and bike on the docket. The bike would have been fun but I knew I wasn't up for a double. I really needed to swim. It had been (gulp) 6 weeks. Oops.

I started by taking Travis for a brisk 30 minute walk. He appreciated it, at least. Normally, these walks help me loosen up and make it easier to transition to a workout afterwards. Today, I felt weak and winded. I knew I was under the weather. Yet, I really wanted to swim.

I headed down the street to the local pool. It had closed 5 minutes earlier. Blimey! Undeterred, I found another pool at the Y in Encinitas, using my trusty site "Find a Pool Anywhere in the World!" (http://www.swimmersguide.com/). It has yet to let me down.

After getting my bearings at the new pool, I found an empty lane and jumped in. Brrr! I hate that feeling when you first jump in, especially when you're sick! I took off sprinting, trying to warm up. Surprisingly, once I warmed up I settled into a relaxed pace and slowly but surely banged out 2300! I definitely feel better now that I swam. Great workout! Now, I just got to get better and FAST!

My Workout:
200 free warm-up
3x50 (back-free-breast)
Descending Ladder:
(50 breast ez in between)
Cool-down-100 choice

Tomorrow's Challenge: Will I be able to wake up at 5:30 to sneak in a pre-work run tomorrow? I REALLY, REALLY hope so! Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Working Out on a Low-Energy Day

My plan was to go on a mellow bike ride this morning, down the coast. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, typical of San Diego. After breakfast and coffee, I committed the cardinal sin--I sat on the sofa to "relax" for 10 minutes. This turned into an hour. Which led to a nap. I woke up even more tired than before. Had lunch. Took another nap. It was one of my "low-energy" days. I wasn't depressed, just tired. I'm susceptible to chronic fatigue so I'm always taking notes of the patterns of these days, trying to determine the secret formula to prevent them. It's not as simple as it seems. (Yes, my thyroid and iron and wbc levels are all normal). However, I've learned to be patient on these days, as opposed to getting frustrated at how little I can accomplish.

After waking up for the 3rd time today, and enjoying my 3rd cup of coffee, I glanced at my "To Do" list. Surprisingly, I wasn't that far off. I realized I could at least try and work out. Feeling a slight peak in energy after a bowl of cereal and another cup of coffee, I knew this was my window. I hooked my bike up on the trainer, popped in a Spinerval DVD and hopped on. I was able to bang out 60 minutes on the trainer and follow it up with solid session of weights. I am SUPER proud of myself. I was able to work out despite myself! Plus, I'm hoping that the more and more I get used to motivating myself on low-energy days, the more the high energy days will be there.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Moving Forward, Moving On--Bring on 2012!

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's. I've been a little envious reading some of your 2011 re-caps, filled with joyous race reports and smiling photos. I don't really have anything of note to mention for 2011. To be honest, it was a crappy year. Unemployment, failed relationships, and depression is what comes to mind, along with being laid up for a big chunk due to a lame foot injury. So I'm not going to do a re-cap because it's not something I want to focus on. The best parts of 2011? I got an awesome job the week of my birthday as a math/science high school teacher. Happy Birthday to me! And I learned how to mountain bike--even some of the scary, technical stuff. So I'm thankful for that.

One of the benefits to a crappy year ending is that it fills me with hope for a positive change. I'm looking forward to a much happier 2012. So this New Year couldn't come at a better time. I love the infectious motivation available to prod me off the couch and into action. I love my new job and am enjoying this new time in my life to focus on myself for the first time. I'm getting more comfortable in my skin and more excited about pursuing my personal goals. I have an Ironman to look forward to! I am currently working on my training plan for the year and am more excited than I have been in a long time.

As I said in my last post, my New Year's Resolution for 2012 can be encompassed in one word: Balance. This includes pacing myself, not working too hard, eating healthy, sleeping healthy, exercising regularly, and being better about self-monitoring my energy levels so I don't drain myself out (a bad habit I have). I've been using the past few days to implement my new plan. Little by little, it's going very well. It's amazing how little changes can make big differences in my mood!

These past two weeks, I've been on break. I've been so depleted from my new job that the break was a mixed blessing. I loved the opportunity to rest and relax but it came at the cost of depression. I was just too exhausted. Plus the holidays always make me a little blue. I always feel pressured to feel "happy" and ironically, this triggers a bad mood. However, the past few days have seen a change in the mood barometer, and things are looking up. I'm feeling better and better and able to be more pro-active about self-care.

I went for a run this morning with Travis. It was the first time in a week. My exercise has been so inconsistent, which I'm sure has contributed to my bad mood. My feet were heavy and awkward, my left foot continuously banging on my right ankle. I was slow, my breathing was labored, and I kept having to stop and wait for Travis to sniff and pee every 10 feet or so. The flabby, unused muscles in my legs ached and burned. Despite these discomforts, I felt something I had forgotten; something I hadn't felt in awhile: peace. My mind became still and my vision softened; I was exactly at the right place at the right time. I was living in the moment. And yet again, no matter how many times I forget, I remember why I run. Running is an act of meditation.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Checking In

I know it's been awhile. To be honest, I've been going through a difficult time. Lots of transitions. My new job has swallowed me whole. I absolutely love being a teacher but these last 6 weeks haven't even given me time to breathe. I wake up at 6, drive 45 minutes each way, and work from 8:30 to 6 straight with only a 30 minute break. I have 8 different classes a day so when I get done, I'm often swamped until midnight preparing lesson plans for the next day. Not to mention grading and paperwork. On the other hand, getting to know each of my students individually and feeling like I'm making a difference has been awesome. Not to mention how smart I feel after teaching everything from pre-calculus to chemistry! But I know if I don't take care of myself, this pace will not be sustainable.

I'm currently enjoying my 2 weeks of winter break. I was planning on getting caught up on all sorts of exercise and catch-up activities. Except for painting some new art, I've been doing not much more than catching up on sleep. It's been weeks since I've gotten in a decent work-out. I've simply felt exhausted. This is going to change. After all, I have an Ironman I'm signed up for!

My New Years' Resolution is simple: Balance. It's all about balance. Taking care of myself. I am going to eat healthy (no skipping meals!), sleep 8 hours a day, and exercise daily. I'm going to revamp my training plan so it's hanging on my tried-and-true Excel spreadsheet above my bed, OCD-style. I'm going to sign up for lots of fun races. I'm not going to let my life be dominated by any one thing anymore, whether it's a relationship or work. It's all about balance.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Swimming in the Rain

The weather was wet and gray today, perfectly matching my mood. I'm actually doing pretty good but there are considerable aches and pangs of misery. I jumped in the pool to drown in my sorrows. The water washed away my pain. Wet raindrops pelted my back and arms like soothing, icy missiles. The stinging sensation reminded me that even though I feel numb today, I am very much alive. I swam hard, until my chest ached and my lungs burned and I was gasping for air. Shadows on the pooldeck haunted me as I swam lap after lap, blurry in my peripheral vision. A startled glance revealed only the bleachers, a tree, a lamppost; my subconscious manifesting grim specters hovering over me. I focused on peace, letting the racing thoughts of anger wash over me, through me, and away into the water. I let the water wash out the unwanted memories that only bring me pain. I let the rhythm of my strokes bring peace within to replace the holes where the memories had been. The shadows retreated, and a strange calmness fell over me as I continued to swim. When I got out, a mere hour later, I felt transformed, like a weight had been lifted. Now, I feel strong and empowered. I chose to swim to begin the healing process. I choose happiness.

Friday, November 11, 2011


That's how this week has been. SO excited about my new job. Trying to be strong in other more difficult areas of my life. All I know is that I'm a very lucky person. I am lucky to have wonderful friends and family, my health, my strength, and the courage to follow my heart.
The heart was made to be broken.
- Oscar Wilde
Giving up doesn’t always mean you are weak; sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go. ~Author Unknown

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Balance Midst Life's Chaos

For the first time in over five years, I feel truly happy. It feels like an enormous weight has been lifted. I'm filled with an overwhelming sense of relief. Ever since I turned 30, I've been remodeling my life, not wanting to look back later in life and be filled with regret. But after a divorce, job lay-off, and major career change, it's been hard to have faith that I've been making the right choices for myself. There has been a lot of doubt and second-guessing. Midst it all, I continued somehow to trust my gut, have faith, and keep on putting one foot in front of the other. Ironman helped immensely, giving me a sense of routine, normalcy, and incredible achievement when my life was everything but. There were times I felt like I'd lost all hope and faith. I'd look at other happy people incredulously, sure they were just naive and lucky to be so. I had gotten to a point where I didn't think there was such thing as happiness or true love. I'd lost my innocence.

Over the last few months, my life has begun to change. It's as if all my patience, perseverence and hard work has finally begun to pay off. I've fallen in love, despite myself. And for the first time in a long, long time, I believe in love again. I feel like I have my innocence and naiviety back. And it feels so good. At the same time, working towards my new career (from scientist to teacher), I begun applying to jobs all over the county. Since Blake lives up in O.C., I began to apply to teaching jobs there too. As usual, the job search was discouring. I heard nothing but jaded cynicism from others in the educational field, conversations laden with words like, "lay offs, budget cuts, and bureacracy". This was nothing new to my ears. I figured it couldn't be any worse than trying to find a scientist job. The only difference was that I actually wanted a teaching job. The universe must have known the difference. Amazingly, a few weeks ago, I landed an amazing teaching job only 10 minutes from Blake's house! I am a math and science teacher at a small, private high school in Mission Viejo.

I started my new dream job 2 weeks ago. For the first time in my life, I can honestly tell people that I LOVE my job. I can't wait to go in. I get in early and stay late. I work on lesson plans late into the night. I go to sleep thinking of ways I can help my students do well on their chemistry tests. I am brimming with ideas about school science projects. I love the other teachers at the school; I love the students; I love the atmosphere. It feels so good that I want to pinch myself.

Now I just want some traction and to settle into my new routine. It's been crazy living between Carlsbad and Orange County but despite it all, I actually feel more balanced than I ever have in my life! Somehow, all my errands are chores are up-to-date, I'm doing awesome at my new job, I'm happy in my relationship, and continuing to work out. I know it's only going to get better as I plan better and organize more in the future. Believe it or not, I've actually been swim/bike/running 6-8 hours a week, including a long run of 10 miles on the weekends! It's not perfect but definitely worth a pat on the back.

I used to say that I wasn't happy but hadn't given up on the pursuit of happiness. Well, for the first time in forever, I'm happy. Happiness exists. Don't ever give up the pursuit.
--Riding the 40 mile MTB race in Ensenada a few weeks ago.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grandma in Memoriam

I had a dream last weekend about my grandma. I had been meaning to visit one last time; I knew she wasn't doing well. In my dream, I was teaching at my new job when she came for a "surprise" visit. I was very surprised; afterall, I hadn't thought she was well enough to travel. We embraced, and with tears running down my cheeks, I told her how much I loved her. She said, "I know how busy you've been and how you wanted to visit so I came to you instead!" She reassured me that everything was fine. When I woke up, there was a voicemail from my dad with the news of my grandma's passing. Now I know she came to me in my dream to say goodbye.

My grandma was my hero. For the longest time, I didn't have a hero; I don't think I really knew what a hero was until I became an adult. Then, I realized that every time I looked at my grandma, she embodied everything a hero represented. I admired her, looked up to her, and wanted to be just like her. She had so many qualities I wanted to emulate. She was fiercely independent and not afraid to march to the beat of her own drummer. She was always positive and never scarce on smiles. When we would go out to eat, her upbeat attitude and high-energy would always astound us. We would joke to the water, "We'll have what she's having!"

She taught me to smile and exchange pleasantries with those around me. She taught me that you can live alone and not be lonely. She taught me that you should always be true to yourself. And she taught me that happiness isn't something that falls in your lap; happiness is a choice you make. I will miss her sloppy kisses. I will miss her redundant stories, retold so many times I knew them all by heart. I will miss her constant humming of old tunes, sung completely off-key. I miss Grandma terribly, but I will never forget the memories or the lessons she taught me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MTB Baja UltraEndurance Race

I did my first mountain bike race on Saturday. It was only the 2nd time I'd ever ridden my new mountain bike, Montana, and only the 10th time ever that I'd ridden a mountain bike. Luckily, I was too naive to be scared. I had no idea what I was in for. I had first agree to just go and support Blake, who rides the 100k annually. When he told me there was a shorter "fun" ride, I quickly piped up, "I want to do the shorter ride!" At first, he was very enthusiastic, saying how fun it would be if we both shared the experience together. As he studied the course, he furrowed his brow, realizing how hilly, difficult, and technical it was. He warned me, suggesting maybe I opt out and try again after I had more rides under my belt. I was stubborn, and refused to be steered off course. I was going to do it.
"Some of the hills are really steep. I know you don't like downhills, and this course has some nasty downhills," he warned.
"I'll can do it! And if it's too hard, I'll just walk," I retorted.
He sighed and shut his mouth. When he told his friends (mostly pros) that I was going to do the fun ride, their response was, "The fun ride is not fun."
I shrugged, protected by my innocence and stupidity. I was undeterred. The other riders were nervous. I was asked many times if I was ready. I couldn't figure out what the big deal was. Afterall, it was just a "fun ride", right?

Saturday morning, we woke up at the crack of dawn. Nervousness started to seep in for the first time. As we lined up at the start, I wondered: What have I gotten myself into?
The 100k riders took off, including Blake, and I was left alone with the 65k riders, one of the only females, and the only American. I suddenly felt very lonely.

We began riding, and, almost immediately, a young woman rode up next to me and introduced herself as Claudia. Relief washed over me. Her English was much better than my Spanish, and she clearly shared my desire for companionship on the ride. Although she claimed to be a beginner mountain biker, she was much stronger than me and started to zip off ahead as we reached the beginning of the first climb. I let her go, knowing this climb was going to last for about 8 miles. I watched her blue jersey become smaller and smaller, ever so slowly in the distance.
The going was slow but I was in good spirits. Eventually, the terrain steepened and became sandy and slushy. My wheels slipped and wobbled. This seemed like a good excuse to get off and walk. I had always thought the climbs on the road bike could be steep. Mountain biking climbs make the hills I've climbed on the road bike laughable. In mountain biking, apparently, it's not a hill unless it's over 20% and you have to lean all your weight over the front wheel to keep it from popping up. Ridunkulous. I pushed Montana ahead of me and slogged up the hill on foot. I'm not entirely sure this was much easier. The hill was so steep, its shadow cast me in darkness, as if I was walking up a skyscraper. Mountain bikers' favorite superhero must be Spiderman.
A cyclist rolled down the hill in the opposite direction. I looked at him in confusion. The fact that he had a familiar face didn't help my mental fog. My face suddenly broke into a wide grin. It was Blake's friend, Beto, whom I'd met the night before. He gave me some encouraging words and asked how I was doing. All of a sudden, all doubt was washed away. Infused with energy and renewed good spirits, I crested the first hill at mile 10. Although it had taken me an hour and a half to go 10 miles, I was sure the rest would be easier. Afterall, everyone had said the first climb was the toughest.
Then, I started the descent. Recent rains had cut deep rivets and trenches across the trail. Not to mention the hill was as steep as the one I had just climbed up. Only it was down. I took several deep breaths and tried to talk myself down, crouching into the descent position, weight back, chest down. Several nasty bumps, hops and skips later, combined with the sickening feeling in my gut that I was careening out of control, I slowly screeched to a halt and dismounted. Grumbling, I walked down the rest of the hill. I was not happy. I hate not doing something because I'm scared. I tried several different times to get back on the bike and resume course down the hill but to no avail. Unfortunately, once off the bike on a steep grade (up or down), it's difficult to get started again. Momentum and speed help stabilize the bike more than I had realized.
I finally reached the bottom of the hill, which matched my low morale. I looked desperately for a rock to crawl under and hide. How was I ever going to finish this thing? Was I going to be able to even finish? I remembered one of Blake's friends encouraging me at the start: "It will be hard out there. No matter what, you get to the finish, okay?"
I had looked at him in surprise, replying, "Of course." Now I knew what he had meant. It wasn't just me. This course was tough. I ignored the thoughts of despair floating around my head (a.k.a. "negativity drills") and, as I've done so many times before, kept on going despite myself.
The hillsides were gorgeous and serene. Unfortunately, not being familiar with the course (I hadn't even studied it on-line), I felt desolate and alone. There was a fork in the trail. I couldn't see another rider in front or behind me. Which way should I go? Suddenly, a rider appeared and zoomed down the trail to the left. The more technical, dangerous trail, of course. The timing was perfect as I had just turned the wrong way. I turned back and tried to follow, pulling up short in front of a sudden, enormous sink hole. Gulp. Cautiously, I walked through the obstacle, one of many.
The trail flattened out and became a well-groome dirt road. I breathed a sigh of relief. This I could ride! I flew through farmland, vineyards and small towns. It was like being transported back in time. A small white church dotted the horizon. Cows, horses, and donkeys grazed aimlessly throughout the countryside. I swerved around a few Holsteins and dodged a cocky rooster, strutting across my path.
Soon after, I reached another steep descent. The trail was sandy and soft as well as narrow, with several sharp turns. To make matters worse, the drop off on one side was steep and unforgiving. I tried, again, to urge Montana down the hill but he balked repeatedly. Disgruntled, yet again, I got off and walked down the entire dang thing. For a mountain bike race, I certainly was doing a lot of walking. I had to jump to the side of the trail several times to let other cyclists pass by. Watching them carelessly bounce and skid down the trail, millimeters from crashing or flying off the mountainside did little to boost my confidence or inspire me to follow suit. In fact, after watching them, trying helplessly to glean some last-minute tips from more accomplished riders, did nothing more than assuage my bruised ego and make me feel completely justified in walking. No way was I going to do that! Not today, at least.
Finally, I reached the bottom of the hill. I prayed that had been the nasty descent Blake had warned me about. However, I wasn't sure. What if it wasn't? I wasn't sure I could handle another nasty descent. As I rode easily through some more farmland, dirt roads, and beautiful orchards, I started to relax. Weaving through the bones of a massive bovine skeleton, complete with an intact skull picked clean, about 1/4 mile up the trail, however, I crossed my fingers and gulped. I hoped it wasn't an omen.
Soon, I was crossing some rocky creekbeds. Grumbling, I got off and walked. And then another. And another. Ugh. Are you kidding me? Suddenly, I was sick of walking. No more! I got on Montana, and with a burst of anger, fled through several creekbeds and deep patches of sand. Suddenly, I was laughing. I couldn't believe it had been that easy! Those loose rocks and slippery expanses of sand had seemed impossible to ride only moments before. Maybe I could finish this thing afterall.
I reached an aid station and stopped to refuel. I eagerly gulped down several orange slices and small, chocolate-flavored bars, reminiscent of Cliff bars. Quite tasty. I also slurped down several cups of some sort of carbonated soda/energy drink. Even though I had been eating and drinking, I didn't realized how famished I'd become. All of a sudden, everything was right in the world again. I zipped down the road with renewed energy. It was as if someone had brightend the color and wiped my lenses clean.
Until the climbing began. Again. No more, please. Uncle! I pleaded. My legs burned with lactic acid. Stubbornly, I climbed despite my quads protest. I focused on my form, breathing forcibly as I lowered my chest to the handlebars. My butt was so forward on the seat, I could feel the nose poking my tailbone. Fatiuged, I pedaled as slowly as I could, and surpisingly, discovered I could make my way to the top of the hill using this tactic.
All of a sudden, I was careening down the final descent. I knew I was close. My GPS read 38 miles. I could see the sprawling town of Ensenada rapidly approaching in the distance. Confidence building, I rode every hill, up or down, every rock, every bit of sand, refusing to get off and walk. I could do this. I was going to finish. I reached the dry wash that runs into town, the final stretch, and took off as fast as I could, zipping through shallow creeks and muddy patches. Droplets of muck splattered my face and legs. I started purposely careening through the mud and water like a kid splashing in puddles after a rain.
And then, I was at the finish, exhausted and exuberant. I had done it! My first mountain bike ride/race. 65km on a very difficult course, in another country no less. Tired, exhausted, and completely satisfied. Muy contento!
--The mariachi singers at the post-ride party. They were absolutely amazing. They actually did a stand-up job playing all sorts of rock. Here they are playing Pink Floyd!
--Our muddy and tired steeds, racked up and ready to go home. What a ride!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Best Birthday EVER!!!

Okay, so my birthday isn't until the 27th. But my birthday came early this year. Last weekend, I went over to Blake's, only to find the most beautiful gift ever, waiting for me in the kitchen (see above). It's a Specialized Safire, full supsension, all carbon, with something called a "brain" that adjusts the shocks automatically depending on the terrain you're on. Bitchin'! Hmmm. My bike has a brain? Kinda scary. Wonder if it can help me with some of my physics lessons for teaching...Anyway, I named him "Montana" since I'm a 49'ers fan, and his colors are gold with some red.

I have been learning to mountain bike recently. The learning curve is pretty steep. I think the transition from road to trail is much harder than the other way around. Sure I have the endurance but I lack the technical skills. I have to accept that I will fall off the bike from time to time. And I lack the anaeorobic power bursts necessary to get up short, steep hills. But I've been bravely tackling my fears and doing it enough times that it was starting to get fun. However, I was riding an old Trek hardtail that I bought used for $200. Boy, did I get my money's worth on trusty ole' Rocky (that was her name).

Not knowing the difference, I thought feeling like you were atop a jackhammer on the downhills was normal. On the uphills, Rocky jerked, twisted, and bucked on every pebble like a frisky horse on a cool autumn day. We skidded all over the sand. Sometimes, we crashed. The back end was always swishing, sliding and slipping out from under me. Needless to say, not knowing if my bike was going to stay upright on some of the bumps was not good for my confidence.

I took Montana for a test ride. We rode a trail I had traversed earlier on Rocky. It included some of my infamous nemeses: rocky creekbeds, deep sand, water crossings, and downhill switchbacks. I had walked much of it last time, frustrated and nearly in tears. I winced as we careened down the switchbacks, sure that I was going to fall to my death. I carefully opened my eyes at the bottom. Not only was I still atop the bike, I hadn't even felt a bump. I was certain we had gone over some rocks.

Montana and I continued on. My eyes must have deceived me. Several largish rocks appeared in our path, yet they seemed to disappear under me as we rode through. I couldn't feel them at all. It was like riding a Cadillac. For the first time, I felt courageous on the trail. I trusted my bike. I started seeing how fast I could go down the trail, trying to see if I could catch up to Blake. I had never been able to do that before, always afraid Rocky would skid uncontrollably out from under me at top speeds. The faster we went, the smoother the ride. We blasted through water and soared through a dry creekbed, riddled with large boulders, piled atop each other like a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Somehow, amazingly, I didn't fall. Not even close. Montana just floated on top of them with something I discovered that had been sorely lacking before: momentum. What a concept.

On the way home, I finally got brave enough to jump a curb for the first time. I had never been able to muster up the courage to do it. I didn't let myself think about it for too long. I just pointed Montana at the curb, and pulled up the front wheel when we were close. And that was it. It was that simple. The rest of the bike followed easily.

This weekend, we're going to a mountain bike race in Baja. I'm just doing the "fun" ride (34 miles) but I'm super excited to get some one-on-one time with my new toy!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

New Year's Resolution

Rosh Hashanah was last week. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on what changes and improvements I want to start working on. The, when New Year's comes around on January 1, I can reassess. I feel like it's given me a head start.
1. Be on time!
I have a really bad habit of being late. Not only is it rude, but it causes me a ton of unneeded grief and stress in my life. I've resolved to not just be on time from now on, but to be at least 5-10 minutes early. Job interviews, tutoring, coaching Girls on the Run, appointments, and meetings with friends and loved ones--it's important to be on time! But how can a chronically late person achieve this? For one, I need to be realistic with my planning. I simply try to cram too much into one day. I've started streamlining more and being more realistic with my schedule. Second, I have a much more detailed daily schedule. I list what has to be done at what time, other things that need to get done, and less important things that I would like to done--in that order. Third, I work backwards from the time I want to get there. Then, I subtract 15 minutes for Murphy's law. I then add driving time, add an extra 10 minutes to that, then I figure out what time I need to leave my apartment...and add 10 minutes. For some reason, I go through a time warp when I walk from my apartment to the car in the parking lot, where I instantly lose 5 minutes. Go figure. That gives me the time I need to be leaving my apartment. Whallah! Guess what? It works! Since I've implemented my new procedure, I've been 5-15 minutes early for everything. (Okay, a few times I've been a few minutes late but that's still a vast improvement).
2. Wake up early.
I know, I know. I've had this on my list for New Year's resolutions for the last 3 years. I seem to make progress and move towards this goal, and then lapse back into my habitual, old night-owl schedule. Even though my circadian rhythm is programmed to be a night person, the truth is, the early bird does get the worm. I can't achieve #1 if I don't wake up early! Plus, I can be more productive. I've started setting my alarm (I know this isn't rocket science but believe it or not, I haven't been using one). Second, I actually GET UP!!! Having a morning workout planned at a set time with the clothes laid out the night before helps a lot. Having a loved one in bed next to you that wakes you up with a delicious, steaming hot cup of coffee also helps. The result so far? Vast progress! I've been waking up around 6:30 to 7:30 every day for the last week. Before? I'm embarrassed to admit, I would sleep until 9.
3. Avoid naps. Take only short naps, if absolutely necessary.
Sleep begets sleep. The more I sleep, the more sleep I seem to think I need. This has to stop. I simply have too much to do. Instead of taking a nap, I've been trying to do something productive. Planning a workout during these low-energy times revives me 10-fold more than a nap or cup of coffee does. The result? I've only taken 1 nap in the last week (which was only 1 hour).
4. Avoid planning too much.
I tend to overfill my plate. Then, I feel stressed and overwhelmed. I know when I start feeling that way, it's time to eliminate things from my to do list. It's better to prevent that overwhelmed feelign in the first place. Early this year, I decided to do some housecleaning. I streamlined by eliminating volunteering for animal rescue and riding horses. I miss it a lot but there will be other times in my life where I have more room for those activities. I've decided to focus on my teaching career. I still get to volunteer (Girls on the Run) but it's teaching-focused. I've also put my animal art business on hold. It was taking up a lot of time and money. I miss it a lot but I still paint and draw to relax whenever I have some down time. So, my focuses right now are teaching, training and my new relationship!
That's enough resolutions! I would rather have a few that I focus on and achieve than a million I half-ass.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bonelli Olympic Triathlon Race Report--My First DNF

I hadn't done a triathlon since March. I've been swimming, biking and running almost every day but I wouldn't go so far as to call it training. For some reason, I signed up for the Bonelli Olympic Distance Triathlon a few weeks ago. It was in a venue I had never raced before, and I wanted to brush off the cobwebs. As the weekend drew near, I began having second thoughts. I wasn't ready for this. Should I do it? I'm just getting over an injury. I rose one morning after having a very good dream of me racing and having a great time. I knew it was time to get back in the saddle.
We got there before the park even opened (thanks to Blake, the uber-planner). I've never had the luxury of VIP parking and picking my spot on the transition rack before. We were there so early, we had a hard time figuring out where to park. It's hard to know where the parking lot is when you're the first person there!
--setting up my transition
As soon as I checked in and set up my transition (and went to the bathroom 4x), I started to calm down. The pre-race butterflies fluttering in my stomach were like a long-time, forgotten friend. I was excited.
--Preparing for the swim
I headed down to the lake to warm up for the swim. The water was a balmy 78. Being a wimp, I was relieved not to have to deal with cold water. I jumped into the lake, and zipped around like a dolphin. I had forgotten how much like a rockstar your wetsuit makes you feel in the water.
--coming out of the water
The race kicked off with a woman singing an absolutely beautiful version of "The Star Spangled Banner". My wave was unusually small, a nice change of pace from previous races. As a matter of fact, the entire race was very low-key (albeit a little disorganized), but it was extremely beginner-friendly and welcoming.
The horn blew, and we charged into the water. I was nervous. I had done a 1500 yard time trial in the pool earlier that week. However, I hadn't been swimming much. And the last open water swim I had done was...June? Gulp. Surprisingly, I easily found a steady rhythm and glided through the water. I definitely wasn't speedy, but I was relaxed and comfortable. I was enjoying myself. What more could I want? Even though the buoys were far and few between (only 4 total), happily I nailed them. All of sudden, the swim finish appeared. Wow. That was relatively painless. Phew! What a relief. Most anxiety-induced part of the race over. Check and check.
--onto the bike
The bike was 3 loops around the park, offering some very scenic views of the neighboring hillsides and plenty of shade from overhanging oak trees. I had spent hours the days before cleaning Torch, putting on his race wheels and changing the tubular on the front (a flat from my last tri in March--about time to fix it!). I had double- and triple-checked the tires this morning. Torch was ready to go.
I gasped for air as I roared away on the bike, dripping with water and pulling slimy, green algae from my arms, acquired from the Puddingstone Reservoir. I was having a hard time catching my breath. Had I started to sprout gills on the swim? I had forgotten what a shock to the body the bike-to-swim transition can be. The pavement was rough, and I gritted my teeth as I bumped and jiggled around the potholes. Soon, it was smooth sailing, and I soared down a few descents, admiring the shady oaks lining the roads, with the large reservoir in the background. The sky was overcast and a light mist gently dusted my skin, refreshingly cooling me. Before I knew it, I had finished the first lap. The 8 miles had gone by in the blink of an eye. I caught sight of Blake snapping pictures, and cheering my name as I began my second lap. I smiled. I had forgotten how much positive energy is infused from a loving support crew.
During the 2nd lap, I started to find my rhythm. My legs felt like pistons, and my glutes were the engine. My breathing settled, and I began to feel strong and consistent. I was beginning to thoroughly enjoy myself. The course was so pretty. There was no one around me. I'm either doing really well...or really bad, I reasoned. Of course, I could just be somewhere in the middle. If it just weren't for those patches of rough pavement...
I made a right turn. My back wheel felt a bit funny. It must be the road. Thump, thump, thump. No, no, no, I pleaded. It has to be the road. It's so bumpy. I looked down at the back tire. It was difficult to tell. Was it...? I didn't even want to think the dreaded, four-letter "F" word. It wasn't. Couldn't be. No, please, no. I slowed to a stop. I'll just check it, and it will all be in my head. Then, I'll have peace of mind and can continue on my merry way. I slowed to a stop, and gave the back tire a tell-tale squeeze. It was flat. I yelled my own four-letter F word loudly in my head. Then, I got to work.
Okay, a flat. My first flat in a race. Everyone gets a flat in a race at some point. Guess it was my turn. I can deal with this. I flipped the bike over, taking care to remove the water bottle to prevent all its contents from spilling onto the ground. Unfortunately, I was riding on tubulars, which I have less experience changing. However, I had done it a few times. I had determination on my side. Plan A: Seal the hole with "Vittoria Pit Stop". The claim is that it fills the tire with a slimy foam that patches the hole as it reinflates it with CO2. A lot of my friends had sworn by it. I hoped they were right. I pried off the cap, stuck the nozzle in the valve, and breathed a sigh of relief as the cold hiss of compressed gas filled the tire. I removed the bottle and foam threw up all over me and the back wheel like champagne bubbles spewing from a newly corked bottle. I spun the wheel. And listened. A high-pitched hisssssss quickly replaced my relief with dread. I stared the puncture square in the eye. It just pffffffffted air on my cheek as if thumbing its nose and sticking its tongue at me. I rolled my eyes.
Okay, plan B. I removed the wheel, extracted the pocket knife I had stowed in my bag for just this ocassion and cut the tire off the wheel. That tire had been on that wheel for over a year. No way was I going to be able to successfully pry it off with my wimpy hands and a tire lever. I had prior experience with this part, and trying to salvage a punctured tubular that's over a year old just isn't worth it to me in a race. Nonetheless, getting the blade under the bottom of the tire and ripping the entire thing off was still a devil of a job. I thought of Norman Stadler on the lava fields in 2005: "Too much GLUE!!!" But although tossing the wheel into the rocks and bursting into tears was tempting, I focused on trying to get the new tubular onto the wheel. Except...it was a brand new tubular. And even though it had been prepped with glue and inflated at some point in the long ago time, I couldn't remember when that was (probably a year ago when I put this blated tire on). The fact was, it was a virgin tire and had never felt a wheel before. And it was the most doggone, stuborn piece of rubber I had ever encountered. Try as I might, I could not get the last few inches onto the wheel. I pulled and pulled. Pushed. I tried standing, sitting, using the ground and my knees for leverage, tire levers. Nothing. The only progress I could see were some bloody fingertips from trying to push the tire onto the wheel and bruises and cuts on my knees where the bladed spokes of the Zipp wheel had sliced into. Tire: 2; Rachel: 0. Thankfully, a very kind gentleman rode by at that moment and asked if I needed any help. I happily obliged. Within minutes, we showed that tire who was boss (although I have to admit, even he had trouble with that f*&#@n' thing).
He rode off, and I then popped my CO2 cartridge onto the valve to fill it up and ride off. I had lost 20 minutes but at least I would still be able to finish. Then, I realized the valve extender was completed effed up. I had only myself to blame. I hadn't put the daggone thingy into the right thingy. Stubbornly clinging to hope, I used both of my cartridges to fill the tire with air, following this procedure by holding my thumb tightly over the valve opening to prevent the mad hissing exodus of cold air right back out. I tried smothering the valve with GU, hoping in a last-ditch effort to gunk up the opening and seal it just long enough to ride back to transition, where I had back up clincher wheels ready to go. Maybe I could take off my bike shoes and run the last 2 miles back to transition barefoot with Torch by my side, replace the bike wheel with the training wheel, and then finish the last lap....
I shook my head. No, no, be reasonable now. It was time to surrender and live to fight another day. My CO2 cartridges empty and all resources exhausted, I gave up the McGyver tactics and sat down to wait for a ride. Thankfully, the SAG wagon drove by just then. I handed him my timing chip and happily accepted the ride back to transition.
Happily, the race organizers were very supportive in letting me continue on to do the run. I wouldn't get a finishing time but at least I could get in a good workout. Once back in transition, I put on my running shoes and headed out onto the run course. I was soooo glad I got to run. It was one of the most beautiful run courses I've ever experienced in a triathlon. The course wove in and around Bonelli Park and even took me off road on a few trails (my favorite!). I felt quick and strong (and well rested!) and flew easily along, my feet flying over the ground. I had been experiencing some recent flare-ups with my metarsalgia and after some rest, a visit to the podiatrist, and some forefoot gel pads, was itching to try out my feet on a 10k run. I was delighted. It was the first time that I had run that far pain-free since June. In addition, filled with adrenaline from other racers and cheering spectators, I pounded my feet down the course at race pace. Like a true test pilot, I was taking the good ole' feet through the paces. And my feet held up fine. More than fine, in fact. Much more than I can say for my fancy, schmancy race wheels!

--flying across the finish
I finished with a huge smile on my face. I may have DNF'ed but it was for mechanical reasons, and I still had a great time. I got in a fantastic workout and learned a ton about bike repair and prep for future races. In addition, after 8 years of racing, this was the first time I had ever flatted in a race. I would much rather flat in a small, fun race like this one than, say, an Ironman. Also, in 8 years of racing, this was my first, official DNF. Like the first scratch on a new car, it feels good to get it over with. I know now that it's not the end of the world. You do this long enough, and one of these days, it's going to happen. In every race, things happen that are beyond my control. Although I couldn't control the flat tire, I could control my reaction to the flat. Instead of losing it and sobbing in a pitiful heap on the side of the road (an alluring temptation), I chose to do the best I could with the situation. So what if I missed 10 miles of the bike? I finished the run and enjoyed a fully supported workout. I definitely feel like I got my money's worth.
(Note to self: I will definitely practice getting all intended spares on and off the wheel next time and test the valve extenders by inflating the tires through them after they're attached. Valuable tubular changing tips learned? Check!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Little Steamboat that Can

I am slowly but surely getting back into shape. I need more recovery days than I'm used to and every little workout makes me sore but it feels good to be consistent again. Today, I jumped on the tri bike for a 1 hour workout. I wanted to test out the 'ole legs. Afterall, I have a race on Sunday! My first triathlon since...March?...of this year. Yikes!

This Sunday, I'm going to do the Bonelli Olympic Distance Triathlon (aka the "Steamboat Triathlon, and hence the cartoon at the top) in San Dimas (http://www.trievents.com), the LA area. Since I'm out of shape, I'm just doing it as a long, fun workout. I tried swimming 1500 straight in the pool on Tuesday. Except for being a little slow and getting out of the water with a sore shoulder (the mountain biking and weights didn't help for that either), I was pretty happy with myself.
Today's bike was great too. I headed out of my new apartment on a different route. One thing I learned today: Carlsbad is hilly. Hill after hill arose, and I diligently climbed each one. I've always been weak on the bike. My hope is that the mountain biking will make me a better climber. Don't know if that is working yet but it feels like it might be making things a bit easier. Even if it's the placebo effect, I'll take it.
Funny thing is, I hate climbing on the road bike but love climbing on the mountain bike. There is so much more to think about on the dirt than the agony of your heart bursting through your lungs and the lactic acid burning holes in your legs. For instance, the fear of falling, the fear that the bike might topple over backwards, or the fear of puking. Afterall, the hills are SO much steeper in mountain biking. I didn't realize this until I began running some of the same trails I had biked the week before. On the bike, I had chastised myself each time I failed to get up the hill, cursing each time I had to get off and walk. Then, after running it, or more like walking with my arms swinging, I didn't feel so bad. I mean, jeez, some of those hills are practically vertical. I didn't know I would need ropes and a harness!
Of course, on our last mountain bike ride, I made the mistake of cheerfully piping up and proclaiming, "I just love climbing on the mountain bike! I mean, I really LOVE it!" Two seconds later, I attempted to climb a hill that was so steep, it rose its ugly head before me like a sheer wall. I did the walk of shame to the top. Even the walk killed me. I was forced to rest, bent over the handlebars, catching my breath and trying not to hurl. On the next hill, almost as bad as the last, I valiantly struggle to keep pedaling, keep pedaling as Blake yells, "Lower your chest! Scoot your butt forward on the seat!" I want to yell back at him that I am doing those things, and I'm trying, and I'm doing the best I can, and to shut the F*#k up but I have absolutely no extra breath to do anything other than heave and gasp up the hill. At the top, I collapse to the ground. I wave Blake off. I just need to sit for a few minutes. It's been a long time since I've had to do that but I don't question what my body needs. I just obey. We both patiently wait. Despite a low level of self loathing, I am simultaneously proud of myself for having made it this far. After a few minutes, my breathing and heart rate lowered, we climb back on our bikes and continue on for a few more hours of glorious trails. Please, sir, can I have some more?
But I digress. This post started about getting ready for a race that I'm not in shape for and my most recent bike ride. The hills on the road, albeit boring, do seem a little easier lately. And then I hit the coast with the sparkling ocean and the smell of salt so pungent, it stings my nose. I can practically taste it. The 101 is fairly flat, and I'm zipping along now, despite a mild headwind. I may not be much stronger on the hills but I'm definitely faster on the flats, like a true triathlete. I come to a screaming halt back at my new apartment with a grin from ear to ear. Time to get ready for Girls on the Run.
Sunday's race should be fun. I like the "Steamboat" metaphor too. Kind of reminds me of the Little Engine that Could. That's me. I may not look tough but looks can be deceiving.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Girls on the Run

Time continues to fly by. My life is full and busy, yet, somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, I realize I feel happier than I've been in a long time.

Girls on the Run (http://gotrsd.org/) started this week, and I'm head coach of the Carlsbad chapter. I meet with 15 other girls and (thank God) a few other assistant coaches 2x a week. Our 75 minutes together is way too short. It just seems meant to be. Here I am, triathlete and prospective teacher, in a position to positively influence young girls about the love of running, health, physical exercise, and self confidence. It's an amazing experience.
I'm still trying to get a substitute teaching position while waiting to apply to a teaching credential program next fall (I missed the deadline for this year--my decision to change careers was in April and the deadline was in March; ugh). It's tough out there! The pools are closed to many teachers with emergency permits (moh) because there are so many fully credentialed teachers who want to sub. Not a good sign. I refuse to become discourged! Meanwhile, I'm tutoring and applying for more volunteer positions in the classroom. This will be my year of volunteering. I love volunteering; too bad I can't get paid for it!
My foot continues to improve and I'm running more and more on it (after a $6.95 gel metatarsal pad from CVS--the miracle of Dr. Scholl!). I'm mountain biking a lot more and absolutely loving it. I'm starting to get less scared about going downhill. Expletives help a lot. I even went down some switchbacks on my last ride (my nemesis)! Every time I go over a bump, or rock, or creek, (insert scary obstacle here), I am overjoyed because I know just a few weeks ago, I would have stopped and walked over it. (I know this because the urge to stop and walk still enters my mind; I just work really hard to suppress it).
My sister is getting married! Blake and I are very happy. And the fact that his kids and pets (especially his little weenie dog, Oscar) are awesome doesn't hurt. Even Travis is doing great (although I wish he'd stop running into cacti off leash)! He's en route to become a therapy dog.