Wednesday, January 01, 2020

New Decade, Better Me.

The fall semester killed me. I allowed the school to swallow me up, and forgot to take care of myself. After a full semester of nothing but working and sleeping, I was granted holiday break (2 weeks). The first week is always spent sleeping and recovering. I finally feel my energy returning. My New Year's Resolution is to take better care of myself. Here's to a new year of health, peace, and happiness!

At least I've been walking the dogs twice a day (1 mile each) and going for the occasional hike. I finally ventured out for a 20 mile, rolling ride on the road bike the other day. Felt amazing. I feel fresh, recharged, and motivated. Today, I took my dogs (13 and 11 years old) for a 3-mile run. We had so much fun. I'm so amazed at how much these old guys motivate me. They did awesome. I was also amazed at how great I felt. I was worried running would suck after not doing it for so long. But it's always been my favorite, and the easiest for me to fall back on.

Oh, I also did weights! Makes such a difference in my strength, energy, and injury-prevention, especially now that I'm not a spring chicken. Anyway, my focus is on exercising for health and happiness. I don't care so much about speed or how I look. I want to exercise in a way that's sustainable and that means being consistent and disciplined but also making it fun so it's something I look forward to. Excited for my new challenge! Bring it on 2020!!!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Not Giving Up

I really haven't been working out the last four-to-six weeks. School got the best of me, and I stopped. Again. And then, I felt dull and listless. Something has been missing. I decided to go for a run. It wasn't easy. Luckily, the dogs motivated me. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be either. We did 4 miles, and even though it was slow, I was able to run the whole time. I know my fitness will come back more quickly this time. I was just starting to get back in shape when I stopped.

I could easily beat myself up. I just don't see the point. It doesn't help. Instead, I'm focusing on beginning again. No matter how many times I stop, I can always begin again. After all, it's my life. What do I have to lose? Everything, if I don't try.

So I did weights today. I was pleasantly surprised my strength still seems intact. One thing I've noticed--it takes very little exercise for me to feel good. I get so much energy; it's like being released from all the stress zapping my zest for life and imprisoning me. Afterwards, I feel like getting so many errands done!

Time to take the dogs for a brisk, 3-mile walk. I want Travis (my 13-year-old) to come along so I'm slowing down for him.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Keep on Keeping On

The workouts have continued, despite school being in full swing. Knowing, I have a triathlon in a few weeks has really helped motivate me, even if it's the fear of pain and suffering on race day that gets me out the door.

I've been continuing to log my miles and my calories. I've lost about 10 pounds to date but have reached a plateau and am having be even more disciplined--no sweets, no alcohol. My clothes are fitting better, however, and my thighs don't chafe as badly when I run. Perhaps some of my fat has been replaced by muscle? I noticed on my last few rides and swims that I had a little extra oomph, definitely some more muscle building up. Two weeks ago, we did Tour de Menlo, a 65 mile ride with some challenging, short, but steep climbs interspersed. I was very proud of being able to complete the ride without too much complaining. Just a sore butt at the end, which is par for the course. But even my bike gets more comfortable with each ride--butt and wrists can go longer and longer.

I need to work on not beating myself up as much for being slow. I've had a very negative mindset lately because I feel embarrassingly slow when I'm out there. It makes me feel like such a loser! But I've been improving dramatically, and I need to focus on that.

Sometimes it can be quite a challenge to just get out the door. Yesterday, we did a 50-mile "Coast Loop" that includes 4,000 feet of climbing with 2x6 mile mountain climbs to get up and over Skyline Blvd. I had such bad anxiety before we went that I didn't even want to go. I didn't think I'd be able to do it. I was intimidated--it had been a long time since I had ridden that route, and I didn't think I had it in me. Alan pushed me to do it, and I totally nailed it. I felt great and strong the whole time. I felt like I could have gone further. I'm proud of myself and thankful for such a motivating partner.

Now, I'm just trying to get my running up to speed. My elderly dogs (Juneau is almost 11, on the left in the photo above. Travis is almost 13) still run with me. I'm so lucky to have such great running partners. I've been pushing it up to 6 miles, which used to be nothing for me, but now it feels like a slog. Juneau's happy face keeps my feet running forward. I know it will get easier. I just have to continue being consistent and not give up, even if I have a bad string of days, or miss a workout. I try to just get myself out the door without fighting myself with every excuse in the book. This seems be the hardest part. Just don't think about it and get out the door. Keep on keeping on.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Biking When It's Hot

I'm in my 4th week of workouts, and I'm continuing to work out 6x a week, despite school having started. I've even been waking up in the morning and doing weights! Feels so good. We've been having a heat wave so it's been in the 90s, sucking all my motivation to work out out the door. Signing up for races is helping me be consistent. No excuses! I think about how bad I will feel if I don't work out, and it gets me out the door.

Today, I did a 20 mile bike ride with rolling hills in Woodside/Portola Valley. Coined "The Loop" around here, it's very scenic but it started out broiling. I went counterclockwise, which always feels a bit more challenging for me--steeper climbs. I also took Torch, the tri bike, for a spin, thinking it would be easier than the road bike. Wrong! Since I've been riding on the road bike (Pandora), it felt MUCH harder. Good to know. I was going to take Torch in Tour de Menlo this weekend. I've decided take Pandora since I've been riding her more.

Yesterday, I only did weights. It was the first day of school and 100 degrees when I got home so I bailed on my run. I have dreams of waking up early tomorrow and sneaking it in before school. Then a swim afterwards before happy hour with colleagues? I know. Ambitious.

Tuesday, I took the Juneau for a 5 mile run and resumed doing the loop around school and back home. I hadn't done it in awhile. It was hot and long, but it felt good to get back into the routine. I like that run.

Monday was a rest day. Boo.

Anyway, the workouts keep coming. I'm also keeping a food journal so I can lose the weight I've gained over the past year. I still feel heavy and slow as shit but I'm being consistent, and the workouts are getting easier. Plus, they make me feel better about myself because I'm taking action. I'm going to keep on, keeping on!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Becoming a habit

I worked out 6 days this week, achieving my goal. It's the fourth week in a row. The workouts are feeling a tad easier and are becoming more enjoyable. I love how I feel afterwards. Friday, I had to go to school to clean my classroom. I needed to get there in the morning. Instead of sleeping in my last morning of summer, I decided to get up at 7 and go for a run with the dogs. Followed by weights. I didn't want to do these things; I just knew I'd feel like crap if I didn't. I'm so glad I did. after 3 hours of cleaning the classroom with sweat and elbow grease, I was starving and exhausted. Combined with early dinner plans, I ended up working out against all odds.

Saturday was our long bike ride day. Since I've signed up for the Tour de Menlo, I wanted to make sure I was used to miles in the saddle. It's been awhile. We rode from Menlo Park to King's Mountain to Skyline, and then to the Bike Hut on Tunitas Creek Road, near the coast in Half Moon Bay. It was only a 40-mile ride (though even that's longer than what I've been averaging lately) but with 4,000-feet of climbing. I felt I might be able to do it but I wasn't super comfortable and wanted to avoid a meltdown. I like that feeling of anxiety you get before a challenging workout, like a long run. Beforehand, the course scares you, making the accomplishment that much sweeter at the end.

The Bike Hut was the turn-around. A small family farm runs the Bike Hut, a well-stocked bike stop that works on the honor system, small bills only. You can restock on water, drinks, gels, and homemade treats, like chocolate-covered pretzels. You can make yourself a pot of coffee and write messages on the board. You can rest for a moment on the bench outside, aside a rarely trafficked farm road. Birds frolic in the meadow across the street. Sometimes, hawks are perched atop fences, searching for prey in the grasses. It was a perfect turn-around, making a challenging ride have a halfway treat. Places like these are rare nowadays, and it makes me happy when I discover some that still exist.

Sunday, I was due for a long swim, particularly since I've signed up for the Santa Cruz Triathlon. After a 500 warm-up, I swam 3x500 followed by a cool-down. This has worked for me in the past for preparing for a 1 mile swim. I wasn't very fast, but I felt efficient. I worked hard, yet could have swam longer at the end. My confidence is beginning to improve. My goal right now is continue these consistent workouts as school begins. 

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Working out even when I don't want to

I did not feel like going for a bike ride today. I felt like taking a nap. Alan convinced me to go with him, and somehow, I got dressed and out the door. Exercise is not optional for me anymore. If I only worked out when I felt good, well, then I would end up taking an entire year off, like I just did. I pretended to gripe as we pedaled off, but it didn't feel too bad to spin down the block. I could always take it easy.

As we climbed Old La Honda, my quads kicked in, and my focus intensified, concentrating on keeping an even pedal stroke and light upper body. It was tough, but doable, and I pretended to complain about the steep grade at the top, but in actuality, I felt good. I was proud of myself for doing it, and after 4 weeks of weights and everything else, I could actually feel some of those muscles engaging. It felt good. The downhill felt even better.

The rest of the ride felt great. I used every opportunity to hammer and sprint when I could. I practiced my cornering on the descents. By the time we got back, I was smiling. It was only 20+ miles (with some climbing) but it was exactly what I needed.

I've committed to working out, and skipping because I don't feel like just isn't a good enough excuse anymore. Plus, all the days I work out when I don't feel good are the ones that make you especially strong. I've since signed up for 2 events: Tour de Menlo (65) on August 17th and the Santa Cruz Tri (Olympic) on September 22. It will be the 3rd year in a row, and I knew I would regret if I didn't tri Santa Cruz (pun intended). Tonight, I'm choosing a trail half marathon, my favorite event and great goal. I'm leaning towards:

Vista Verde Skyline (Los Altos; Oct 26)
Woodside Trail Run (Nov 3)
& the Woodside Ramble (Dec. 23)

Monday, August 05, 2019

More Workouts in the Bag!

I'm working out more than I'm posting. This is a good thing. Today, I swam--2000. I was feeling good so I added a little. Now I'm back to a respectable distance. My times are going down, or holding steady, and I'm already feeling the benefits of the weights in my back. I have a bit more strength and endurance in the pool. What a difference a few weeks make!

Yesterday, I bagged a 26-mile bike up King's Mountain and back. It was awesome; I felt strong and perky. My upper body is stronger, and my butt and wrists are more comfortable. The day before, I did weights and ran 4 hot miles. The dogs are both out of stitches and were ecstatic to join me.

I took 2 days in a row off before that. I was very disappointed. I'm only supposed to get 1 day off a week. I tried not to wallow in it though--it's consistency over time that matters. Day before that (Wednesday), we did an 8-mile, hilly hike in Purisima and saw 206 banana slugs!

Everything is a blur before that--I'm forgetting at least 2 runs (with weights), a bike around the loop, and another swim. Just trying to keep track of my progress. All in all, I've been steadily working out for 3+ solid weeks, about 6x/week. I have logged a total of 4 bikes, 5 runs, 5 weights, and 4 swims. I'm starting to see progress, and it's starting to get easier. I've dropped 4 pounds. Time to look at the race calendar!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

1 week of workouts!

I know 1 week of workouts is nothing, but after a year of doing nothing, I'm very proud of myself. It's been humbling (humiliating?) to say the least. I've lost ALL my fitness and feel incredibly slow. Everything is a slog. I just keep doing it, 1 workout at a time, knowing/hoping it will get easier soon.

After Saturday's run (and Yoga), we did a 20-mile bike on the tandem, followed by a respectable weight session (Monday). My wrists and ass are VERY out of practice on the bike. Tuesday was a repeat of Saturday's run, but it was much harder than the first time. I think the 2nd time back is always worse as fatigue increases. Wednesday was a 20-mile bike, which was hot and incredibly hard. I bailed on going up King's Mountain, feeling how out of shape I was. By mile 15, I had to rest under a highway bridge. My arms were shaking too badly, and even though I was going downhill, I didn't feel like I had the strength to hold myself up on the bike. I had to rest one more time before making it home. I almost called Uber. I've never had this happen before, even on 100+ rides. I was so humiliated. I was also starving. Skipping lunch, heat, and being out of shape caused this meltdown. I am itching to repeat this ride to have it go more smoothly.

Today's workout (Thursday) was a swim. It was only about 1700 yards, broken into sets, and I was incredibly slow, but it felt so good to get back in the water. So smooth and relaxing. I settled in, the farther I went, which is what I'm accustomed feeling. So I suck and am slow and fat and out-of-shape, but at least I'm doing something. I just have to keep at it. And it makes me feel better.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

I went for a run.

It doesn't sound like a big deal, but I've been struggling. I'm embarrassed to say I stopped working out (again) after Ironman Wisconsin. I feel like a piece of me is missing. This morning, I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep. I read and played word games on my iPad. My mind was racing. I listened to the birds waking up outside the window. I was oddly full of energy, something that happens less and less nowadays. I put my running clothes on and headed out the door before I could have second thoughts. I did an easy, 3-mile run around my scenic neighborhood, to the park and back. My area is full of redwood and oak trees, and the houses are cute with flowery gardens in the front yards. It's always fun to enjoy the hood and smile at other walkers, dogs, and runners. Even though it's mid-July, and most of the country is blazing hot, the air was cool, and the sky was still gray with fog. I hadn't run in so long, I wasn't sure I'd remember how. Surprisingly, my legs found a rhythm, and I fell into an easy pace, that was natural and sustainable. I could have held it forever. My mind drifted, and I relaxed. It was only at the end, that my thighs started rubbing together, a reminder of the extra weight I've gained this year. I'm not perfect, but I'm not giving up. My goal is to get back into shape--not Ironman shape, but healthy. It's a piece of me.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report--4th for 40

I realize I'm about 6 months overdue for writing this race report--Ironman Wisconsin was in September. But it keeps hanging over my head, and I need closure so here it goes.

My training was on target. I had done everything I could to prepare for the race. I was healthy, uninjured and ready to go. All my gear was organized, plane tickets, hotel, rental car booked, credit card maxed out. Time to go to Wisconsin. I had picked this race because I wanted to reclaim the old stomping ground of my alma mater. I hadn't really been back since I graduated in 2000. I thought it would be a great way to visit. Kind of an intense vacation but I was not to be disappointed.

I was nervous about the swim. Madison had been flooded with storms and rains the weeks before and Lake Monona was encroaching on the nearby streets. Bacteria and pollution was a concern. The lake was choppy and full of wind and waves, which was surprising. The water temp was in the 70s but still wetsuit legal. I had trained in a sleeveless to avoid overheating.

The normal pre-race jitters hit like an avalanche the morning of the race. I had difficulty choking down breakfast but somehow overcame. I was so overcome with anxiety, I began full-on teeth-chattering shivering in the Monona Convention Center the hour before the race began, even though we were indoors. It was not cold. Before, I knew it, it was time to line up in the chute.

The chute was narrow and crowded. I felt a bit claustrophobic. Unlike the mass starts I had been accustomed to, they seeded us according to our predicted start times. The clock started as I crossed a mat at the entrance to the lake, something I had also not been expecting. It was a little anticlimactic compared to my other races but definitely more relaxed.

The Swim:
I dove into the water and began swimming. The water was still a bit rough but smoother than the day before, when I had struggled on my practice swim so I was thankful for that. The water was silty and tasted gritty and muddy. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face; it was very murky. Although it was not very crowded, and I didn't have to deal with the usual body slamming, I missed having the draft of hundreds of swimmers. The current pulled me towards the terrace for the short leg of the rectangle. Then, I turned and began the long 1 mile swim in the opposite direction, against the current. The view of the capital to my left was spectacular, bathed in the amber pink of the rising sun. I knew this part of the swim would play mind games with me as swimming 1 mile in murky water will do, but my training paid off, and I stayed calm and relaxed. I breathed to both sides to help even out my stroke and was surprised when I made the final turn and headed towards shore. I felt refreshed and peaceful.

In T1, I tried to keep my heart rate down and walked (not ran) up the helix (spiral ramp up the parking garage attached to the Monona Terrace), even though my adrenaline was pumping and the crowd was cheering. However, my day was just beginning. I calmly changed into my bike clothes and mounted Torch, my trusty steed, who was going to take me through my 4th Ironman. We were off, and I was all smiles.

The Bike:
I had trained like crazy on the bike before this race and had improved significantly on the hills. I had ridden tons of hilly (mountainous) rides in the Bay Area over the summer and made my first mistake by underestimating the rollers on IM-Moo. The course was breathtaking, lined with meadows, wildflowers, rustic red barns and dairy farms. I also had lucked out with the weather--blue skies and low 70s--couldn't have been more perfect. However, the bike was significantly windy, which seems to be the M.O. for that area. Relentless hills and wind would sap my energy over time. My overconfidence on the bike would be my great undoing on this course. Knowing how fast I could go on a flat, easy course, I decided that was the pace I would maintain on this course, despite it being longer and more challenging. I blasted through the first loop, feeling fresh and ready for more. Somewhere along the second lap, I began to feel tired and my pace slowed down. The hills were much steeper and longer the second time around. The wind seemed like it had picked up, but it could have been my imagination. I ate and hydrated well, however, knowing I would still have a marathon ahead of me.

The spectators were wonderful--I loved their creative signs and costumes. I'm not sure if spectators realize how amazing they are. They inject energy into tired athletes, giving our minds a brief respite from our self-induced torment. I never can give them the thanks I want since my energy levels prohibit smiles and high-fives that are normally so easy to give. The clown was a bit creepy, however. My favorite spectators were the elderly group in lounge chairs outside the retirement home, excitedly cheering us on. They filled me with appreciation--I can still push my body through the experience of an Ironman. One day, I will not be able to do this. I felt very thankful that I was healthy enough to make myself do this, especially since, so often, I berate myself for not being faster. I can do an Ironman! How awesome is that?

I coasted into T2 feeling extremely tired--I had refused to back off my pace and may have PRed on the bike. This decision would cost me dearly. However, I felt mentally strong and resolute. Let's get this marathon over with! I changed and trotted out wearily onto the marathon course.

The Run:
I feel like the Ironman truly begins on the marathon. Okay, I've definitely had my meltdowns at mile 90 of the bike but 26.2 miles can stretch on and on into darkness after a 2.4 mile swim and 112 mile bike. I began running wearily but steadily, waiting to find my groove as I always do. I had fantastic marathons in 2 of the 3 previous Ironmans, and was relying on my trusty, old runner's high to get me through. It was not to be. Unlike 90% of the runs I have done, this entire marathon felt like a slog. This was doubly undoing for me because I consider running to be my strength. I would be completely humbled by this marathon, which is par for
the course in an Ironman.

The course wound through the UW campus which had been my home for 4 years twenty years prior. The sense of deja vu was overwhelming and the nostalgia was pleasant. This is where I had gone to Spanish class, this is the dorm where I lived, this is the football stadium where I spent my Saturdays cheering on the Badgers, this is College Library where our study groups would "study", this is State Street Brats where I had brats and beers, and this is Observatory Drive where the drunk bus would try to make one of the inebriated students fall over by taking the sharp turns too tightly. The memories were endless and joyous, and I relished every one of them.

I forced myself to run a steady pace for the first 13 miles, refusing to back down. I continued to eat and hydrate. My nutrition was spot on, and for once, my stomach didn't grumble (solid foods are key for me). After the first loop, I was lured by several other racers taking walk breaks. I was so tired. I have never in my life felt so tired. I began fantasizing about laying down on the side of the road and taking a nap. I began taking walk breaks too. At first they were brief. Walking was like an intoxicating drug--I became addicted. A few minutes became a mile. I began walking more frequently and for longer. The miles dragged on for an eternity. Darkness fell, and the shadows played tricks on my mind, melding into shapes and forms that did not exist. I no longer cared about what my time would be at the finish. I just wanted to finish. My motivation at this point was to get the g*damn thing over with. I began getting chilled, and blisters began to form on my feet. I hadn't trained to walk, and my body was unprepared. I willed myself back to a run to generate heat and relieve my blistering feet. So strange that running was a relief on my feet and kept me warm. Then, the exhaustion would take over again, and I would find myself walking without realizing. I felt like I was in a dream. My face was like stone; I couldn't figure out how to move it to make it smile, or even grimace. My boyfriend popped up to cheer me on, somewhere around mile 16, and scared the bejeezus out of me. I didn't recognize him for a minute. I have never experienced such exhaustion before.

This was the point I had been waiting for, when I would inevitably ask the existential question: why am I out here, putting myself through this? Why do I willingly suffer? Why am I doing this? I found myself embracing this moment; this is when you learn who you are and what you are made of. This moment is when the Ironman changes who you are forever, or when you quit. It's the breaking point. As I meditated on the suffering, many thoughts came though my head. It was difficult to settle on just one. The most prevalent realization that has stayed with me, both during and after this race, is appreciation. I spend much of my life beating myself up: I'm too lazy, too fat, too dumb, too slow, too mediocre, etc., etc. I am my own worst enemy. Think of what I can do when I get out of my own way! I appreciated that my body could take me through this Ironman, that despite my exhaustion and disappointment, I still had no doubts I would finish and return to work on Monday. Maybe if I spent more time appreciating myself and less time underestimating myself, I would do more amazing things.

I began running the final mile up State Street. I definitely did not have the perky trot I imagined I would have at that point of the race, but I was excited to be near the finish....finally. The miles had stretched on endlessly, and I thought the finish would never come. I was beyond relief to feel it, hear it, taste it, within my grasp. I willed myself to pick up the pace as I rounded the Capital for the final quarter mile. The streets were flooded with light, and noise from spectators and the announcer blasted  into my ears. I ran through the chute, relishing the victory. I had finished...again. I had been humbled by the Ironman, yet again. It had been just as hard as the others...again. And I had learned things about myself that will stay with me for a lifetime....again.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Peaking--Final Week of Training

I'm in the last week of training before I begin recovering and tapering for Ironman Wisconsin. I feel amazing. I have tons of energy and feel fitter than I can remember. I feel like a super hero. Able to lift all the heavy grocery bags in 1 full swoop. I'm absorbing the workouts, and eager for more. I can't believe how much I've been working out. It's been 20-25 hours a week.

I think the key has been devoting as much time to recovery as I do to training. With the summer off (I'm a teacher), I've been able to train like a pro. I take naps in between workouts. I eat small meals all done long full of protein and fruits and vegetables. I stretch and do Yoga. I work on mindfulness. More importantly, I just feel happy. Can I just stay here forever? (Alas, school starts back next week so that will be a tough adjustment).

I have been experimenting with foregoing recovery days during these tough build weeks so I can fit in the extra workouts and spread them out throughout the week. It's been working, and I actually love not dealing with the inertia of taking a day off. I have a recovery week next week so it's easy to push hard right now.

I did a tough open water swim off Coyote Point in the SF Bay on Friday, sharing the waters with windsurfers and getting tossed around like a stick in a hurricane. Saturday was the Mt. Tam Century, hosted by the Marin Cycling Club, 100 scenic miles with 8,000 feet of climbing. Honestly, it felt pretty easy, and I hammered the 2nd 50 miles after the tough climbing was done. The miles flew by quickly. Don't get me wrong; I'm still slow, but everything just feels easier. On Sunday, I did a hilly 17.5 mile trail run in Huddart and Purisima Creek. It was no big deal. In fact, it was exhilarating, and I had a runner's high the entire time.

Monday was 8x500 in the pool to mimic the Ironman swim. I was slow but it felt easy, and I wasn't sore or breathless. This was followed by a 5.5 mi neighborhood run with the dogs. Juneau can no longer keep up with me. Yesterday, I did a 24-mile rolling loop bike followed by an hour of hard weights. I finally felt sore and tired. I just have to make it through this week, and then I can recover and get ready for the taper!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Iron Practice Open Water Swim

Since the swim at Santa Rosa 70.3 was cancelled this year, I was short a swim workout this week. It's the final push before I taper for Ironman Wisconsin so every workout matters. I decided to do an open water swim at Gull Park in Foster City on Sunday. It would also give me an opportunity to test out my new sleeveless wetsuit. Since the swim is in a narrow saltwater lagoon lined by houses, I felt very comfortable swimming alone, especially in a wetsuit with a bright orange cap. After doing some research, I saw that swimming out-and-back from Gull Park to the next beach, Marlin Park, would be 1.2 miles. I decided to do it twice. Everything was fine until the return on the second lap. Yes, my wetsuit was chafing, and yes, the wind had created an uphill current on the return. However, I hadn't accounted for disorientation that set in. I had been counting the houses I swam past to pass the time. I was only 12 houses away from the end, when a beach to the left of me completely threw me off-guard (Erckenbrack Park). I hadn't seen it before (I hadn't been looking) and it made me think I had gone completely off-course. I became so confused, I turned around and swam back the way I had come, all the way back to Marlin Park. When I reached the 2nd beach, I was actually somewhat relieved, even though I knew I had to swim an extra mile. At least I knew where I was! As I wearily returned back to the start, I resumed counting houses, refusing to let anything distract me this time. At least, I know I will be able to the swim for my Ironman!

Weirdest Moment of the Day

I was doing an 8-mile trail run at Rancho San Antonio today. About halfway through the run, I noticed a guy with his back turned to me, intently picking apart horse manure with his trekking poles. He would then occasionally hurl it violently to the left. I had to yell, "On your left!" to make sure I didn't get hit with poo.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Favorite Moment of the Day

I went out for a ride today. A fast 20-miler with rolling hills, termed "The Loop" by people that ride in Palo Alto. It's a scenic route through Woodside and Portola Valley that winds through horse country and has access to some of the most scenic, famous climbs (Page Mill, Alpine, Tunitas, Old La Honda, and Kings) in the foothills and redwoods that winds up to Skyline and down to the coast (San Gregorio and Pescadero). I love it because it's only a few miles from my house and it's full of nature and wildlife. I was not to be disappointed today. At about mile 11, I spotted two tawny creatures, blending in with the golden grasses behind the trees. The second animal was unmistakably a deer. But she was craning her head back to stare at the creature behind her, as if waiting for it. Thinking it was a coyote, I actually stopped and got off my bike to get a closer look. The "coyote" began hopping casually towards the deer. Two giant ears unfurled, bouncing with each hop. It was a jack rabbit! Not only that, it almost seemed as if the deer and giant hare were buds. I stared happily at the pair for a few minutes before resuming my ride. That's why I love riding around here.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3

It is officially 6 weeks away until Ironman Wisconsin. I'm officially getting nervous. This last weekend, I raced in Santa Rosa 70.3 as practice for my upcoming race. I wanted to test all my equipment, nutrition, fitness, and mental state to see if I was on track. However, it had been 9 years since I raced in a triathlon that long. I was nervous.

There were a lot of effort involved in preparing. I packed on Thursday, drove up on Friday, spent all day checking in and dropping off gear bags before finally arriving at the hotel, exhausted at 5 pm. The bike is a point-to-point 56-mile course from Lake Sonoma to Santa Rosa, a 45 minute car drive away. After athlete check-in, I had to drop my run bag off in T2, then drive up to Lake Sonoma to stage my bike in T1. It was hot--in the 90s--at Lake Sonoma, and I was glad that I would only be swimming there, early in the morning. However, the lake was beautiful--fresh, clear, and cool (73 degrees). I was looking forward to swimming in it. I previewed the swim course, surveying the yellow and orange buoys. The buoys were tightly clustered before the turning right and making a "dog-leg" under the bridge and back. At first, I thought the turn-around was where the first turn was. I slowly realized it kept going, under the bridge, and then kept going some more before turning around. I gulped. I had forgotten how far 1.2 miles looked. And I'm going to have to swim double that at Ironman Wisconsin? I gulped again.

I woke at 4:15, thankful I had a ride to Lake Sonoma and could skip the shuttle from downtown Santa Rosa. I had been gifted an extra hour of sleep thank to my dad, who volunteered to sherpa me at this race. In addition, our hotel was in Healdsburg, only 15 minutes from Lake Sonoma. Unfortunately, the logistics of getting out to Lake Sonoma on race morning were difficult. A 5-mile traffic jam of stopped cars delayed us (yes, stopped). My dad was unable to drop me off at the race start. Instead, they directed all cars into a parking lot about a mile before the start. Then, all of the athletes, family and friends waited in line for a shuttle to T1. The shuttles were unprepared and few and far between. Even though I had left the hotel at 4:45 and arrived in the parking lot by 5:15, it would be until 6:15 (when transition was supposed to close) before I actually got to T1. I was beyond anxious, and the pre-race was, by far (thankfully), the worst part of the race.

A dense, pea-soup fog hung heavily above the water of Lake Sonoma. The race director made the call to shorten the distance from 1.2 miles to half that (1000 meters). I was disappointed but at least I would still get to take swim in the lake and get some training. Then, they delayed the race start until 7, to see if the fog would lift. It did not. Due to safety issues, since lifeguards can't see the swimmers, and swimmers would be unable to see the buoys, at 7 am, an announcement over the loudspeaker decreed that the swim was cancelled. A loud cry of disgust echoed out of transition, alongside a few quietly thankful athletes. I was extremely disappointed. It would be like getting a sundae without the cherry. It just wouldn't be the same. I was also upset that I wouldn't get a chance to swim in Lake Sonoma. It seemed like such a nice place for a swim.

We prepared for a time-trial bike. The pros would go first, one-at-a-time, 10 seconds apart, followed by the age groupers, in numerical order. I was #1304. This could take awhile. I relaxed and decided to make the most of it. All my anxiety was gone (interesting--turns out the swim is what makes me so nervous at these events? Never knew). I went up front and watched the pros prepare for awhile. Gawked at their bikes and equipment. Stared at one of my heroes, Ironman World Champion Miranda Carfrae, who was completely relaxed and all smiles, selflessly letting fans take selfies with her before her big race. Then, I realized I had been staring and my mouth may or may not have been hanging open a little, so I went back to my bike. I chatted up my neighbor athletes incessantly as I sipped on Naked Juice smoothie with OJ and mangos. Delicious! I followed this with a PB&J, banana, and string cheese. When it was time to start, I was relaxed, well nourished and hydrated and had visited the loo 4 times. I was ready.

As I clipped in, I was surprised at how relaxed and happy I felt. It felt like coming home. I hadn't realized how much I had missed racing long-distance triathlons. The half-ironman is such a great distance. You get a solid workout in all 3 sports and still finish in the early afternoon. Shoot, there was still time for wine tasting (not that I did) afterwards!

The bike course was gorgeous and mostly downhill with rollers in between. It rolled through wine country and was extremely scenic. I took in the views of symmetrical rows of grapevines, farms, and oak trees. Occasionally, a resident would stop their work to stop and stare at us, mouths slightly agape. I tried to enjoy myself as we wound our way through Sonoma, like a fast parade of bikes. I felt sorry for the traffic, stopped for miles in the other direction. Tourists were out of their cars, staring in disbelief, waiting for the police to give them the signal to continue their pilgrimage to the many wineries awaiting. I was thankful for the closed bike course and hundreds of volunteers directing us on the course every step of the way. Every turn had been diligently marked, the course was swept of glass, and even the potholes had been outlined with orange tape so we could steer clear.

Despite the impeccable course, some of the roads were bumpy (notorious for Sonoma), and the race became progressively more and more littered with bottles, GUs, and CO2 cartridges. I was lucky and was able to steer clear of all of them, but there were several crashes. Not sure if it was due to hitting a bottle or aggressive riding on a crowded course, but I was thankful not to be one of them. There were even more casualties when it came to bikes, unfortunately, as the course was peppered with sidelined athletes fighting with changing flat tires, most of them tubies.

Because of the time trial start, the course was crowded, but I also had the opportunity to race with my age group. I had been training hills, and it showed. I passed a lot of people on the hills. I could feel my competitiveness set in, particularly when a rude cyclist would pass me, or someone with a number in my age group written on their calf. What constitutes as rude? Passing in a no passing zone, when the rest of us have to slow down. Don't worry, I chased her down.

I rolled into T2 feeling fresh and ready to run. I had stay hydrated, using water and salt pills (1 an hour). I had eaten solid foods, including a bar, 6 Cliff Bloks, and trail mix (my favorite). I couldn't believe how quickly the bike was over. Had it really been 56 miles already? It had felt like a long Olympic. I knocked it out in a little over 3 hours. Score! The training has been paying off.

The temperature had begun to increase as I set out on the run. I had to pee but really didn't want to wait in line at the port-a-potties, so I gutted it out until the aid station at mile 1, where there was no line. I found a comfortable pace and settled in along the creekside trail. It was nice to be on a shaded trail with some packed gravel (yay! less pavement!) but the course was absurdly crowded as we navigated a 2-loop, out-and-back course. Plus, runners were going in both directions on a trail wide enough for 2 people, but not 4. There were many competitive runners passing and darting into oncoming "traffic". It was quite crowded, and we were all getting tired and less coordinated.

I enjoyed the aid stations and imbibed every 2  miles or so, taking in coke, gatorade, pretzels and bananas. I splashed water on my head and drank my own water out of my FuelBelt. I was thankful for my own supply, allowing me the freedom and independence to indulge on hydration whenever I wanted. I passed a lot of people at aid stations. I was able to zone out and even lost a mile between 4 and 5. Thinking I was only between 3 and 4, I rejoiced when the mile 5 sign appeared. It was like being given a free mile. I ran with no GPS, no heart rate monitor, not even a watch. I was only focused on enjoying myself and loved the freedom.

Halfway on the second loop, fatigue set in. It felt like I had a pebble in my shoe, but I didn't want to stop. It didn't seem to be slowing me down but it was uncomfortable. I did a mental note--how painful was it? Only a 3 or 4. I decided to keep going. Oddly enough, it disappeared after another mile. So odd how pain ebbs and flows.

At the turn-around for the second loop, I kept an eye out for my dad. I kept hearing my name, "Looking strong, Rachel!" "Go, Rachel!" Confused, I looked around. "Dad?" I had forgotten my name was printed on my bib.

Miles 7-10 were the toughest. I focused on zoning out, but it felt like the miles were getting longer apart. I wiped my forehead. It felt dry and crusty. I realized it had been at least 90 minutes since I'd had a salt pill. I popped one and chased it with water. Ten minutes later, the fatigue was gone. It's amazing how your body talks to you in strange little ways.

Mile 10 came and went. I saw a spectator with a Wisconsin sweatshirt. "Go Badgers!" I shouted.
"Go Bucky!" he replied.
My right hip began giving me trouble. It had started earlier but the pain was getting noticeably worse. I broke down and took 2 Advil. At the next aid station, I drank some more Coke. Twenty minutes later, I felt great. I passed by mile 11 and could feel the adrenaline begin to build, making me tremble. I was going to finish this thing.

At mile 12, I began speaking positive mantras aloud to myself and anyone who could listen. "Almost there! We can do this!" I started running faster. I started passing other athletes. With only half a mile to go, my pace increased even more. "Only 2 laps around the track," I told myself. The crowd of spectators thickened, and they cheered us on, injecting me with energy. My name was printed on my bib, and they were screaming my name, "Go, Rachel, go!" I ran faster. I saw an athlete ahead with the number 43 written on her left calf. She was running strong. I wanted to catch her. "Great job!" I told her as passed. "You too!" she called back. I was sprinting. My breath was coming quick and loud. I was going for broke. There was no slowing down now. I entered the chute. The crowd was going nuts, feeding off my sprint, and their enthusiasm only fueled me more. I picked up the pace. I spotted a guy in front of me, doing his best to finish strong at a hobbling gait. A female spectator screamed, "Get him!" So I did. I burst across the finish, feeling victorious but unable to speak. A medical volunteer grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eye, asking "Are you okay?" I nodded and gasped a yes. I may have barely been able to breathe, dripping with sweat, and red-faced but I was bursting with happiness. I had a great race and finished strong. On Wisconsin!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge

After a much needed recovery week, we woke up at 4 am to do the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge, 100 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing. How crazy to wake up earlier than during the work week only to suffer all day. I felt groggy and sluggish as we started, probably because I had taken too many rest days during the week. The first 30 miles, I felt sleepy and sluggish, not wanting to drink or eat. I had to pee a lot, which I couldn't figure out. I felt like I was in a fog. I worried I would feel like this all day. 

Soon, we started climbing Alba, a 4-mile climb with an average of 10% but sections of 15%+. The cobwebs were shaken off, and I had to concentrate. Sweat dripped off my nose. I was suffering, and all of a sudden, I felt awake and refreshed. Very strange. We climbed all the way to the lunch stop. 

After lunch, we enjoyed a nice descent down Bonny Doon to the coast. I didn't enjoy it that much, however, knowing we were doomed to climb it back up later on. The coast was flat and cool, and I was warmed up and enjoying myself. 

Then, we began climbing up Bonny Doon, Smith Grade, and Empire Grade, a steady 8-mile climb. I felt grumpy and began to feel tired. The aid station was heaven, and I stuffed myself with zucchini bread. The rest of the ride was much easier, with a nice descent into downtown Santa Cruz before a tiresome climb back up into UC-Santa Cruz. This ride felt much easier than the one I had done 9 years prior. Hopefully, that will set me up nicely for Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3 this weekend and IM WI 6 weeks from now. We're getting close!

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.