Saturday, November 27, 2010

Relished Run in the Rain

I woke up to wind and torrential rain. Okay, okay, a steady rain. To me, a wimpy San Diegan, almost any rain is torrential. Grumpily, I resolved to run, no matter what. Rain or shine. Running is the one thing I don't mind doing in the rain. In fact, I daresay that I actually like it. You can't overheat and you don't really need to hydrate!

My dad made pancakes, and as we dined, the sun emerged. Ah, perfect weather for a run. Nice, cool and damp. I couldn't wait. I sipped my coffee and changed into my running clothes. Just some shorts, shirt and arm warmers. As I stepped outside, raindrops pelted my arms. Huh? I looked up. The sky was completely gray, and the sun had disappeared. Tricky! I was undeterred. In fact, in retrospect, I had been a little disappointed when the sun had emerged earlier. I guess I just prefer running in the rain. The Los Gatos Creek Trail was quiet and empty. I had the whole place to myself. I exchanged smiles with a few bedraggled runners and cyclists. They all donned raincoats and wet weather gear. They must have thought I was brave in my bare-bones outfit. I thought I looked especially tough in my "Out 'n Back" ultra runner tee. Of course, it's all front. That's all I had brought from San Diego. If I'd had rain gear, I would have worn it too.

I settled quickly into a relaxed pace, relieved I didn't have to push myself today. I really ran hard at the 10K Turkey Trot! It was nice to run at whatever pace I felt like. A gi-normous puddle appeared from nowhere. I tried to no avail to leap over it, completely soaking my right shoe. Did I say I loved running in the rain? Hmm, right back at ya'. I ignored the annoying squelching sound my footfalls made and continued onwards, enjoying the new playlist on my shuffle. Very appropriate songs kept popping up, "Evening Rain" (Moby), "Caught in the Rain" (Preston School of Industry), "November Rain" (Guns 'N Roses). The pungent potpurri of wet eucalyptus, mint, and wild rosemary deliciously filled the air, energizing me with nature's aromatherapy. I gave plenty of free smiles to anyone I saw, especially those walking with their drenched, happy-go-lucky mutts. There were definitely a handful of mudders like me out there. Small, unnamed warblers flitted across the path, displaying striking bars of gold, black, and white on their tails. The creek raged and frothed below. Well, maybe "raged" is a bit strong but it was much more than a gurgle.

I finished completely drenched but toasty and warm inside. Followed up with some weights. The sun is shining now, of course. Time to go back to San Diego where the storm is predicted to follow me for tomorrow's bike ride!

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Mystery of the Unexplained Grogginess

I was going to swim today. Just swim. There are 2 pools near my parents where I can "drop in" for a small fee and use their pool and gym. I was supposed to wake up early and go. But I just couldn't. I tried, believe me, I tried. It was like rising from a coma. I was sooo tired. Besides, it's the day after Thanksgiving. What other day can I sleep in guilt-free? I groggily stumbled into the kitchen at 10:00 am. No one else was up yet. Sleeping in runs deep in our family. If sleeping were an Olympic sport, my whole family would have multiple gold medals by now.

I sat in front of the t.v., trying to no avail to wake up as I waited for the coffee to brew. As I sipped on the delicious coffee and downed some Raisin Bran, I killed some brain cells, succumbing to the most awful reality show on t.v., Jerselicioius. I'm sure there's worse trash on t.v. nowadays but I just don't watch that much t.v. Hey, it's the holidays! Give me a break.

My family soon joined me, and we made our plans for the day. Our mission, should we choose to accept it: procure, capture, and bring home the family tree. It's a tradition. As I stuffed my face with pecan pie in what my sister aptly named "2nd Breakfast" (after Lord of the Rings), I decided to forgo my swim until after the tree business had been completed.

The grogginess that had I had woken up with remained wrapped around me like clingy cobwebs as we drove to the nearby xmas tree lot. I tried not to take out my foul mood on those around me but my fam could tell something was off. Afterwards, they dragged me grumpily to lunch. I'm not hungry, I whined, as I downed my turkey and avocado sandwhich (although I only ate half). Upon returning home, my parents gently suggested I take a nap. It didn't take much convincing.

3 hours later, I woke up for the 2nd time that day, feeling very unrested. However, I didn't want to miss dinner! More turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes? Of course! Don't forget the pumpkin and apple pie! I've been stumbling around all evening and am ready for bed again. Oh, and I'm SORE from the 10K yesterday. The mystery of the unexplained fatigue was suddenly solved. Out of shape, race a 10K, and whallah! You get a sore and tired Rachel. Little races are going to take more out of me right now than I'm accustomed to. At least I had a good recovery day. Needless to say, I didn't swim. There's always tomorrow, right?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Silicon Valley Turkey Trot Race Report

After only two weeks of training, I decided to enter a 10K race. Normally, this would be a poor idea. However, this was an exception. What better way to enjoy Thanksgiving than to bang out 6 miles before stuffing myself with comfort food? Turkey trots are so laid-back, I knew this "race" would be a good idea. Except for me, it wasn't a race at all but an excuse to get out of bed and get workout in on the laziest day of the year.

Thursday morning in San Jose was freezing. This isn't just the wimpy, extra-sensitive, San Diegan in me. It was 30 degrees when I woke up. That's officially cold, especially for California (even though it is NorCal). Plus, my parents had killed the heat to save energy as they slumbered, dropping the temp in my tucked-away room to a frigid 56 degrees. Who wants to get out of bed at 5:30 am on Thanksgiving morning to that? I seriously debated canning it and plunging back into the depths of the blankets. Excuses ran through my head. I could run later. It's Thanksgiving! Shouldn't I get to sleep in? I hadn't even registered yet. However, I have fewer weeks of training behind me than not, making consistent workouts even more critical during this period. Why did I pick the holidays to get started? When everyone else is taking some well-earned time off and relaxing, I'm beginning training. Smart, Rachel. Real smart. I knew I would never live down the internal guilt if I skipped this workout. Plus, there was this strange foreign feeling inside me. Was that, could it be...excitement?

Donning ear warmers, gloves, a long-sleeved technical tee with a vest, and running tights, I got into my parents car to drive to the start. After fumbling around for several minutes before my dad showed me how to start the damn thing (stupid keyless cars), I was off to the start. The temperature was 34 degrees, reminding me of my Wisconsin days. Luckily, the sun was out, and even more suprising, I actually didn't feel that cold. Yea for appropriate-weather clothes! I registered and retreated back to the car to stay warm until it was closer to gun time. No sense standing out there shivering.

We huddled at the start, crowding together for warmth. Somebody reeked of B.O. Can't people be polite enough to smear some deodorant on their armpits in the morning? What does it take, 3 seconds? I pinched my nose in disgust. After the race, I couldn't believe how ripe I smelled. When I got home, I realized it was I who had forgotten the deodorant in my early morning haze. The gun went off and we slowly crossed the start, all 15,000 of us. Oddly, it didn't seem like that many people. Many racers were dressed in costumes, including a myriad of gawky turkeys, drumsticks, a plate of food, and a poor, very cold, skimpily-clad Sacagawea. I coaxed my legs to turn-over, reluctant in the stiffening early morning cold. The route wasn't very exciting. Just a maze of confusing turns through the streets of San Jose. I looked wistfully at the Guadalupe River Parkway Trail beside us, where the race course had taken place in years past. Now, I guess there's just too many people to safely squeeze onto the trail. Oh, well. I was still getting a great workout in.

Even though this was a "workout", my competitive spirit kicked in. Based on my burning lungs and heaving chest, I was definitely running at race pace. I felt like I was kicking butt. I passed mile marker 1 and checked my watch. Oh. My heart sank. I couldn't believe how slow I was going! Just a year ago, when I had done this very same race, I had PR'ed, exerting the same exact effort. What a difference a year (and 6 months of not training) makes. I guess training really does help. Maybe mile 1 was just a slow split. I checked my watch again at mile 2, 3, 4, 5, and, yes, 6. Nope. I was consistently slow. A year ago, I could bang out sub-8s. Now, I was happy to be just below a 10-minute mile. Boy, do I have my work cut out for me! Before I could start beating myself up, I reminded myself that this was not a race but a workout. I patted myself on the back just for showing up, just for being brave enough to subject myself to this, and for pushing myself through the entire 6.2 miles. Originally, because my running mileage has been so low, I was only going to sign up for the 5K. But the 10K was the same price! Free miles! I just couldn't resist. However, this was the first time I had run 6 miles in 6 months. I was just happy to be able to get through the damn thing without pooping out!

After putting things into perspective, I sat back and enjoyed myself. I pushed myself just hard enough to make it what felt like "race pace" on that day. However, I stopped caring about time. I was thankful to be out there just doing it. Thankful to be healthy enough to run and to have the motivation to push myself through it. I crossed the finish line just under an hour, feeling deeply satisfied. I may have my work cut out for me but this will be a great baseline to start from.


Previous Silicon Valley Turkey Trot Race Reports:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Overcoming Monday Doldrums

Monday's workout almost didn't happen. My dad was in town. Family always throws things for a loop. ;) We were starved by the time we got lunch (first obstacle) so of course, we gorged ourselves on cheeseburgers, fries, rootbeer, and polished it off with a huge brownie a la mode. I felt so bloated and sluggish afterwards. We walked around Del Mar but all I could think about was a nap. My swim bag was in the truck. My plan was to stop at the pool after dropping my dad off at the airport. By the time I dropped him off, I could barely keep my eyes open, negotiating rush hour traffic as my chin kept dipping to my chest. Mysteriously, the truck automatically drove home instead of the pool. I didn't care. All I could think about was bed. I crawled under the covers and fell into a deep sleep at 4:30. It's a cardinal sin to nap anytime after 3 pm. I didn't care. It felt forbiddenly delicious. I woke up in a dark room at 6:30, groggy, hazy, and grumpy. I staggered downstairs in my red terrycloth bathrobe and flopped miserably onto the sofa. How could I possibly workout now? I felt so groggy! I made myself a cup of Earl Grey tea (British style, with milk and sugar) and contemplated my options as I resuscitated my energy, sip by sip. I thought about how miserable I would feel if I didn't workout. I knew how much better I would feel if I did. What the hell else was I going to do with my time this evening? Sit around and watch crap on t.v.? Pick my nose?

I grabbed Torch and latched him onto the trainer. Popped in a Spinerval DVD and changed into my bike clothes. After a few nauseating moments during the warm-up, I was ready to go. I banged out a great, heart-pounding session on the trainer and followed it up with 30 minutes of weights. I love having a home gym, btw! It's so easy to squeeze weights into my routine. Anyway, I'm proud of myself for getting off the couch and onto the trainer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Battles of Rainy Day Weekend Blahs

Well, I have a workout plan written up for the "Prep" period and am logging workouts again. Which means, I'm officially back in training. It feels great but not every day, as we all know, is easy. After only 1 week of training, it feels a little bit easier to work out almost every day. I'm not as tired and sore after each session. And it's only been 1 week!

I actually had some cumulative fatigue by Wednesday of last week (see previous post). It took a lot of self-motivation to get out the door. Thursday, it just didn't happen. I wanted it to. However, by the end of the day, I let it go. I had worked out 5 days in a row after months of idleness. A day off was okay. Friday was another evening run with the dogs. Saturday? Oh, Saturday had such good intentions.

We were supposed to bike Saturday. The long rides on Saturday are some of my favorite workouts. Unfortunately, we woke up to cold and rain. I rolled over and went back to sleep. In San Diego, it rains so infrequently, there's just no reason to torture yourself. I resolved to either ride the trainer later, or wait out the rain and go out later. The rain was relentless that day. Unfortunately, the trainer never made it out of the closet. It was as if the chill and dampness outside infected my bones, making me feel moldy and miserable. I sat inside all day, feeling bleak and bleary, my mood matching the weather outdoors. Needless to say, Saturday was an unintentional rest day.

I woke up to more rain on Sunday. Why does rain suck all the motivation out of me? After a noon pity nap, I woke up to sunshine. Eureka! My inner storm blew away as well, and I quickly changed into my running clothes, the dogs whining and jumping with anticipation. I loaded them up and drove to a nearby paved bike path. The dogs were besides themselves with excitment, having been pent up the day before. We charged down the path exuberantly, pounding out 4 blissful miles. All 3 of us felt so much better by the end. I followed it up with weights as Travis let me know how happy he was by barking, sprinting around the room (with his butt tucked in a posture we call "Scoochie Butt", and shaking my dirty socks in his mouth.

All in all, it was a great first week back. I worked out 5x, including 3 runs, 1 swim, 1 bike, and 2 sessions of weights. I'll take it. Onto week number 2!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Workouts Continue...

I'm on a roll! On Tuesday, Greg met me at work for a simple, 1-hour bike ride up-and-back on the coast. I kicked myself for not putting on my arm warmers as we rolled off. It was windy and cold! My arm warmers lay forgotten in the front seat of the car. I felt good on the mostly flat ride and quickly settled into a nice pace. Until Torrey Pines hill, the final obstacle between me and the end of the ride. I used to be faced with this hill on every ride, and it would kill me every time. Seems like this pattern continues. Greg sped away as I toiled laboriously upwards. I climbed tediously for what seemed like an eternity before reaching the top. Ah, Torrey Pines, my good old friend. However, in the end, I was victorious. I reached the car, put my bike away, and returned to work with a smile on my face.

I was exhausted the rest of Tuesday and pretty much all day Wednesday as well. My body is just not used to working out...yet. Wednesday evening came and as darkness fell, I decided to put on my running clothes. Greg and Travis were at the skate park but I still had one running partner left, Floyd. I put on a long-sleeved technical tee that aptly read, "My running partner has four legs", grabbed Floyd's leash and my running shoes, and out the door we went. Floyd was whining with excitement. We charged through the neighborhoods, stopping only to wait for the light to turn green. A large shadow flapped overhead. I caught a glimpse of an enormous white barn owl, lazily moving from the telephone pole to the top of the lamp post. He's a regular in these parts. I hadn't seen him in awhile and took it as a good omen. As we reached a small trail that wound behind some houses, I took off Floyd's leash. Relishing in the freedom, he cavorted in the adjacent fields, stopping to sniff every now and then but always a stone's throw from my feet. At the end of the path, I called him and he quickly and obediently returned to my side. I snapped the leash back on and we continued without hesitation. Floyd, at 7 years old, is a natural runner. Part cattle dog, part border collie, he has innate endurance and a born passion for running. I almost forgot the leash was there; he was so expert at keeping a consistent pace and constant light tension on the leash. It almost felt like reins connecting me to a horse. We reached the turn-around and I signaled to Floyd to double back. Even though he seemed like he could've gone farther, he instantly made a u-turn, and we headed home. Tantalazing aromas of dinner wafted through the air as we ran through the neighborhoods. Terriyaki chicken, grilled salmon, stuffed turkey, and the pungent but unmistakable odor of...spam? Okay. Different. We returned to the front door, and I covered Floyd with pats and kisses. Both of us were exuberant. Floyd didn't even seem out of breath. He's amazing! I followed up the run with 30 minutes of weights. Boy, am I sore today!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back in the Pool!

I was tired Monday but I wearily resolved to go for a dip. Swimming is such a great recovery workout. I had my doubts. Afterall, I was so sore and tired from my bike and run over the weekend that I had to rest at the top of the stairs after climbing them gimpily like an old lady. I was so tired. Sore. Achy. Wah, wah. Off to the pool I went.

I had no expectations. My goal was to try to keep my heart rate up in the water for at least 30 minutes without drowning. I jumped in. BRRRR! The initial chill of the water was like a cattle prod. I took off, zipping back and forth for 100 yards. My arms felt leaden and my stroke felt awkward but I was able to get through my warm-up without much struggle. Then, I began my 500 yard free swim. I incorporate this with every workout. It's so great to prepare for long distance swims required in triathlon as well as a good test to see where you're at. It wasn't pretty. I got to 300 yards and wanted to quit. I kept slogging through the water. I reached 500 and took a well-deserved breather. The rest of the workout flew by. Yes, I was slow, and my arms were heavy and my stroke clumsy. But the half moon glowed in the sky overhead. It was gorgeous. That alone was well-worth the trouble.

I only swam 1500 before treating myself to a dip in the hot tub. I patted myself on the back for simply getting through it. Then, I went home and planned out my race season for 2011 (see sidebar). The excitment is building!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Back in the Saddle...Again

"It's not the number of times you fall that matters but the number of times you get up."

I've had a lot of false starts. I'm hoping this one is for real. Greg and I woke up "early" (6:30) on Saturday morning to join the tri club for a little 30-mile ride on the coast. I was a little anxious. How slowly would I ride? Would I be all by myself? Would I be laughed at in front of my peers? My fears were unnecessary. As I rolled up, I was warmly greeted by many smiling faces, familiar faces who I had not seen in months.

As we headed down the coast, I chatted happily with long lost friends. I felt absolutely fantastic. I hammered down the hills and began thinking about what an awesome cyclist I was....until I hit a hill. Cyclists zipped past me as I toiled slowly up each little mole hill on what is typically considered a "flat" ride. Oh, well. What can I expect? Nonetheless, my spirits were soaring the entire time.

About mile 20, Greg and I started to feel it. The last 10 miles were a struggle but I put my head down and pushed, hard, finishing strong. I felt wonderful. We grabbed some coffee and joined some friends for a relaxing, post-ride chat. I got to reunite with so many friends I hadn't seen in months! It was a blast. Just what I wanted.

Sunday, Greg and I took the boys (Floyd and Travis) for a leisurely 4-mile run. Except my body doesn't know the difference between leisurely and annihilating anymore. The simple act of moving is a lot of work for me right now! Unfortunately, we waited until 10 am to go (so I could have a big breakfast, yummy!), and it was pretty hot. Okay, like upper 70s but enough to make it uncomfortable. I was a bit concerned, especially considering how sore I was after the ride on Saturday. Luckily, my muscle memory kicked in, and I quickly settled into a slow but steady jog. Of course, it's pretty easy to keep the feet turning over when you have two excited dogs chomping at the bit. Extra motivation! It's pretty easy to run when you can soak up the oozing happiness of two trotting pups with grins from ear to ear on their faces. The run was tough; I'm not going to lie. But I refused to walk, not even once, even when I toiled up the hills where I've humbly walked over the last few months. But not today! Walking was not an option. As my heart rate soared, I slowed my pace but maintained my rhythm. It was a tough but rewarding run.

Afterwards, I was pretty beat. My body felt like I had ridden 60 and run 12. I took a long nap and laid around the rest of the day, simply recovering. Right now, I can get through a small workout but every little bit of exercise makes my muscles ache and scream. It's definitely a reality check. I'm sore today. Very sore. And it feels great.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Miss Training

I have been dreaming about triathlon. Every night. That and horses but I always dream about horses (I miss riding too). I miss how I used to feel. I miss how it structured my life. When I was training, and in shape, I felt on top of the world. I felt healthy, energized, and alive. Now, I'm simply existing, just focusing on getting "through" this difficult time of my life. But I'm not living. I could waste my entire life, stuck in this rut, just getting through. But it's not enough. I'm deeply dissatisfied and restless.

I miss how training used to structure my life. I was so damn organized. I had a training plan, I packed my workout bags the night before, I went to bed at 9. I woke up at 6. I woke up and worked out, warming my body up, gently awakening to the day. I went to work feeling energized and positive. I was so productive during those times. Not a minute wasted. Everything was planned out in my routine. I miss the security and comfort of my training routine.

I miss what triathlon used to do for my confidence. Yes, it made me feel better about my body image but it was more than that. I felt like I could conquer anything. No task was too big. I could move mountains, although I discovered upon trying to move heavy furniture up stairs by myself resulted in muscle strains. Just because I felt like I could move mountains, didn't mean I should. But it was a great feeling. That superhero feelilng.

I miss the release I used to get during and after a workout. Whatever I was fretting over seemed like less of an ordeal after a good, hard run. Problems were always smaller after a workout. Sometimes, I even solved problems simply by forgetting about it for an hour and going for a mind-numbing swim.

I miss the pure and simple enjoyment of feeling my body move and sweat and struggle. The labored breathing, the grit and grime caked on my skin, the dirt in my eyes. The sunshine browning my legs and painting rose on my cheeks. The wind in my face as I screamed down a hill at 40 mph. I've never felt so alive. I miss running most of all. When I would run, my mind would quiet and settle, content to just watch, observe, and take it all in. It was completely freeing. During those times, I would relish every footstep, every breath. I wanted to draw out the seconds of float between each footfall and make it last forever. There was no place else I wanted to be, nothing else I wanted to be doing. I was happily immersed in the moment, even if it was an 8 hour grueling bike ride in the mountains.

I miss the complete and utterly exhausted feeling deep in the bones of my body after an 80-mile Saturday bike, followed by 20-mile Sunday run. Sunday morning, my alarm would go off and I would think, "There is just no WAY I can do this." My mind numb and fuzzy with fatigue, my body sore and aching, my head screaming from being in the aero bars for an eternity just a few hours ago, I focused on the simple task of strapping my running shoes to my feet and lacing up. One foot in front of the other, I began to shuffle. A few miles later, the shuffle became a jog. And then a run. My body warmed up, the stiffness evaporated, and my mind filled with a gentle elation that would stay with me like a dear old friend for the next several hours. I learned that nothing is impossible, even if it seems that way. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems.

I learned a lot of things during training and racing. I learned no matter how bad it gets, no matter how much you're suffering, it always passes. Always. Sometimes, you just have to accept the pain and the suffering and wait it out. These devils on my shoulders never failed to leave after a few minutes. I learned patience. Both with myself and in pursuit of my goals. I learned to be gentle with myself and my body. Speed doesn't matter. Long-term health and happiness always takes precedence. Triathlon gave me a simple rewards: put the time in, get the results you desire in return. Consistency, doing a little every day, and just putting one foot in front of the other will get you to your goal. Every seemingly insurmountable mountain can be broken down into smaller hills. I miss learning the never-ending life lessons triathlon taught me.

I miss the deep satisfaction of finising a week's workouts. There is nothing more delicious than laying on the sofa in compression tights, eating pizza and being a couch potato on Saturday evening, resting up to prepare for Sunday's run, recovering from Saturday's ride, with the sole purpose of R&R. I felt like I had earned it. For the first time, I could rest without feeling lazy. And the Sunday post-run ice bath and nap was especially delicious. I earned those breaks. It's one of the few times I could truly rest and goof off without feeling guilty about not being more productive.

Since I've become sedentary over the last few months, I've noticed more aches and pain. More headaches. Less energy. Not to mention a deep feeling of apathy. I feel dusty around the edges. I want to begin training again. I need a goal. Maybe a half-Ironman to sign up for? A marathon? An ultra-marathon? Something big enough to scare me into training. To be honest, I miss Ironman training and racing. Looking back over the last couple of years, I was happiest and healthiest when in training for Ironman races. Why not do that again?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me

I haven't been posting much lately. You've probably noticed. Meaning....I haven't been doing much working out. I feel like a blob. My birthday was last week (on the 27th). I turned 33. Doesn't get much more uneventful than that. Birthdays are pretty much meaningless after you turn 21. Except maybe once a decade. But that's it.

I haven't given up on the working out scene. Quite the contrary. It just hasn't been easy since I lost my mojo. I've been painting a lot. Writing some. Volunteering at the dog shelter. Looking futilely for a job. Yes, it's been quite an exciting time in Rachel's World.