Monday, February 23, 2009

Dean--In Memory

I met Dean last December on a training ride. I showed up for one of the Tri Club's Saturday "inland rides." It was overcast, cold, and drizzling. I was one of 4 people that showed and the only girl. The organizer didn't even show. We headed out, and Dean and I were immediately dropped by the other 2 hard-core guys. I had never met Dean before, and riding 60 miles with a complete stranger can be uncomfortable but it felt totally natural. We simply relished each other's company. He was just getting into shape, and I was getting back into shape so we were both content to enjoy the views and just ride (not to mention the roads were quite slippery). Dean flatted 3 times that day. I stayed with him to help change his tire each time. I figured if I did, he would feel obligated to ride with me so I wouldn't have to go it alone. He had only brought 2 tubes so I gave him one of my spares for the 3rd flat. He was extremely grateful (and a little embarrassed at his misfortune). Between the rain, the flats, and figuring out a new route, it was the longest 60-miler I have ever done. It was also one of the most fun rides I've ever been on. I will never forget it.

After that ride, Dean faithfully came on every Saturday ride I hosted. The next time, he showed up with a spare tube to replace the one I had given him. He also gave me a present; I had admired his tire lever, which attaches to the wheel hub for quick-tire removal--he gave me one on the next ride. Dean was rode with me for my first century was his first too. He was with me on the Train Ride, the Tough Love Ride, and the No Wussie Ride, and the No Joke Ride (Palomar), and every sadistic, masochistic, hilly ride I could think of. He was with me on the Death Swim, he participated in the Barely Legal Half Ironman I put together, he helped me prepare for my IMAZ in April, and I helped him prepare for his IMAZ in November.

He trained a lot with Brent too. When Brent put together a 20-mile run, Dean was the only one that showed. Dean caught up to Brent on the Ironman course during the last 10K of the run, and they ran into the chute together. By rights, Dean should have crossed the finish line first. But Dean refused. Always the gentleman, he insisted that Brent cross first. I gave them both a giant hug at the end. I was so proud of both of them. Dean looked so happy.

Whenever Dean pulled up in his truck at the beginning of his ride, I felt elated. Riding with Dean was always so much fun. Dean loved biking. He was always in good spirits. Plus, even though he could kick my ass on the bike, he would always adjust his pace to mine. He was very humble; he never boasted, even though he had many things to brag about. We would joke and laugh and tell stories. When you ride with another person for 100 miles, you find out a lot about them. You end up telling them your life story. You share your problems, your goals, your fears, your hopes, your dreams. You share Cliff Bars, Gus, and water. You even ask them to watch your bike so you can pee in the bushes. Whether you like it or not, a very intimate bond develops between you and your training partners on long rides and runs.

We found out that Dean died unexpectedly last week. We are both shocked and deeply saddened by this tragedy. I keep thinking there must of been some mistake. I keep expecting him to pull up on Saturday for a ride. This Saturday, I'm hosting a memorial ride in his honor (starts at Del Mar Starbucks 8 am). It will be the same route we did our first ride that rainy December a year ago. Check my bike page later this week for details.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Back in Action

I feel so awesome. I wonder if this plantar fasciitis is a blessing in disguise. I can't run right now so I've been hitting the bike, swim, and weights hard. After the Great Western Loop on Saturday, I stupidly ran 8 miles on my stupid foot. After a quick nap, I grabbed Torch for a quick 1 hour ride on the bike path before sunset. Apparently, the sun sets at 5:45 now. Awesome. I also revamped my 2009 IM-Canada training plan. Did you know Ironman California 70.3 is only 6 weeks away (gulp)? And the Solvang Century only 3? I'm going to find out this year if undertrained is better than overtrained (for a change).

Monday morning I swam UCSD masters. I love it. I can't get enough. I swam again this morning. We had an 800 free test set mixed in. Awesome. I'm swimming faster too, shaving time off my 100 base. I am recovering very quickly from my workouts with only minimal soreness. Monday evening, I popped Torch on the trainer for 60 minutes of base training with Coach Troy. Felt so good. Last night, I grabbed Pandora for some hill "repeats", except in San Diego, there is no reason to do one hill more than once. I headed up Portofino, a short, steep, force you out of the saddle climb. Then, up the outside of Torrey Pines, a long, gradual hill for a steady, seated climb. Then, down to the Shores and back up La Jolla Shores Drive--a mix of seated and standing. Then, back down Torrey Pines and up the inside for a shorter mix of seated and standing. 22 miles of hills. Aaaah. Felt sooo good. I'm not sore today either!

I think I'll hit the gym for weights this afternoon. And why break my record of biking 4 days in a row? I think I'll hit the trainer again tonight too. At least I'm sleeping like a baby!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentine's Day Great Western Loop Ride

My foot has been feeling better. I've been using the healing time to bike, swim and do weights more. Not a bad idea since biking is my limiter and running is my strength anyway. After a very relaxing Friday (Brent took me to Laguna Beach, gave me red tulips, chocolates and a card, and cooked dinner for me), we rose early Saturday morning for the Valentine's Day ride. We met a group of 25 other riders in East County for 40 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing.

Bethany and Rachel--our ride organizers and club valentines.

Since we had never ridden the loop clockwise, we decided to try something different. The roads were wet and slippery from the previous day's rain. Luckily, the next storm held off until later, leaving us with chilly (upper 50s) weather and wind. Feeling warm in the parking lot, I left my vest, gloves, and headband in the car, cursing myself the entire ride because of this not-so-wise decision.

Without a chance to warm up, we were hit with steep uphill switchbacks right out of the gate. I practiced negativity drills (You suck. You don't deserve this bike. You should quit. You're pathetic. etc. etc. etc.) for the first 10 miles as everyone seemed to ride effortlessly by me. Then, I saw a poor girl walking her bike, and I realized everyone was struggling as much as me. It made me feel better. By the time I reached the re-group, I felt much better. I smiled at Brent, and we battled the hills together. I waved him on, knowing I was holding him back. I was in my happy place now.

feeling pretty good as I crest a hill.

The roads were wet and slippery. I had to use extreme caution when I stood up in the pedals since my bike wheel wanted to skid and skip (plus, it didn't feel so good on my foot). We finally reached the first descent. Cheering, we cruised downward, giving our burning legs a rest. Without warning, I heard a loud clatter of carbon hitting the pavement. I looked for the fallen rider but all I saw was Bob limping on the side of the road. His shorts were torn open, and his left exposed buttock looked like raw hamburger meat. Apparently, he had collided with another rider in the group, slipped and fallen. He must have bounced like rubber because no one actually saw him hit the ground. Thankfully, there were no cars around. We assessed the damage. Bob seemed like he was in for a rough night but aside from terrible road rash and a swollen ankle, he had escaped unscathed. His bike also was somehow unharmed. We tried to convince him to ride down the 8 miles we had just climbed back to his car with another rider to escort him. We tried to convince him to wait while one of us rode back for a vehicle to come and pick him and his bike up. Stubbornly, the adrenaline of the fall pumping through his veins he refused. He decided to finish the ride.

We proceeded down the road with caution. Amazingly, none of us could keep up with Bob as he charged the field. 10 miles later, as the adrenaline began to wear off, he slowed. The swelling and pain was beginning to set in. We stopped at the Country Store to reassess the damage. At this point, I had to pee desperately. Plus, since I had my period (sorry guys), a bush would not suffice because I didn't want to litter. The Country Store had provided an old, neglected Port-a-Potty in the yard behind it. I held my breath as the stench amplified as I neared it. I opened the door and gasped. I don't know if it had ever been emptied. It was actually overflowing. Luckily, it had toilet paper. I did my business in the dirt behind it. Yes, the Port-a-Potty was so bad that I squatted and peed in the dirt beside it, mostly hidden from view. That sorry excuse for a bathroom should win an award or something. By the time I finished up, the group had convinced Bob to wait at the store for Judy's boyfriend, who lived nearby, to pick him up. Phew! We proceeded carefully onward.

gorgeous view from atop our bikes.

The scenery was spectacular. As I climbed, I drank in the view. I carefully ate and drank to avoid bonking, knowing that climbing takes extra fuel. I felt pretty good. The worst of the hills were over, and we were now in the rolling section. I passed several pairs from our group on the side of the road. Our group was plagued by flats. We must have had 7 or 8 among us. The wet, sticky roads caused debris to cling to our wheels, piercing our tires. Brent and I lucked out.

--me and Brent fueling up at a regroup.

Finally, we reached the long, 10-mile descent back to the start. I couldn't believe how good I felt. It was quite an adventure but everyone survived in the end. My legs actually felt pretty fresh. So much so, that I did an 8-mile run on Sunday (mistake because it caused my foot to flare up again), and an hour bike later that same day (and weights). I'm getting back into it, baby!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Plantar Facsiitis

I have a new injury I recently developed. I thought I would share my findings for other sufferers of this common ailment: Plantar Facsiitis (pronounced fa-shee-eye-tiss). No, it's not some skin-eating infection; it's heel pain. Actually, it's excruciating pain at the juncture between your arch and the heel. It's so bad I can barely walk, especially first thing in the morning. It feels like a knife has been jabbed into my foot. After my week off from my cold, I noticed a little ache in my arch after my Monday easy run. Then, my massage therapist worked on it, trying to "break up" the tissue (it's a thick band of tissue, much like the IT band). This, of course, made it sore. And then, I ran on the track last night, sealing my fate. Oh, and my running shoes haven't been replaced since October. And, I threw out the insert for arch support in my regular shoes. Did I mention I have high arches? All I know is that today I can't walk. Clearly, I caused a major flare-up. Add all this together, stir and Whallah! A new running injury!

What is the Plantar Fascia?
A band of connective tissue that runs from the base of the heel to the toes

What does it feel like?
Stabbing or aching pain at the base of the arch
Often worse in the morning

How do you get it?
  • extremely high or low arches (check on the high part)
  • sudden increase in running mileage (check on both)
  • bad running shoes (check--mine are old)
  • poor biomechanics (running on the balls of your feet, for instance---hmmmm.)
  • running on hard surfaces (like the track?)

How do you treat it?

  • RICE at onset (rest, ice, compression, elevation)
  • Decrease running mileage (absolutely no hills or speed work) and focus on alternative sports (swimming and biking, for instance)
  • Roll a golf ball under your foot or tennis ball (ouch!). Put it in the freezer to ice at the same time.
  • Wear supportive shoes with arch support at all times (no going barefoot! no flip flops!)
  • Massage (I am tempted to try acupuncture too; just a thought).
  • See a podiatrist or sports medicine specialist if pain does not improve in 3 weeks (I swear by orthotics!)
  • Stretching:
  • Plantar Fascia Stretch: Sit down, and place the affected foot across your knee. Using the hand on your affected side, pull your toes back toward your shin until you feel a stretch in your arch. Run your thumb along your foot--you should feel tension. Hold for a count of 10.
  • Achilles Tendon Stretch: Stand with your affected foot behind your healthy one. Point the toes of the back foot toward the heel of the front foot, and lean into a wall. Bend the front knee and keep the back knee straight, heel firmly planted on the floor. Hold for a count of 10.
  • Don't forget the calves--tight calves can exacerbate it too

Useful Links:,7120,s6-241-286--6710-0,00.html
More Stretches--,7120,s6-241-286--11327-0,00.html

Monday, February 09, 2009

15K Mission Gorge Xterra Trail Race

Last Sunday, I woke up with a sore throat. Again? But I was so excited about the trail race that morning, I didn't care. I had signed up at the last minute, knowing it would be a kick-ass workout.

As I lined up on the start, I shivered nervously in the damp chill of the morning air, glancing around at the bootie-covered trail shoes (to keep out the dirt), hard, unshaven legs, and shirts boasting "Boston Marathon 2008" or "Badwater 2006". Badwater? Jeez. What had I gotten myself into?

We took off, and immediately had to pick our way through a rock-covered trail. Gulleys and trenches ran precipitously between my legs. It was so crowded for the first few miles that I had a hard time seeing the trail ahead of me and anticipating what was to come. It was hard to negotiate the rivets and ditches with so many other runners.

Luckily, we hit a hill about a mile in, and the crowd thinned. I refused to walk. Heart pounding, lungs gasping, cheeks flush, I charged my way to the top. I didn't care that I had 8 more miles to go. I was going to give this trail race 100%! I reached the crest and started flying on the downhill, dancing to and fro as I avoided ditches, boulders, loose gravel, and rocks. The hill became very steep very quickly, and I had to slow to avoid slipping. WTF? But I'm a downhill runner! Other more experienced trail runners flew past me, stepping lightly and quickly on their tiptoes. How could they pick their feet up that quickly? Watching them made me slightly dizzy.

Then, we were going up again. Again, I refused to walk. However, this time, I was reduced to a slow jog. I looked to the right of me and saw another runner walking at the same pace I was "running". Okay. I swallowed my pride and power-walked to the top. Apparently, on trail runs, it's okay to walk when you have to.

The downhill on the other side was so steep, I didn't kid myself. Today was not my day to break a leg or twist an ankle. I gingerly walked down, picking my way through the rocks and wondering how I was going to get down without falling. They didn't tell us we would need ropes for this thing!

A giant hill loomed ahead. No one was running. I gulped. It was so big and steep, we couldn't see the sky on the other side. The "hill" was engulfed in darkness, resembling a skyscraper. In addition, it was covered in loose gravel. Everyone was power walking up it. I followed suit. With each step, I jammed my toes into the dirt, trying to get a solid foothold. Occassionally, I slipped backwards, losing precious ground. 2 steps forward, 1 step back. I grabbed in vain for a root or tree limb to help pull me up but all I got were some piddly leaves, which did little for support. They didn't tell us we would need ropes for this!

Finally we reached the top. I gingerly proceeded down the other side. The trail evened out for a bit and the crowd had thinned. I actually settled into a relaxed rhythm for a few miles, dancing around a rock here and there, jumping over the trench in the center of the trail. The trail narrowed into a single track, and I eagerly rushed forward, sometimes running from side to side on the edge of the trail banks. I was beginning to thoroughly enjoy myself.

Then, the mountain appeared (Mt. Fortuna). The asent was so steep, that a gazillion steep wooden steps had been inserted into the trail to prevent erosion. Ah, the famous "Thousand Steps" I had been warned about. We joked as we climbed up--The Thousand Steps to God (I told that poor girl she might be near exhaustion because if she could see God at the top, she must be hallucinating), The Thousand Steps of Hell, Thousand Steps of Pain, etc. etc. We all walked up the steps. I tried to power walk. Many rested halfway up. Maybe rest isn't a good word. Doubled-over in pain and crippled by cramps is a more apt description. After leaping from step to step to step for what seemed like an eternity, I somehow reached the top.

I was over halfway done and heading back. My hamstrings and quads felt like I had been doing weights in the gym all day. I cautiously proceeded down each bunny hill. No more aggressive downhill running for me. I was worried that with each step, my muscles would fail me and my legs would simply buckle under me. I would be another fallen soldier on the warrior path. Another casualty who failed to return home. But not if I could help it.

I reached the first mountain of loose gravel that I had scrambled precariously up. Now I had to somehow go down? Without actually "going down". I started down gingerly. Every fifth step, the ground would give out from under me, and I would slide dangerously down before sitting down on my butt to prevent anything worse from happening. I watched more experienced trail runners tiptoe down with light quick steps. How could they actually run down this thing? Finally, I began to figure it out. I turned sideways, dug my feet into the ground, and tried to cause a mini-landslide that I could "skateboard" down on--like snowboarding (gravel-boarding?). I made pretty good progress that way. Whew! That was kind of FUN! Pretty soon, I was at the bottom, safe and sound and running again.

Only a few more miles left to go. I guess after gravel, rocks, mountains, and trenches, we had one more obstacle left to conquer: water. The trail wound over a creek of deep water. I slowed and picked my way over the rocks as best I could. Getting wet was unavoidable but getting soaked seemed to be a choice. The trail was a thin, narrow line that wound up and over boulders and rocks on the bank of the creek. I was forced to grab onto the boulders and rocks to balance and pull myself up and over. Bouldering? I had no idea I would be bouldering! The trail crossed the creek again. And again. And again. Is this a joke? We went over the creek about 6-7 times.

nearing the finish

The trail mellowed out, and I realized I only had a mile left to go. My legs were recovering, and I ran comfortably toward the finish line. Brent and Alec were there waiting. Alec ran across the finish with me. As I got my medal and water in the finisher chute, Alec asked, "What took you so long?" Everyone started cracking up.

Alec running with me across the finish line

I had a TON of fun and am totally addicted. What an incredible full-body workout. 9 miles felt like a 13, except I was waaaay more sore the next day. I could barely get down the stairs. My quads have NEVER been so sore!
all the fellow tri clubbers who showed up to race

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cycling Phrases

"I'm out of shape"
Translation: I ride 400 miles a week and haven't missed a day since the Ford administration. I replace my 11-tooth cog more often than you wash your shorts. My body fat percentage is lower than your mortgage rate.

"I'm not into competition. I'm just riding to stay in shape"
Translation: I will attack until you collapse in the gutter, babbling and whimpering. I will win the line sprint if I have to force you into oncoming traffic. I will crest this hill first if I have to grab your seat post and spray energy drink in your eyes.

"I'm on my beater bike"
Translation: I had this baby custom-made in Tuscany using composites blessed by the Pope. I took it to a wind tunnel and it disappeared.
It weighs less than a fart and costs more than a divorce.

"It's not that hilly"
Translation: This climb lasts longer than a presidential campaign. Be careful on the steep sections or you'll fall over -- backward. You have a 39x23 low gear? Here's the name of my knee surgeon.

"This is a no-drop ride"
Translation: I'll need an article of your clothing for the search-and- rescue dogs.

"It's not that far"
Translation: Bring your passport


Translation: Check on your life insurance policy and leave a parting note to your loved ones.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Success at the Kids Marathon Mile

Last Saturday, Brent and I eagerly jumped out of bed at 5:00 am to get Alec ready for his 1-mile race. It was the longest race he had done, and we were both nervous. We were way more excited for Alec's race than our half marathon the next day! Weird. We had trained him for weeks ahead of time, preparing him for what a mile feels like. Alec is only 6, and a mile is a long way for a little kid, especially for a boy who loves to sprint all out everywhere he goes!

During the weeks before, we went to the track, and I ran with him for 4 laps, running the straightaways, walking the curves. I taught him the "talk test" (more like the sing test), where you know you're not running too fast if you can talk (he preferred to sing) comfortably. On our last practice run, I used my GPS to simulate the race conditions a bit more, and we ran 1/2 mile out on the sidewalk, and turned around and ran back. Even though the first half was all uphill, he really did awesome. I pushed him a bit (he had been skipping and jumping during walk breaks), encouraging him to take as few and short walk breaks as possible. He only walked briefly at the turn-around, and then zoomed downhill the whole way back. I had a hard time keeping up with him at the end! We did it in about 12 minutes. I knew he was ready.

On race morning, we dressed him in his Ironman Arizona t-shirt. We all donned our red IMAZ shirts too so we matched. We were Team Alec! We tried to get Alec to have a bowl of cereal but Alec didn't want to eat. I got him to drink some orange juice and eat half a banana. We got to the race site, and Alec let me pin his number on him before running off to play with the kids, who were all dancing with a DJ, playing kids music. The kids were all having a lot of fun. Brent and I were more nervous than Alec. Lots of parents were running with their kids for the mile. I asked Alec if he wanted me to cheer for him or run with him. He thought about it a long time and decided he wanted to do it all by himself.

He lined up on the start. I gave him a few last minute tips: "don't start out too fast; it's okay if you have to walk because a mile is long way; the important thing is to have fun". He kept waving goodbye to me as if to say, "It's okay. You can go now. I'll see you later." I was nervous for him; he was excited. Brent stood a little ways off to get a good pic.

The airhorn blew and Alec took off sprinting (later he swore he didn't start out too fast; funny how perceived effort drops during a race with all that adrenaline). Brent captured it all on his camera as I cheered for him. Then, he disappeared from sight. The course took him into Legoland (way cool for the kids), and we lined up on the finish. We kept checking our watches. Is he okay? What's taking so long? Isn't that kid in his age group? Where's Alec? We saw a some kids being pushed too hard by their parents. They were screaming and crying as they struggled to run or walk down the finish chute. OMG. I hope we're not like that. Were we too hard on him? This is supposed to be fun! Brent and I gave each other worried looks. I checked my watch. Right at 12 minutes, I spotted his red shirt. Right on time. "There he is!" I screamed. Brent got the camera ready. "Go Alec! You're doing great!" I cheered. He was sprinting for the finish line, cheeks red, mouth open, little legs pumping as he huffed and puffed.

We met him at the finish and he hurried over to show us his medal. "Did you have fun?" we asked. He nodded and eagerly told us of all the characters built out of Legos he had spotted during his run in the park. He was red and sweaty but all smiles.
"I had to walk a little bit but I ran most of it," he said.
"You did GREAT. We are SO proud of you," I said. "Want to go get breakfast?"
"Yes!" he replied, always excited to eat.
"Alec, you did a great job. I am so proud of you. You set a goal for yourself, worked towards it, and achieved it. Good job!" Brent said.
"Okay," Alec said calmly, clearly more concerned about eating than whatever his daddy was talking about. The two of us began cracking up.
"Do you want to do more races like that?" I asked him later.
"Sure," he shrugged. He's a pretty laid-back kid.
"Would you want to do a race with all of us together that's a bit 3 miles?"
"Yeah!" he said, his face lighting up.
Looks like we have more training ahead of us!