Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And on the 7th day.....

After my crazy hard weekend, I tried to forgo a rest day. I know, I know. Not smart. Especially since I hadn't taken a rest day in 2 weeks. What happened to the one-rest-day-a-week policy? It's just so hard to take a day off during IM training! I have found active recovery days to be wonderful ways to sneak in workouts and allow some recovery. But, I'm only human (I am?); apparently, I still need a complete rest day every other week.

After logging 22 hours last week and almost 200 miles (150+ of which were on the bike), I hit a new all-time record for highest volume my life (and I don't count weights). And I still have 1 more week of "The Final Push" before I can relax. So at least 1 day of rest was in order. Still, I was stubborn. Monday, I felt great, of course. I always feel good the day after a hard weekend. I swam at lunch and motored through 2800 meters at lightning speed. I felt like a superhero. It all hit me on Tuesday.

I woke up, put on my workout clothes, heart rate monitor, set up the trainer, put in the Spinerval DVD and started warming up. It still hurt to sit in the saddle after Saturday's crazy century ( but my butt warmed up after 10 minutes. The rest of me, however, was not so lucky. I felt sluggish, naseous, achy, and couldn't get my heart rate up. After 15 minutes, I got off, put everything away, and went back to bed. Yes, I took a 8:00 am. I struggled through work and took another nap that afternoon, hoping to make it for my 5K "speed" workout I had arranged that evening. When I woke up (after the 2nd nap), I knew it was not to be. I called a friend and appointed her workout "leader" and pouted the rest of the evening. But I knew it was for my own good.

This morning, I feel 100% better. I enthusiastically hopped onto the trainer and pounded out a solid effort to Coach Troy's "Muscle Breakdown" Spinerval DVD. I rocked it. Take that, Coach Troy! I followed it up with an awesome session of serious weights. I feel great. It's amazing what 24 hours of rest can do. I'm ready to tackle this final week. Only 1 more week!!!

(Aside) Sunday Long Run:
Of course, after my epic century Saturday, I had to follow it up with a long run on Sunday. I eeked out 16.5 miles on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. As always, the hardest part was putting on the running shoes. I woke up and groaned. There was no way I could do this. Brent was going to run 6 with me, and I totally dependend on him to get me out of bed and into my running shoes. We started running, or some motion of the legs moving up and down that sort of resembled running at an agonizingly slow 11 min/mi pace. My legs were shot. They didn't hurt; they just felt floppy.
Three miles later (after a few bathroom stops...or were those just excuses to rest?), I started to fall into a rhythm. I sighed, relieved. At least the whole run wouldn't be agonizing. To my pleasant surprise (as usual), the farther I ran, the better I felt. Brent waved goodbye and wished me luck at mile 6.
Only 10 more to go. Somehow, that seemed so much better than 16. Left to my own devices, I fell into my zone and picked up speed. I always seem to run faster when I'm alone. I was ecstatic. goal pace for long, slow runs. Even after the beating my legs had taken yesterday, I could still fall into 9:30s (after a long warm up). My training was working.
Two miles before the turn-around, I caught another girl running very well on the path. She had been ahead of me for awhile but had slowed on the downhill. I charged ahead, passing her. It hadn't really been my intention to race but slowing on the downhills just hurt my quads too much. She thought we were racing. I could almost feel her breath on my neck. I took the bait. I watched my pace on the GPS carefully, making sure I didn't blow up. Listening to her footsteps, I ran just a hair faster, making sure I stayed just slightly ahead. I was still going only 9:00s. I knew I could manage that for several miles (2 to the turn-around) without blowing up. Besides, after the turn-around, I knew I could slow and recover. I focused on my cadence and breathing as I picked up speed. I felt fantastic. Guys running the other way looked at us curiously. I guess it was kind of obvious we were racing. I reached my halfway point and pulled over to the side, letting her blow by. I know she was probably irritated (I always hate when someone races me and then stops before I'm through) but we had different routes fated for us that day. I'm only sorry I couldn't thank her for giving me such great motivation and entertainment on what could have been a torturous run full of drudgery.
My pace slowed after that, and I had a difficult time motivating myself to run 9:30s. I settled for 9:45s. However, mentally, I knew I could do it. I was over halfway done. The miles flew by at an alarming rate. During the last 2 miles, "It Hurts" by Angels and Airwaves came onto my iShuffle. I smiled. It does hurt! At least someone understands. For some reason, it made me feel better, and my pain went away (my feet had been hurting a bit, par for the course on long runs). I reached mile 16 at the trailhead, still 1 mile away from my parents house. I had run too far (probably from racing that girl) and was going to end up doing 17. I could have walked but walking a whole mile? That would take forever! I wanted to get it over with. I kept running. I knew there would be hush puppies and an ice bath waiting for me at home. When I finished, I threw my arms up in the air triumphantly. A few tears rolled down my cheeks. I was exhausted and exuberant.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge

This weekend, Brent and I made the 8-hour drive north to Santa Cruz for the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge, a 105-mile bike ride with 11,000 feet of climbing. This was to be my big, "final push" bike ride for Ironman Canada training. (I only have 1 more week of training left before I start to taper (gulp)). This was one of those workouts that made me shiver. I wasn't sure I could even climb 11,000 feet without falling off my bike. Plus, there were rumors that the grades were steep, like 18%+. Could I even do this?

--elevation profile

We headed out in the damp, early morning fog. It was kind of cold. I had brought my light cycling jacket in anticipation. Right off the bat, we started climbing up Mt. Charlie. These weren't hills; they were mountains. I always thought San Diego was hilly but Santa Cruz puts a whole other perspective on hills, er, mountains. San Diego is only rollers compared to up there!

--climbing up the first hill, jacket already unzipped--

The roads were damp from the fog, which dripped on my helmet from the massive redwoods towering above. They were so gorgeous. Thankfully, the redwood forest provided cool shade (actually, almost complete darkness) on what could have been an extremely hot ride in late July. I warmed up right away as we climbed and quickly shed my jacket. I was scarfing down all my bars as we climbed. Climbing makes me SO hungry!

Then, we began descending, and I was instantly freezing. The downward grades were so steep, it almost took all the fun out of it. I used 100% of my focus and concentration to balance and steer around the sharp switchbacks, consciously shifting my weight on the back wheel to prevent the bike from flipping over forwards. The darkness of the redwoods made it particularly difficult to see, making me very nervous. I peered in vain, searching for broken pavement or gravel or some other treacherous obstacle that threatened a wipe-out at 35+ mph. Just what I need in the final weeks before my big race. I was very lucky. Pandora (my Look 585 Elle) loved it, however. She corners excellently, and I enjoyed practicing my descending skills. Tap the back brake, right knee up, left leg down, lean the bike to the right, straighten, left knee up, right leg down, lean the bike left, wheeeeeeee! I've decided adrenaline is thinking you're going to die (like on a steep, windy descent) and then actually surviving instead. The downhills ended up being a lot of fun. At least at first, when I was fresh. Not so much later on.

--riding into the darkness of the forest

Then, we began climbing again. It was like this all day. Climb, climb, climb until you can't stand it. Then, oh, thank, God, hallelujah, down, down, down, until, dammit, when can I stop praying for my life on this steep descent and freezing my ass off? Then, up, up, up until I'm hot and sweaty and exhausted and can't stand it. Then, down, down, down. And repeat. Over and over.

China Grade was so impossibly steep. The road was broken and roots of the redwoods were peeking out from below the pavement. Not only did I have to concentrate on turning each pedal over with great force, I also had to focus on where to steer the bike so as not to wipe out in a pot hole. Every little bump makes a big difference when you're only going 3 mph. I had to climb out of the saddle for what seemed like miles. Pitches of the road were so steep, I thought I was going to topple over backwards. In anticipation, I tried to accelerate and gain momentum to carry me up the grade. Somehow, I did but I'm not sure how. My upper body was aching too. I couldn't believe how much upper body strength was required to climb. I tried to sit and recover for a stretch. Pandora kept rearing up in protest. Yes, my front wheel was coming off the ground. Since I really didn't want to do a wheelie up the mountain, I just stood up and climbed out of the saddle after that. That was not so fun.

When we reached the top, we looked over the tops of the trees and saw the clouds beneath it. It was one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen. Just breathtaking. I've decided the hardest rides are also the most beautiful. This was exactly that...the hardest I've ever done. And the most beautiful. I loved the redwoods, I loved the oceans, the farmland, all of it. We saw mule deer (including a woman feeding the deer), darling little quail with tiny question marks bobbing on their heads as they darted across the road, and even a lone coyote, who yipped curiously at me as we rode by.

--above the clouds

--another view from the top

We began climbing Jamison Creek. It was hard and long and steep but somehow, less steep than China Grade. I was thankful I could stay seated as I climbed. Funny how my perspective had changed. A long time ago, I avoided hills all together. Then, I began climbing and they were all hard. On this ride, I began not minding hills as long as I could stay seated. Then, I didn't mind climbing out of the saddle as long as the front wheel stayed on the ground. What was next? The forest was eerily quiet, and I was momentarily alone. I heard creaking and rustling. I thought for sure it was a rider behind me. When I got the chance to look back, I realized I was alone. The forest was alive. It was spooky and awe-inspiring at the same time.

I caught up to Brent. He was suffering (I have lower gears on my bike). I was starting to feel good (call it the slow-twitch in me). We caught several other cyclists. Many were walking. I refused. I would rather fall off my bike first. I was breathing so hard I could taste blood. Totally red-lining. Going 100% at mile 30. All I could think about was the next pedal stroke. I was totally consumed by the mountain. It was a fantastic, grueling, wonderful suffering feeling. I got a total high climbing up Jamison. Other riders didn't share in my ecstatic, "That was GREAT!" at the top. They looked like they wanted to kill me instead.

--bellies full after lunch; ready to begin riding again

After a delicious lunch, we were on our way again. I was looking forward to a long descent and easy-looking flat stretch along the ocean for the next 30-miles. We hit the coast and began heading north. Instantly, we were hit with a 30 mph headwind. Dead on. I toiled onwards, trying with great effort to maintain a 12 mph pace. It was agonizing. Plus, I was greatly envious of the other riders heading back the other way, after the turn-around. I wanted that to be me. The headwind was relentless. Dammit! Give me the hills back! I'll take those instead! How about both? We began climbing up Swanton Road for a loooong way. It wasn't too steep but it was uphill for several miles. I hadn't anticipated it. The hardest climbs were over with so mentally, I just wasn't prepared for the little bumps in the road after that. I think a zit in the road would have felt like a mountain at that point. The headwind was still pushing us backwards, and I was miserable. I had hit my low point. We finallly cruised back down to the coast again, whizzing to the final rest stop with a tailwind in our sails. I was flying down the road effortlessly and all was well and good in the world again.

--cruising by the coast with a tailwind on Hwy 1

I gobbled down some chocolate muffins at the rest stop. And some strawberries, yogurt, brown sugar, trail mix, Red Vines, basically, whatever I could put in my mouth. It was unbelievable how hungry I was! Climbing makes me ravenous. We stocked up, knowing we had one last torturous climb awaiting, Bonny Doon, at mile 83. I was not looking forward to it at this point. We reached Bonny Doon and started going up. I was happy to finally be getting it over with. I found my rhythm and just zoned out and climbed and climbed and climbed.

--at one of the rest stops; not done climbing yet!

We finally reached the top, and I rejoiced. It was getting hot, and my warm Infinit was starting to come back up. Yuck. At least that was the last climb. Right? Wrong. We turned onto Smith Grade and after a brief descent, began climbing again. WTF? I didn't remember this on the map! An elderly gentleman raking leaves in his front yard assured us it wasn't too long until the next downhill. Thank God! But it was not to be. He had given us false hope. As we continued to climb, and climb, and climb, I pondered whether I should turn around and go back and slap that guy across the face. But then I would have to climb back up again. I was beyond exhausted. Somehow, I was still atop the bike. As I climbed, I realized my tongue was hanging out. I must have looked like one of those Team Saxo Bank domestique's pulling on Stage 20 of the Tour de France. Only going 15 mph slower.

We finally began the final descent into downtown Santa Cruz. At this point, I was too tired to enjoy going down. It was steep and windy and dark and treacherous. I was mentally fatigued and having a hard time coming up with the isometric strength to balance the bike on the turns. But I did it, somehow and albeit painfully. We cruised through Santa Cruz, avoiding the myriad of Saturday afternoon beach traffic. At least it was flat. And we were almost done.

--smiling in Santa Cruz by the beach; almost done!!!

We stopped to help a poor guy bonking along the levee bike path. He had a flat tire, no food, and no cell phone. He was not the easiest guy in the world to help, especially considering he really needed help. Ugh. Finally, we called SAG for him and wearily continued on our way. We had 10 miles left to go. Unbelievably, we still had one last climb out of Santa Cruz back up to Scotts Valley. As we began our final (yes, for real this time) climb to the start, SAG drove by and asked, "Do you need a ride?" We shook our heads no.
"Well, you're on your own." That was fine with us. We were only 7 miles away. Another SAG wagon drove by and stopped. The well-intended gentleman stepped out of the vehicle and shouted to us,
"I hate to interrupt you on the middle of a hill but I'm the last one by. Do you need a ride?"
"No!" we shouted.
"Okay, well we're shutting the course down."
"Okay!" we said. Fine. It's not like I've never ridden my bike without SAG before. They're not shutting the roads down, are they? I didn't NEED them! We were so close. For a second, I thought he was going to try to pull me off my bike. We both started accelerating up the hill. Watch him even try to catch me! I was tired but I'd give him a run for his money if he tried! Finally, after 10 hours of riding, we reached the parking lot. We had done it! 105 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing. Because I had always wondered what that would feel like.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

True or False: Running Causes Arthritis

We all love to run. How many of us have been enjoying a nice dinner with our grandma or grandpa when they pipe up, "You know, I knew someone who used to run. He's in a wheelchair now. Better be careful. You're going to ruin your knees!" Personally, I think they're just jealous of our fit, lean, muscular bodies. And although these comments are irritating, there's that nagging voice in the back of my head, "Is this true? Am I compromising my future ability to take a stroll down the beach?"

Turns out, scientists have pondered the answer to this question as well. Fortunately for all of us runners, numerous studies have found no correlation between running and the development of arthritis later in life. A study published in Arthritis Research and Therapy by Bruce et al (2005) compared senior runners averaging 26-miles away to a control group that averaged only 2-miles a week for 14-years. Surprisingly, the elderly runners reported less muscle and joint pain than the control group. An older study found similar results in elderly runners. In addition, the runners had a lower risk for mortality than the sedentary group. That running extends your lifespan has been further supported by other studies as well. A prospective study (2008) found no correlation between long-distance running and development of osteoarthritis in the knees. Scientists and medical doctors hypothesize that running builds up the muscle, tendons, and ligaments that support the joints, thereby preventing joint deterioration in the long haul. However, bad news for the sedentary--sitting on the couch and eating bon bons does predispose you to arthritis--extra weight is not good for your knees. In fact, numerous studies have shown that obesity is a high risk factor for the development of arthritis. Note that runners should take caution not to ignore pain or injury, however, because continuing to run on injured joints will lead to future joint damage (e.g. arthritis).

So run on folks! FALSE! Running is not bad for your knees. And, in fact, we may outlive our sedentary counterparts, who shook their fingers at us, warning that we would all end up in wheelchairs by age 50.

Links on running being a risk-factor for arthritis:,7120,s6-241-285--9247-0,00.html

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fatigue--Walking the Line

Only 1.5 weeks left. Can I make it? It's like one, long Ironman to the finish, which is my taper. I can see the heavenly Taper beckoning me, just out of reach. Almost there...

I've been training harder and more than I ever have before. I've missed so few workouts, I can count them on one hand. The fatigue is building precipitously. I know I'm walking that line. If I cross it, I will be overtrained, get sick, or injured. If I am just below, I will rebound so strongly during my recovery that I will be fitter than ever before at the start line.

I took the day afer my Half Ironman Simulation off. Complete rest. I was annihilated. I think a lot of it was the heat. I felt terrific on Monday. Amazing what 1 little day of rest can do. I hit the weights hard Monday morning, following it up with a fairly slow 8-mile run. My feet were sore at the end; I need new running shoes...again. I wear through them so quickly! Lunchtime was a hard 3,000 meter swim with Terry at UCSD. I really pushed myself and was pleased to see my time drop about 5 seconds/100 (I've been trying to figure out why my swim time's have gotten consistently slower--about 7 sec/100m slower).

Yesterday (Tuesday), I swam (again) in the morning with Sickie. This time, I sucked. I was tired, sore, and cranky. Unfortunately, it was test set Tuesday. Sickie kept asking me for my times. I had to move over to the next (and slowest) lane during the warm-up. And I was still too slow! After our test 200, I almost burst into tears when Sickie asked for my time. Almost started sobbing, hopped out of the pool, and quit. I knew, at that moment, I was simply exhausted. I gave myself a break, and finished out the workout (2600m), accepting that my body just couldn't go any faster that morning. I was very proud of myself for sticking with it.

Later that night (after my brick--18 mi bike and 6 mi trail run in San Elijo Lagoon--so nice), as I was falling asleep on the couch after scarfing down my dinner, I asked Brent if he thought I had slowed down in the pool because of all the weight lifting I've been doing (which I still think is part of it). He raised an eyebrow at me and said, "You're tired! How else can I say it? You've been hitting it so hard. You're tired, you're tired, you're tired."
Hmm, I mused to myself. Could that be it? Nah.

Today is a little easier than yesterday. I had a solid bike workout on the trainer (Spinervals--Dropping the Hammer). Okay, the first half sucked, but I was able to produce some decent power in the second half. All I have left today is a trail run (5K of speed work). Then, nothing until tomorrow (and tomorrow is just swim and weights). One workout at a time. That's how I get through this.

We're driving up to Santa Cruz tomorrow for the Santa Cruz Mountains Challenge ( Because I've always wanted to know what 11,000 feet in 100 miles would feel like. I'm really excited. It will be beautiful. A little vacation. Plus, Thursday and Friday will be easier training days so I can rest up a little for Saturday's crazy ride. Yup, it's a workout so hard that I'm scared. I love those!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Half Ironman Simulation

With Ironman Canada only 6 weeks away, my key workout this week was a half-ironman simulation. I decided to repeat the Barely Legal HIM course that I directed last October. It's convenient, fairly safe, and full of rolling hills. Perfect.

The night before I was kind of nervous. I would be completely self-supported. No one cheering me on. No aid stations. No finish line. The task of going 70.3 miles for a mere workout seemed daunting. Frankly, it seemed like a lot of work. I hoped I could a) do it and b) do it with flying colors since I have to do 2x that in 6 weeks. Since I have been trying to plan key workouts hard enough to freak me out beforehand, I patted myself on the back for this one. Then, to make it harder on myself (because a 70.3 in itself isn't enough), I ate a really greasy dinner the night before: fatty ribs and a large fudge brownie, ala mode, of course. Oh, and lots and lots of corn on the cob. Following this, I went to bed late and didn't sleep well (probably because my stomach hurt from the fatty meal). After tossing and turning all night, I woke up at 5:00 am to realize my period had started. Whoopee. I tried to no avail to eat breakfast. After forcing down a banana, it was time to go. I packed several Cliff MoJo bars. I would have to try to eat more on the bike.

I arrived at La Jolla Shores, pleased to see that the water was silky smooth and glassy. I knew the swim would be wonderful. Fog was still clinging to the ground but I knew it would get hot, and fast, as soon as it lifted. It would be a great day for heat training. I met a small group of 4, and we headed into the water, shuffling our feet to avoid the rash of sting rays that had recently invaded the beach. I wasn't worried about the rays. I was a little freaked about the jumbo squid invasion, however. I knew they weren't particularly dangerous and more of an issue for divers than swimmers but during my tossing and turning the night before, I'd had a particularly vivid nightmare about getting dragged under by numerous tentacles from a massive, 20-foot squid who had decided to take up residence at the Shores. Shuddering imperceptibly, I shoved the goulish images out of my mind as I dove into the chilly ocean waters.
The water was in the low 60s, still a bit cold for July but I was donning my wetsuit, and as soon as we swam past the breakers, I felt fine. The other 4 guys were way faster than me (which I had been prepared for), and I let them zip ahead, focusing on my rhythm and staying in my zone. The water was very calm; it was almost like swimming in the pool. Sighting the 1/2 mile buoy (from the Cove, not the Shores--more like 3/4 from the Shores...give or take) was difficult since it was due west in the Pacific but since I was the slowest swimmer, no problem! I just sighted off the other guys. Hee hee! We reached the turn-around quickly. I couldn't believe how suddenly the buoy had popped up. I zipped around it and began letting the current take me back. I felt calm and relaxed. I was really enjoying myself. I even caught sight of a few (harmless) leopard sharks, the sunlight reflecting brilliantly off their rich brown and tan scales. I refused to touch ground until the waves washed me almost aground, very good practice for T1 but also, I was trying to avoid all the rays I kept spotting in the shallow water! I hopped up and ran over to the truck to get ready for the bike. I glanced at my watch; about 34 minutes. Not too bad! My stomach felt greatly improved. I used the few minutes of downtime to gulf down a MoJo bar (yummy!) and chase it with some water. This worked so well, I might try it on race day!
About 10 people joined me for the bike. It was kind of fun to have training partners for each stage. On the other hand, it was good for me to go at my own pace and practice swimming, riding, and running alone, since this most closely mimics race day. Turns out I was alone for each phase most of the day anyway. The bike was somewhat hilly with 3 prominent hills and rollers in between. Plus, we would be riding about 20 miles east, which in San Diego in July, translates to heat. It would be good practice. Canada can be hot, or so it's rumored, and I want to be prepared.
We rolled out and were hit with La Jolla Shores hill right off the bat. It's not very long (about 1 mile, 7%ish grade) but it is steep and my right hamstring has been a little off. After a day of rest, it felt very stiff. Climbing with no warm-up was not fun. Luckily, the no-bullshit hill right off the bat, also forced my hammy to warm up more quickly. I didn't hear a peep out of it for the rest of the ride after that. Hammer it into submission, I say!
We reached the bike path and I "oohed" and "aahed" at the baby ducklings with Mama Duck at the pond, much to the amusment of everyone else in the group. They were probably the highlight of my ride. The heat was rising steadily; I just focused on my hydration and used mental imagery to block the heat out of my head. It's mostly mental. By the time I reached Black Mountain Road, I was riding solo. The front pack had pulled away and the back pack was somewhere behind me. I was stuck in the middle. Story of my life. However, I valued the opportunity to simulate what I would experience in race day. It didn't bother me at all. What did bother me was when the pack behind me caught and overtook me at mile 22 on Camino del Sur, a road that is nothing but up and down rollers. As I struggled to maintain a decent pace while fighting the heat (and keeping in mind I had a half marathon to run afterwards), the back pack took off. I didn't attempt to try to chase them down. They had mechanical issues earlier, and I knew that was what had prematurely slowed them. In reality, those riders are normally faster. I had to let them go. Still, it was a big piece of humble pie I was forced to swallow, and I wasn't all too happy about it. Probably karma after my gloating for chicking that guy up Torrey Pines the other day.
I spotted a park on the left and stopped to refill my water. I couldn't believe how much fluid (and calories) I was putting down. It was HOT! And I was on top of it. I quickly continued on my way, patting myself briefly on the back for such a quick and efficient stop. I spotted Brent climbing up San Dieguito as I zoomed down; he blew me a kiss. I glanced at my computer to track how far ahead he was, just for shits and giggles. Previous rides where I had paced myself quite conservatively and taken my time at stops, I had been up to 40 minutes behind him. Today was different. I reached the turn-around and began climbing San Dieguito. I was only 4 miles behind him, about 15 minutes. Quite an improvement! I smiled inwardly. I've noticed my performance improves when I think I'm doing well. However, when I think I suck, my performance really suffers. It is SO mental. I think I'm awesome; therefore, I'm awesome. Seems simple. The trick is to not let the blows to your ego (there will be many) affect you inwardly and to find little boosts throughout the day that lift you up and carry you forward.
As I reached the crest of San Dieguito (where it was particularly hot and miserable), the pack with initial mechanical problems passed me for a 2nd time. Where did they come from? Wasn't once enough? Ugh. How humiliating. Turns out, they had stopped at a gas station for a water refill before starting up San Dieguito, and I had ridden ahead during that time. At least I wasn't too far back. I kept them in my sights this time, only 1/4 mile behind, until a red light sealed the deal, and I had to reluctantly let them go...out of sight AND out of mind.
I headed back to the coast, relishing the cool westerly breeze coming off the ocean. Yes, it was a headwind (not a wimpy one either) but it felt soooo good. I reached the base of Torrey Pines and diligently climbed up the inside. One last mean pitch before I could cruise downhill back to transition...I mean, er, the parking lot. I glanced at my computer. I was 1.2 mph over what I thought I could do on such a tough course. Whoo hoo! Not too shabby. And on top of it, I felt fresh. I hadn't hammered; I had stayed within my limits. I hope I can get that kind of performance on race day.
My parking spot was highly coveted, and I waved dozens of frustrated drivers on as I changed into my running shoes and downed another MoJo bar. I was doing awesome on calories! For the whole day, I took in about 1200, about 2x as many as I managed in CA 70.3 in early April. And I felt awesome!
I was worried about being able to run 13.1 miles after all that, and in this heat. My legs didn't fail me. Glancing at my GPS, I realized I was running waaay too fast. I kept having to slow down, sloooow down. It was a good feeling. I reached a trail that wound its way to the Cove and was awestruck by the obscenely gorgeous views of the ocean. I had no problem slowing to gawk at the ocean as I trotted by.
The Cove was a zoo. Running on the sidewalk was a joke as I elbowed and shoved families and strollers aside. I guess I was a little pissed that they all got to go to the beach while I had to run a half marathon (after the swim and bike). Finally, I ran in the street, deciding this was a better option. There were so many cars looking for places to park, I was moving faster than traffic anyway! Ugh. Beach traffic in San Diego in the summertime drives me bonkers. It gets so crowded July and August!
Soon, I was in the residential section of La Jolla, running by smaller side beaches and surfing beaches like Wind 'n Sea. My blood pressure dropped two notches from boiling again. My legs felt awesome. The run course is littered with small rollers the whole way, making your body work extra hard. The bonus is you never get bored, and my legs love rollers because I'm constantly using different muscles. I was very pleased with my pace and how my legs felt on the hills. I felt amazingly strong.

I reached the turn around in Pacific Beach and refilled my bottles. I had already gone through all 4 (32 ounces total)! Man, it was hot! I normally go through 4 in only 13.1 miles. Today, I was drinking 2x what I normally do. Probably explains why I felt so good all day. The return home was faster than the trip out, as is always the case for me. Around mile 8, I hit a runner's high. The miles were elapsing so easily. My legs ran under me effortlessly, and I relished the cute little houses, tiny gardens, and numerous, private, tucked-away beaches (with their deliciously cool breezes).
I reached La Jolla Shores again. My watch hit 13.1 miles. I had done it! And I was 30 seconds/mile faster than my goal pace! There was no finish line. No one cheering my name. It was a little anticlimatic. But I was very proud of myself. Doing an unsupported half ironman workout is WAY harder than doing a half ironman race. I grabbed some water and ice cream from the local market before heading back down to the Shores for a dip in the ocean with Brent and Alec. Afterall, I had an awesome parking spot. I couldn't let it go to waste without some beachtime!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chick That!

So I'm finishing up my hill repeats last night on the inside of Torrey Pines. I selected Pandora (Look 585 Elle Road Bike) instead of Torch (Kuota K Factor Tri Bike) since I'm taking her on the century ride next weekend. She's a dream to climb on. Anyway, I'm cooling down on a final, mellow climb on the outside of Torrey Pines (longer but less steep), and this fit, muscular guy blows past me on his sweet-lookin', black-and-yellow Specialized Transition. I am temporarily humbled and my ego gets knocked down a few pegs. No biggie, I tell myself. You did a good, solid workout today. Just focus on the cooldown.

Then, a 2nd guy on a tri bike passes me. Only he's got skinny, hairy legs and is riding a Fuji. Now it's getting downright humiliating. But wait a minute....he's slowing down. The dude used all he had to pass me, and now he's slowing down! I'm gaining on him. I take my time, slowly reeling in my prey. We still have 3/4 of a mile to the top. He's clearly struggling, weaving all over the road, shifting awkwardly, as if uncomfortable with the TT bike. He stands up out of the saddle to climb for a few jerky pedal strokes, then plops back into the saddle, weaves, repeats. Standing to climb on the outside of Torrey Pines? It's only a 4% grade. Wasted energy, wasted energy.

Then, I realize I'm going to pass him. I take my time, savoring the process, a cat playing with an injured mouse. I'm closing in on him, evaluating him closely. Did I err in my judgement? Is this guy saving a burst for the top? I'm on top of him now, practically breathing down his neck. Because I've taken my time closing the gap, I'm well-rested, my breathing is calm and slow. I make my move with efficient, calculated pedal strokes, forced to call, "On your left!" since he begins weaving erratically all over the shoulder again. He pulls to the right, and I blow by him, shifting to a bigger gear as I pass. Click! My speed increases by 2 mph, and I drop him. I'm on the final third of the hill and the steepness begins to level out. Instead of slowing and beginning to recover as is the instinctual tendency, I increase my power and intensity to finish strong, leaving him in my metaphorical dust. Maybe I sound a little harsh, maybe I was a little too mean but I have never, never, ever been able to pass people climbing hills before. The victory is glorious. I resist the urge to throw my arms in the air and blow kisses to the crowd. I feel like I've just won an Alp stage at the Tour de France. I can almost hear the guy's friend (on the Specialized), who is waiting for him at the top, "Dude, you just got totally CHICKED!"

PS--Jumbo Humboldt squid have been washing up at La Jolla Cove. I just love new swimming partners, especially when they have tentacles!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gorillas from Rwanda (and Final Push Thoughts)

Wow, it's been a great week. Lab has been uber-hectic but I've managed to stay on top of it (thank God last week was a recovery week). Now that the PI's grant has been submitted, I can resume my final block of Ironman training full-tilt (well, I was before anyway but at least now I'll feel less guilty about it).

Each of these final 3 weeks leading up to my taper has a different theme, giving the training a whole special purpose and sense of excitment. This is Final Push, Week 1: Speedwork. I'm maintaining a heavy volume by doing more frequent but shorter and faster workouts, ending with a Half Ironman Simulation this weekend. Instead of my usual 4x bike, 3x run, 3x swim, 2x weights, I'm doing all 3 sports 4x (well, maybe not the swim--we'll see if I can make it to 6 am masters tomorrow--but wouldn't it be awesome if I did?). Sounds crazy...but remember I'm doing all 3 sports in the same day on Saturday. I alternate heavy days with easy ones to give my body a break and do active recovery on my rest days (easy swim, weights, or easy bike) instead of doing nothing. This helps me actually recover faster and sneaks in an extra workout!

am--Swam 3,000 meters (long course) at lunch time with Terry (who's actually a little tougher than Sickie, which I like, and more triathlon specific). Plus, since I swam at lunch, I got to sleep in!
pm--Got a massage that evening, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was a recovery day.
Tuesday: Tough day!
am--Started out with 1 hour of hard free weights (with a mat and exercise ball). Followed it up with a hard 1 hour Spinerval session on the trainer. Dripped sweat everywhere!
pm--Ran a hard, super hilly (and sandy) 6-miles on trails in Torrey Pines. Forced myself to run the whole way (careful not to sprain an ankle on the way down) even though I swear I could taste my lungs going back up. Those hills are crazy steep (lots of stair running as you hop from wooden step to step embedded in the side of the cliffs)!
am (okay, noon)--Swam 3,000 meters (long course) with Terry again (she's killing me!). Very sore from weights the day before. I had no idea you use your chest and back so much to swim (I did lots of bench press, push ups, and rows the day before; ouch!)!
pm--met a group for a 5K run, cross-country style to do some speed work. Warmed up with 2 miles beforehand. This workout kicked my ass! I had no idea a 5K race simulation could be such an incredible substitute for a track workout. Much more fun too. We all went out to eat afterwards--bonus. I especially loved the Peanut Butter Mousse Dome I had for dessert (Leucadia's Pizza).
am--weights and run. Pretty hard weights again but slightly easier than Tuesday. 6-mile easier run on the 56 bike path. Very hot and humid though. Good heat training! Legs a little tired at beginning but worked out of it.
pm--Can't wait for tonight's hill repeats on Pandora!

Tomorrow is a rest day (optional masters swim) and then Saturday is the big day: Half Ironman Race Simulation! Sunday will be an active recovery day (bike). Next week, (Final Push, Week 2) is all about the bike, ending with the Santa Cruz Alpine Challenge...because I always wanted to know what 11,000 feet of climbing in 100 miles feels like. Final Push, Week 3, will be all about the run, ending with a 20-miler (the day after a 60-mile, hilly bike...Palomar one final time?). Then, a recovery week to rest up (ending with Camp Pendleton Sprint to get my race juices flowing) and a proper 3-week taper with a measured 25%, 50%, and 75% reduction in training volume (based on my average volume during the Final Push Block). These workouts will be short...but hard. Because, remember, taper does not equal recovery.

1. It takes more to make my body tired. Plus, my body is adapting to doing workouts (at a lower intensity) even when I'm fatigued. A big bonus for race day!
2. My swim has slowed down. :( At first, I thought it was a fluke. I noticed it during my recovery week and chocked it up to fatigue but it has persisted through this week. I am consistently 5 seconds slower per 100 meters. It starts out that way during the warm up and lasts through the entire workout. I don't feel particularly tired (although I am sore from weights) but no matter how hard I try, I'm stuck at the same pace. Could it be:
a) Too many ocean swims at base pace have slowed me down?
b) The fatigue from Ironman training is starting to take its toll?
c) I'm swimming larger volumes (last week I swam 10,000 meters, and I've been averaging 3,000-4,000 per swim instead of the old 2,500)?
My guess is (c) but who knows? I just hope it goes away in a few weeks and all the hard work begins to pay off during my taper.
3. My bike has gotten faster, especially on the hills. Yippee! I've been working SO hard on the bike. My strategy, this year, was to focus on a specific sport during each block leading up to the final push while maintaining the other 2 (not your typical IM race plan so a little risky but at least, a lot more fun!). Since running was my strongest, I worked on it first (farthest out from race day), knowing it would be easier to maintain while I worked on my limiter (the bike). My last block was bike-specific: I biked 4 times a week (trainer, tempo, hills, and long ride) while running and swimming 3x (weights 2x).
I was so tired by the end of that 3-week block, I had no idea if I'd improved or not. At the end of my recovery week, I went for a 50-mile, fairly flat, group ride through Camp Pendleton. I started out very easy; I was just getting over a cold and had a hard time finding my rhythm after not riding all week. Plus, I was chatting a lot. Hey, it's a recovery week! After the turn-around, our group picked up the pace, peloton-style. I practiced my group riding skills and was surprised at how hard I had to work to maintain our increased speed. Once back on base, the group splintered, and I settled into my aero bars. We hit a few minor hills, and I spun up them, passing the group! This has never happened to me before. Me? A climber? I was super stoked! Of course, I had to hammer after that, especially on each little hill that challenged me subsequently. I rode out in front the rest of the way home, elated. I guess my bike training block worked! Apparently, to get better on the bike, ride more!

And I leave you with gorilla pictures from Rwanda, courtesy of my Dad and sister (who are on safari in Africa right now. Jealous much?)

Chomp, chomp. Gotta increase my fiber intake for regularity.

Yes, I'm young and fluffy and adoreable. Wanna make something of it?

Man, that was a hard track workout . I need some recovery time!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beginning the Final Push

Gulp. Can I make it through these next 3 weeks? If I can, I will be more than ready for Ironman Canada. I can't believe it's less than 2 months away. I thought it might be challenging to find the same amount of enthusiasm and motivation the 2nd time around but I was wrong. If anything, I've been more disciplined and more excited. My body is stronger than last year, and I can handle larger training volumes. My training plan has more intense (and hillier) workouts. I've been able to eat healthier and do more weights and Yoga. I need less sleep and less recovery. It will be interesting to see how race day pans out.

I don't know why I'm more excited. I think it's a spiral effect. Every time I think I can't do something, I go out and do it, and impress myself. Nothing is impossible. I didn't think I'd be able to improve, to get faster, to handle larger volumes...but I proved myself wrong. My training is hard enough to scare me. My long workouts on the weekend give me semi-anxiety attacks beforehand. I can't possibly finish this. And then, amazingly, somehow, I do. 80-mile rides up Palomar in 93-degree-heat. 14-mile hot runs in Penasquitos Canyon. Then 100-mile hilly rides in 90-degree heat. And 17-mile runs in Black Mountain Park. And 2.5 mile ocean swims. How did I do that? I'm not sure. But it feels wonderful. The incredible sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, after crossing that finish line. That superhuman feeling that, yes, little ole' me, I can do ANYTHING. That's why I do this.

These next 3 weeks will be the toughest. The most exhausting. They will push me to the breaking point. But they will also be the most rewarding. And the most important in preparing me for race day.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Is Cycling Bad for Your Bones?

Some recent studies indicated that too much cycling might cause bone loss (see NY Times synopsis below). Since we spend more time on the bike, as triathletes, than any other sport, I found this very alarming. Could this be true? In one study, competitive cyclists had less bone density than controls (men who were active but not competitive). Some even had osteopenia, the early stages of osteoporosis. These men were in their late 20s, not 70s! The 2nd study found that a different group of competitive cyclists lost a significant amount of bone throughout the race season (although, luckily, they regained some of it in the off season). A third study compared bone density between weight lifters, runners, and cyclists. Guess which group had the lowest? Yup. The cyclists. However, in another study, triathletes gained bone density throughout the race season. Huh? (But, yea!)

Why would cycling cause bone loss? Some have postulated it's due to the non-impact nature of the sport. Perhaps. It is known that weight lifting and running increase bone density. But that doesn't explain the net loss of bone. I think these studies have to be taken with a pound of salt because they were all done on competitive cyclists, a group of athletes known for not making the healthiest choices for their bodies (doping, anyone?). The amount of stress they put on their bodies in a season is extraordinary. In addition, extreme weight loss is known to cause bone loss (leading to osteopenia and osteoporosis) in people with eating disorders, especially anorexia. Competitive cyclists are notorious for starving themselves into an unhealthy "race weight", believing it will lead to faster performances (which is wrong--it depletes the immune system and causes fatigue, actually slowing you down). I would hypothesize that the competitive cyclists used in these studies suffered from bone loss due to their low weights and not the cycling itself. It would be interesting to repeat these studies in non-competitive cyclists.

That said, the study that looked at triathletes reported an increase in bone density over the season. Could it be that triathletes participate in more impact sports (e.g. running)? They have higher percentages of lean muscle mass? Or were they at a healthier weight?

Some food for thought....literally

Monday, July 06, 2009

A 3 Day Weekend: A 3-Part Tale

Hope that everyone had a holiday weekend. Mine was pretty intense. I'm actually relieved to go back to work today so I can recover! (I need a vacation). You know you're a triathlete use national holidays to fit in as many workouts as possible as your idea of fun.

Independence Century:
Friday, we kicked off the weekend with a century ride: The Independence Century. I did a little research and came up with a 1-loop ride in north county that included some hills and heat but ended with the flat, refreshing coast. I also gave riders shorter options so there was something for everyone. About 25 people showed up, which was awesome. I love using long rides as an excuse to meet new people and catch up with old friends. My hamstring and knees were still shredded from Palomar the weekend before, especially when climbing, but oddly enough, everything seemed to warm up after mile 25.

The heat began to escalate when reached Escondido, and I forgot to drink between the first and 2nd rest stops, getting myself good and dehydrated. Everyone reacts differently when they're dehydrated. I get very cranky. After forcing down a sandwich, Coke, and copious amounts of water (after snapping at everyone first), I felt much better. I was ready for the famous climb up Lilac (which isn't that bad, guys, really). It looked intimidating because it was long and you could see it coming forever as it snaked up and around and around. Plus, it was hot. Stifling hot, which always makes everything harder. But once we started going up, I realized it wasn't that steep and could sit and spin.

Somehow, we made the wrong turn at the Lilac-Lilac-Lilac intersection. Is this the nexus of the universe? Did they run out of street names? I mean, c'mon! Anyway, we inadvertently started riding west but were supposed to be riding north. I knew we had gone the wrong way, 10 miles later, but after all the ups and downs, we weren't about to turn around and head east again, back into the blazing heat. Each 5-miles west we rode earned us a degree cooler (it had been 100 on the Lilac climb); I had ridden parts of the roads before so I forged ahead, trying to get us back while creatively adding miles to make up for the ones we had missed. No one knew where we were, and I was only pretending. Inside, I was panicked. What if I lead everyone astray? It's one thing to get yourself lost. It's quite another to organize a ride and get everyone lost. Argh!

We continued riding north on beautiful back roads, winding past gorgeous, tucked away farms and avocado groves. There was no traffic, and all was serene and quiet. All of a sudden, I recognized the street name. It was on my original map! I called a quick regroup, showed everyone where we were, and, relieved, led the way confidently after that. The new route had missed our 3rd rest stop. Thinking fast, I found a 7-11 at mile 70 (about the same mile as the original route), and we all rehydrated. We reached the San Luis River Rey bike path, and I celebrated, pushing hard into the head wind for the next 10 miles. Brent and I took turns pulling. I felt wonderful! Guess it takes me 70 miles to warm up.

We hit the coast and were instantly amazed at how packed the streets were. Beach cruisers, walkers, dogs, cars, everywhere. All roaming aimlessly about. Angry cars, searching for a parking spot. Surfboards, blindly flying out into the bike lane. It was mayhem. Why would anyone want to go the beach on the 4th? It's SO crowded. Yuk! It was tense but somehow, we made it back to the start. My computer read 93 miles. Stubbornly, I continued south. The group followed reluctantly. Hey, they could stop if they wanted to! But inside, they were all mileage junkies like me. We turned around and head back to the start (again). We reached the light to turn into the parking lot but were still 0.4 miles short. I stubbornly rode north to the next light before turning left. Everyone groaned...then followed. We reached the parking lot, and my computer read 100.1 miles. I'll be damned if I plan and century and my computer doesn't read 100 miles. Obssessive?

The Suck It Up Run (17-mile Black Mountain Park trail run):
Saturday, I woke up early to run to Black Mountain Park. I needed to run 16; Brent wanted 10. The trail in the park is a 10-mile loop. Simple, I would run to the park. However, when I mapped it out the night before, I would be 3-miles short so I headed in the opposite direction first for 1.5 miles before turning around and heading towards the park (first mistake). Second mistake--I left my fuel belt with Brent, thinking: I don't need water for the first 6-miles. You do if you're running 10 hilly hot ones after! Doh! My legs were heavy from the bike the day before but I could crank out a good pace on the roads if they were flat. Unfortunately, the entire route to the park was uphill. The entire way. I was feeling very cranky. It was very humid too, and sweat dripped down my forehead and cheeks. Ugh. I was feeling pretty miserable. I'll warm up out of it. Just give it time, I coached myself.

I reached mile 6. No park. I still had a good mile to go. WTF? I didn't want another mile! Something inside me snapped as I realized it would be a 17-mile run. For some reason, 16 was okay but 17 seemed unfathomable. Out of the question. I finally reached the park, hot, cranky, dehydrated, and with an extra mile under my belt. I slammed the extra bottle of water Brent had brought, snapped on the fuel belt, and we set off.

The trails were hot and hilly and the going was agonizingly slow. I was cranking at Brent. Why did you have to pick this run? Why are you making me do this? Why couldn't we do something easier? He just kind of raised an eyebrow at me. He tried chatting about how fun the bike ride was yesterday and what a great weekend he was having but was met with only silence. It just seemed like too much energy to reply. I was hitting the wall. Every little hill we met, I had to walk. It was such an effort to resume running again. I couldn't. I just couldn't.

Only 1-mile in (8-miles for me), I asked him for the keys to the car and turned around. He hesitated, then waved goodbye and trotted off. Miserable, I sat down on the side of the trail and started crying. Brent was already out of earshot. I cried louder. Looking around, I saw I was alone. No one was there to take care of me or make me feel better. Except me. I fell silent and took several deep breaths. I didn't want to go back to the car. I didn't want to surrender and only do 8 miles of a 16-mile run (okay, now 17). I was halfway there. I didn't want to have to make it up later or bail on it completely and worry about what skipping it would mean for my Ironman preparation this close to the race when every workout counts. There was nothing wrong with my body. I was just tired. The urge to quit was 100% mental but physically, I knew I could get through this run. I took a suck-it-up pill (as David Goggins would say), picked myself up, and started running.

I ran fast, feeling fresh and energized. I tested myself. Could I catch up with Brent? Clipping away at an 8:30 pace, I saw him a mile later. Whoo hoo! I was overjoyed. He was surprised but happy to see me. I told him I'd had an attitude adjustment and we toiled onward. It didn't really get much easier. The sun was blazing, there was no shade, and the rising heat was stifling. The hills were numerous, steep and mountainous, and I practically had to crawl to reach the top of each one. My legs were tired and my pace got slower and slower and slower as the miles got longer (and hillier). But I didn't really care. I wasn't giving up. I wasn't going to quit. And that's all that mattered.

I ran out of water at mile 14 or 15. Brent saved me by offering me some of his. Next time, I'll have to drop a bottle at mile 5, where there's another trailhead. The temp was in the high 90s. The sound of rattling tails from nearby, hidden rattlesnakes in the grass reverberated in the canyons. I sharply scanned the trail ahead of me, watching my step. The last 2 miles were the hardest (and hottest and hilliest). I was having a hard time just walking. At the top, a cool breeze deliciously teased me, and the sound of a bubbling creek below refreshed me. "Do you hear that? It feels wonderful!" I commented, not realizing I was mixing senses. Still, I think my core temp dropped a degree or two. Somehow I made it up the next hill, and the next. I was wobbly and tired. So tired. There was a little patch of shade offered by the massive electrical tower perched at the top of the hill (okay, mountain). I asked Brent if I could lay down to take a little nap. "Just a little one?" I pleaded. He shook his head no and urged me onward. (Later he would tease me that I wanted a power nap under the power tower).

I saw the baseball fields at the park where the car was and rejoiced. We had made it. Barely. He drove to a nearby gas station so I could grab 20 lbs of ice (ice bath), chocolate milk, orange juice and water. I was quite a sight as I wobbled around in a disoriented manner, barefoot (there was no way I was putting my running shoes back on again). I was so happy to be done with that run. But in the end, it was great mental training.

Laps in the Cove:
Sunday, I squeezed in an hour bike and 6-mile run before meeting my group for an ocean swim at La Jolla Cove. I was short on workouts for the week and stubbornly wanted to get them in. Also, I wanted a redemption run after the day before's horrendous one. Surprisingly, the 6-miles were wonderful. I was fast and quick; my confidence was quickly restored.

I met my group and we set off for the half-mile buoy. I needed 2.5 miles. My plan was to go 3 laps: 2 to the 1/2 mile buoy and 1 to the 1/4 mile buoy. Everything was smooth sailing until I reached the 1/4 mile buoy. After that, the water got really choppy. A large swell was coming in, and I kept getting buffeted up and down. It was hard to feel like I was making forward progress.

After finishing my first lap, I headed back out alone. Everyone else thought the water was unpleasantly rough (it was) and 1-mile was enough for them. There were a lot of other swimmers out there, and I felt safe and secure between the 3 buoys to my east and 3 to my west (the 1/4 and 1/2 mile buoys are between the 6 cylindrical ones). Unfortunately, in the ocean, the shortest distance between 2 points is not always a straight line. I swam too far east on the first half of the 2nd lap and had a rude awakening when I turned west to reach the 1/2 mile buoy. I was swimming directly against the swell. Somehow, I didn't swallow water or even get seasick. I just kept swimming. I reached the northwest cylindrical buoy and had a moment of total disorientation. How did I get here? Luckily, I wasn't in a hurry. I stopped and looked around, realizing I had overshot the 1/2 mile buoy. Sometimes, stopping to collect yourself can save you time and prevent disaster in the long run, especially in the middle of the ocean. The return back on the 2nd lap was a snap since I had favorably placed myself in the current. Whoo hoo!

I was feeling kind of tired and sour as I headed out for the 3rd lap but I only had to go to the 1/4 mile buoy this time, and the ocean was much calmer until that buoy. Still, I stopped several times to readjust my goggles, more to look at fish and look around than to fix a real leak. I circumvented several snorkelers and scuba divers as I returned. An airplane roared overhead, and I stopped abruptly to see what the noise was. It was pulling a banner advertising Cheetah's, a strip club. Really? I'm in the middle of the ocean, and I still can't escape that kind of stuff? Ugh. I returned to shore for the last time, exuberant. I had done it! All of it. Then, I realized I was ravenous and, after seeing a friend up on the grass, proceeded to scarf down a ton of food in his cooler (turkey, salami, cheese, cherries, trail mix, granola bars), until he snapped the cooler shut, cutting me off. Thanks, TJ! It was delicious. You're a life saver!

Thank God it's a recovery week!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Slacking Off

The Hellhole Ride (see post below) left me completely toasted. I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever be recovered. I took Monday completely off, something I hadn't done in 2 weeks. No weights, no swimming, nothing. I felt like absolute crap Tuesday, leaving me wondering if days off are a bad idea. Maybe swimming and/or weights on a day off isn't such a bad thing? Helps move blood to the muscles? I'm only sort of joking here. I hate days off.

I swam Tuesday morning. The first half was crap. So much so, I almost got out and called it quits. But after 1,000 meters or so, I suddenly felt wonderful. Feeling wonderful after feeling awful spirals on itself, making you feel even more wonderful. Like a superstar. First, the mindset is: I suck, I can't do this, this sucks, I hate this, I want to give up. But you stick with it. It starts getting easier. The time/lap starts shrinking. Then, the mindset shifts: I'm AWESOME. I'm a SUPERSTAR! I'm swimming like AMANDA BEARD! This is SO MUCH FUN! I want MORE! Complete opposite. Again, I'm reminded of the highs and lows you go through in an Ironman. Yet another reason to keep on pushing when you feel pain...the exquisite wonderful ecstasy that follows when the pain subsides and numbness sets in.

Tuesday's night workout was a spin session on the trainer. Time Trial Special 2.0 a'la Spinerval DVD. I got on Torch. Ouch. I started warming up. My legs hurt. I started doing the workout. Waiting for my legs to feel better. They felt like cement blocks. Coach Troy was yelling to "Push it! Harder! Harder! This is an ALL OUT!" I shouted at him to go *F* himself. I HATED him. Stupid Coach Troy. What did he know? Stupid Spinervals. Stupid trainer. It had been 20 minutes. My body wasn't responding, and the all time mental dive wasn't worth it. It was time to call it (gulp) quits. Reluctantly, in full pout mode, I got off the trainer, went inside, doled myself out a huge sundae (Dreyer's Peanut Butter Cups---OMG--It is SO GOOD!), and sulked.

Today, I'm still sore and tired. But I was able to do my workouts. I was actually looking forward to doing them, and after a looong warm-up, able to produce some good quality power. I did some light weights, taking care of my flared-up knees and laying off my aching hamstrings. Followed it up with an 8-mile (hot and humid) run. Was pretty slow but felt good to get it done. Tonight, round 2 on the trainer. This time, Rachel and Torch won the battle against Coach Troy. Take that! Sometimes, it's smart to surrender one workout to come back the next day and actually recover.

I leave you with this:
Chip--the rapidly growing wild baby bunny that visits our backyard every evening. I discovered him while I had my biblical sinus infection, and he's been my guardian angel ever since. And, yes, he's adoreable.