Thursday, December 23, 2010

6 Weeks; It Takes 6 Weeks

How long does it take to see a difference in fitness upon commencement of regular workouts? 6 weeks. A full 6 weeks. After 6 months of vegetating, it has taken me 6 weeks of struggling, toiling, sweating, pain and agony to get to the point where it's not so hard anymore. I'm not any faster, and I can't go much farther but at least it feels easier.

I ran 8 miles on Sunday, and, for the first time, my long run went well. I felt strong the entire way, maintaining a consistent pace. Also, it's not taking me as long to recover after each workout. I also find that it's easier to get out the door. I'm beginning to look forward to the workouts and have more energy for them. So that's the good news. I still have a long way to go but at least it's getting easier!

I've been struggling for 6 weeks. I've gotten this far; I'm certainly not going to let it go easily again. I had a terrific 4 (slow) mile run this morning and had enough oomph to swim this evening. Yay me! Just in time for the holidays! Of course, I picked a terrific time to get into shape. Argh.

Happy Holidays!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Good Run

Right now, I need some good, confidence-building workouts. It seems like I've been slogging through each and every one over these last 5 weeks. Last night, I may have had a breakthrough.

I came home from work completely exhausted. Granted, I had an interview earlier that day, which are always draining. (It went very well, and I would love this opportunity so I'm keepign my fingers crossed!) I immediately plopped onto the bed, surrounded by dogs, and fell asleep. When Travis woke me up at 6 to be fed with a few gentle woofs (and 50 lbs jumping on my chest), I groggily stumbled downstairs. After feeding myself, the dreaded yet familiar feeling of apathy began to build in my chest. I knew my odds of working out were becoming slimmer and slimmer as the evening elapsed. However, every time I stirred, Travis jumped up, ran towards the door and turned back towards me with begging eyes, tail wagging. He knew it was time for his walk. Shoot. If I'm going to walk them, I may as well run them, I reasoned. "Do you want to go for a run?" At the word, "run", both Travis and Floyd began panting and furiously tail-wagging. Their excitement rubbed off on me, and I used the energy to quickly change into my nighttime running clothes, headlamp and all. As we headed for the door, Floyd jumped up and down whining loudly while Travis did a few 360s and "woofed" a few more times. Talk about great training partners!

The first mile with the boys is always awkward. Unable to contain their excitement, they always sprint down the street for the first 1/4 mile, dragging me behind them. Then, Travis has to stop, sniff, and take care of business. After that, they're good (actually, Floyd keeps an even pace pretty much the entire time--I think it's the herding breed in him).

The miles floated by with the dogs trotting at a steady pace beside me. As a pack, we ran in sync, a unifying flow of energy tying us together. It was a magical moment, sort of a running mediation. It had been months since I've felt that sort of quiet, peaceful mind, which I used to get easily every time I ran. When I sit and try to practice meditation (which I actually am trying to do for a few minutes a day), it takes a lot of effort to quiet my mind. When I run, it just happens. Time stopped, and all I was aware of was the rhythm of my feet and the quiet euphoria that filled me. It felt wonderful. I didn't want to stop. When we reached our usual turn-around, I pushed on, deciding to add an extra mile. Again, this is the first time this has happened since I started training again.

The extra mile was tough, probably because it was mostly uphill. The dogs gently tugged at the leash, urging me not to slow down. With their four legs and low center of gravity, they glanced back at my labored footsteps and heaving gasps for breath questioningly as they easily loped up the hill. I welcomed the assistance they gave me up the hill. At the same time, my lungs were screaming as I allowed them to push my pace. Their speed and endurance always amazes me, especially since I train much more than they do!

At the top of the hill, we turned around and headed back towards home. They weren't sprinting but they definitely picked up the pace. I could have insisted that they slow down. But I secretly enjoyed the push they gave me. Left to my own demise, I would not run that fast. They urged me to quicken my footsteps, and I obeyed, my breath coming comfortably but rapidly. This was a tempo run. The combination of running past my comfort level so soon after dinner forced me to dash into the bushes for an emergency stop only a mile away from home. Ugh. Travis and Floyd, confused yet always obedient, followed me into the bush and waited patiently.

Afterwards, we continued the final mile home. Our pace had dropped off but I was thankful to settle back to my happy space. The final quarter mile had to be traversed on a sketchy section of the road where the bike lane is narrow and there is no sidewalk. Travis instinctively hugged the shoulder but I had to keep yanking Floyd back into the safety of the bike lane as he kept jutting out into the middle of the street. Paying close attention to Floyd, I didn't see a bush up ahead, crowding the bike lane. Travis ran around the bush, accidently colliding with me. I spilled to the ground on my hands and knees. For a split second, panic ensued as I pictured oncoming cars hitting Floyd, who was now sprawled in the middle of the street. The whites of Travis's eyes flashed as I crouched vulnerably on the dark road. I leapt back to my feet, took a second to assess the damage (little to none), and we cautiously trotted the remaining few yards back to the sidewalk. Luckily, no one was harmed, save for a scraped knee and hole in my running tights. However, I will make sure to take the long way home next time to avoid that section.

All in all, I was extraordinarily happy with this run. I realize my primary goal is to be able to enjoy my workouts again. I don't want each one to feel like so much work! I want to use the workouts to relax, rejuvenate, and attain that moving meditative state. That comes with fitness. And it will come...

Travis by the xmas tree.

Another Travis pic.

Regal Floyd posing by the tree.

Getting both dogs together for the camera. Travis is doing his best pouty face to beg for a treat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How Long is This Going to Take?

We've all heard about how quickly you lose fitness once you become sedentary. As a rule of thumb, the old adage says that it takes twice as long as the layoff period to return to your fitness peak. But will it really take 1 year to return to where I was? After these last 4 weeks of slogging through workouts, I beginning to think that maybe it will.

The last issue of Triathlete mag (Dec' 10) gave me some hope. Dr. Jeffrey Sankoff wrote a little blurb on "Memory Muscle" addressing exactly this question. Have I lost everything after my 6 month layoff despite 7 years of previous hard work? Scientists from Norway found that muscles in previously trained mice remained "primed" to return to fitness after a layoff, despite a loss in muscle mass. It seems that muscles do have a memory, and this may help seasoned athletes regain fitness faster than untrained ones after a sedentary period. I can only hope this proves to be true for humans!

So what is detraining and how fast does it happen? Detraining is the loss of fitness due to inactivity, occurring in as little as 2-3 weeks. First, our VO2 max decreases, or to put it simply, cardiovascular fitness. You start huffing and puffing. Then, you lose muscle mass. In addition, your body is less effective at fat-burning and stores less glycogen. It can take up to 6 months to regain fitness after a long layoff. Easy come, easy go.

From what I've read, it's always better to reduce training than stop altogether. This prevents a dramtic reduction in fitness and also allows athletes to bounce back faster. And when returning to training after a layoff, always start slow. Consistency, not intensity speed or distance, is the key.

Links on Detraining:,7120,s6-238-267--13390-0,00.html

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Week 4: Recovery--Crash and Burn

The 8 (Oops, I mean 11)-Mile Run:
Last week, I finished out my training with a long trail run at Penasquitos Canyon. The weather was deliciously perfect, high 60s to low 70s. I had my Fuel Belt, Cliff Blocks, and GPS in tow. This doesn't seem remarkable but it was the first time I had used this equipment in over 6 months. This realization filled me with some anxiety of what was to come: 8 miles of slow and painful slogging on trails. I headed out in good spirits. My pace was perfect for a long, slow run. The trail was fairly forgiving, mostlly flat and well-worn. My legs are still not used to running but I could coax them into a consistent rhythm with little effort. I reached the 4-mile mark and turned around, feeling good, full of confidence. I chomped away on our Salt Tabs and Cliff Blocks, chasing them with slugs of water. Everything was going according to plan.

Then, I decided to take "the scenic route" back. I headed north to circle around the waterfall. So far, so good. The water trickled and beckoned to us beyond some rocky crags. How I wished we could plunge into the icy waters. Shortly after, I branched left. I was sure both trails returned to the start. A mile later, we began climbing up some very steep, very rocky terrain. I was forced to walk. Huffing and puffing, a sinking feeling plummeted in my gut. In the back of my mind, I knew we were going the wrong way. Stubbornly, I plunged onwards. The trail started heading sharply north and up towards a residential area. I doubled back. I took the next fork in the road, which suddenly began heading west. My truck was east. Ugh. We doubled back again.

Finally, I headed down the east trail again. My only other option was to return the way we had come. Of course, in hindsight, this would have been the smartest but it was over a mile away, and that seemed like an eternity. In the end, a 2 mile addition would have been better than the 3 hellaciously mountainous ones we added on. The rocky hills, I mean, mountains, appeared out of nowhere. Mutely, we climbed up each one and staggered down the next. At the top, I could see the trail we needed to get to in the distance to the south. How on earth were we going to get down? The trail was so rocky at this point that we were walking. My spirits were low, knowing I had screwed up.

At long last, the trail began heading down towards the trail home. I was immensely relieved but I had to get down first. The trail was almost steep enough to warrant crab-walking on my ass. I bent my knees and side-stepped down, avoiding tiny rockslides as I timidly traversed the cliff's side. My quads were trembling and screaming by the time I reached the bottom. I finally reached the trail that would take us back to the truck. I coaxed my tired legs back into a run. I was completely out of water, had run 8 miles (including mountains), and still had 3 to go. The situation was grim. I fell silent and focused on putting one foot in front of the other, stumbling back towards home. I finally reached the truck, completely spent.

Recovery Week:
Although I had promised myself not to just veg all week during my recovery week, it was not to be. Work was crazy busy, and I simply felt exhausted. Nonetheless, I wished I had done more than sit on my butt Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Friday. By Friday, I could feel the depression creeping back in. I paid for it my slothfullness dearly on my warrior weekend.

Camp Pendleton Bike Ride:
Saturday, we set out for a leisurely ride through Camp Pendleton, one of my favorite local San Diego rides. The ocean, low-traffic roads, mostly flat, and no stops. What else could you ask for? Unfortunately, I felt groggy and sluggish for the entire ride. C'mon! At what point will I start seeing the rewards from my hard work? Afterall, even though I took 5 days off, I did put in 3 solid weeks of hard work. Argh. We had planned on going 40 but I quickly realized I had bitten off more than I could chew. 10 miles in, I knew the smart thing to do would be 30. I slogged away down the road, beating myself up for how slow my progress was. Every little bump in the hill was an immense mountain. I thought this was a flat ride! To add insult to injury, I clearly remembered zooming down the same roads on many rides before, thinking the ride was "easy". Not today. Of course, the false flats and headwinds didn't help. I had no idea what an impact those factor made until the turn-around. Once heading back home, on a gentle descent with a tailwind, we sailed at breakneck speed. I felt amazing! Funny how quickly things can change on the bike. All of a sudden, I noticed the deep blue ocean, the sweet songs of the meadow larks, and the wildflowers starting to peek through in the fields. Everything was just sweeter. We made it back to the truck, and I was relieved we had only done 30. When did 30 become such an effort?

8-Mile (I Mean 7) Trail Run:
The temps soared on Sunday. Knowing it would be in the upper 70s, we headed towards San Elijo Lagoon since it was on the coast. This was a smart decision. Water followed us for the entire trail, which was often shaded and cool. It was delicious. 1/2 mile in, the overwhelming need to pee brought me to a screeching halt. Damn pre-run coffee. I veered off the trail to take care of business. I did my thing, thankful as I really had to go, pulled up my shorts and jumped back onto the trail. At that exact moment, two male runners came up over the trail. Had I been 2 seconds longer, I would have been caught red-handed! I giggled for a few minutes before continuing.

Unfortunately, my legs were shot from the ride the day before. I silently vowed not to ride the day before a long run anymore. Afterall, I'm not training for an Ironman. Why beat myself up needlessly? My pace was agonizingly slow but I forced my legs to keep turning over, ignoring the embarrassing pace on my GPS. At mile 3, we reached the turn-around. I hadn't expected to reach the end of the trail so quickly. My run would be short. No matter, we could always add on at the end. We slogged our way back, trudging over long stretches of deep sand and lumbering up steep steps made of logs. Somehow, I managed to maintain a run (maybe "shuffle" is more accurate) the whole way. The trail glittered with tiny fragments of shells washed up from previous week's high tides.

Greg saw the ocean and took off, clipping away at 8:30 min/miles. The trail was very friendly at this point, packed with a hard sand and sloping gently downhill. I took off in hot pursuit, dancing over boulders and logs. He reached a steep hill and slowed to a walk. Chomping at the bit, I refused to walk, zigging and zagging my way to the top. I plowed through a bunch of confused bird watchers with telescopes at the top, refusing to lose my rhythm, crying, "Coming through!" I didn't mean to be rude but their sense of time was simply elapsing at a slower pace than mine. We reached the road and plowed onward for a final mile. At mile 7, we reached the ocean. Spent, we both agreed 7 was enough (especially on a recovery week!), and we plunged into the icy, cool waters of the ocean. The water rejuvenated our legs and we basked in the surf until our feet had gone numb before slowly trudging back to the car.

After a much-needed nap, I am tired but recovering quickly. Ready for the next training block!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Week 3: Are We There Yet?

Week 3 of working out again has been going very well. I'm getting used to the daily workouts mentally. However, physically, this week, the fatigue is taking its toll. My muscle memory can get me through the workout, albeit at a slower pace, but boy, do I pay for it the next day! I'm trying hard to stay positive. I know this is normal but it sure is humbling. I feel like I have such a long way to go. Will I ever regain my fitness? How long is this going to take? I sound like an impatient child: "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" That's okay. It's all about the journey, right?

After Saturday's run in the rain, Greg and I went out for a hilly 30-mile ride in San Diego. The sun was out but the temps were still brisk after the evening rainfall. With arm warmers, gloves and a vest, I was uncomfortably cold. To make matters worse, we left in the afternoon. As the shadows grew long, the temperatures began to fall. At least we had lots of hills to climb! We toiled up Del Dios Highway. I had been prepared for this one. I was very proud of myself; I kept a consistent pace and didn't try to push it, knowing there would be more hills to follow. Unfortunately, my legs thought otherwise. Shortly after Del Dios, exhaustion set in. I ate, ate, and ate some more, which helped a little. But when you're out of shape, all the Cliff Bloks in the world won't save you. I fell silent for a long stretch, turning my focus inward, allowing my mind to quiet. The hilly ride had turned into a quiet, chilling hell, one I had brought on all by myself. Afterall, I had planned the route. That 30-miler felt like 50. I used to ride 80 miles of hills every weekend. How the hell did I do that? I had no IDEA what fantastic shape I used to be in. Too bad I had to lose it all to appreciate it. I'll keep plugging away at it. Soon, I hope my 50-mile rides feel like 30.

Monday, I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a bus. Accordingly, I took a rest day. Tuesday, I wearily dragged myself out for a sluggish 4-mile run with the dogs, followed by a solid session of weights. Wednesday, miracle of all miracles, I woke up early. Maybe it was the sun shining so brightly through the large east window of my bedroom. Regardless, can I do that more often? Greg and I bundled up in as many biking clothes as we could find and braved the cold for a brisk, 18-mile am bike ride. It was exhilarating and exhausting. I still felt pretty sluggish and was ready to get off at mile 12. I can't believe how tough these bike rides are! Nonetheless, I keep getting back in the saddle; I have faith that they WILL get easier if I keep doing it.

I felt so gung-ho Wednesday evening that I doubled-down with a rad pool session, pumping out 2,000 yards. Unfortunately, it's waaaay too early in my training to be doubling down, let alone with 2,000 yards in the pool when my last swim was 2 weeks ago. Whoops. The swim felt amazing; it's just that I didn't. Especially this morning. I woke up feeling like I'd been run over by a train. Today's Thursday, and, yup, I'm forcing myself to take a rest day.

I'm wondering when my recovery week was. I'm sad to say I'm going to need a recovery week next week, even though this month has been all "Prep" work. But, I have to listen to my body. And it's screaming for recovery. On the other hand, I'm hoping to maintain my workouts during the recovery week at a lower volume (with one extra rest day) so I don't lose my momentum. Maybe by listening to my body, I'll be able to take a recovery week the way it should be taken: a 50% reduction in volume (as opposed to my normal 80% decrease or in other words, veg on the couch all week).

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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

First Cold of the Season

Well, that's no fun. After being off to a great start of workouts, I came down with a cold. Not enough to be serious but just enough to make me feel crummy, warrant rest, and fall out of the routine of working out again. Two steps forward, one step back...

The most interesting part is how the cold commenced. After feeling very hyper, I zipped around on Torch, flying up hills tirelessly around Rancho Santa Fe on an impromptu afternoon 30-miler. I came home only because the sun was setting. I felt fabulous. The sniffles started almost immediately after my shower. Strange. No sore throat. Nothing. Just a fabulous bike ride, and wham! A cold.

Oh, well. I feel better. Time to start again.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Comeback Kid, or Comeback, Kid?

--At Tour de Poway this weekend--

I'm trying so hard. Actually, I've been doing pretty good. If it weren't for my depression, I'd be the fittest chick in town. Ironically, it's the exercise that helps the depression anyway. So why is it so hard to work out when I'm blue? It just sucks the energy out of me. Despite a very difficult time in my life (mainly due to my flop of a career), I've been making some progress on the triathlon front. Slowly, little by little, I'm clawing my way back onto the wagon again. And slowly, little by little, getting my body back into shape, whether it wants to or not. On the flip side, all of this will make for great story fodder in my triathlon memoir, where I can divulge more than I can here.

I'm not following a training plan. My goal is to workout every day, 6 days a week, and simply get back into shape again. I've even signed up for a few races! My long term goal is to (gulp) do an ultramarathon. But we'll see....slowly, slowly. The great thing about this blog is that it keeps me honest. If I don't post it, it's like it never happened. So when I work out, I get to post it! It's like my reward.

I've had a lot of false starts. The 2nd week in September, inspired by Rosh Hashana, I officially started working out on a regular basis again. I did great for about 10 days. Then, after some devastating news at work, I fell into a rut and went into hiding for 2 weeks. Now, I'm back at it. I may fall down a lot, but I usually don't stay down for long.

I started missing the workouts. The fresh air, the sunshine, feeling my body work and sweat, huffing and puffing, getting dirty...I just missed it. I missed how relaxed yet energized I felt afterwards. How all my worries were put to rest. How soundly I would sleep. I knew it was time to get back out there.

My first comeback workout was a run. It always starts with a run. Simply because I just love running. I love how all I need is a pair of shoes. I can throw myself out on the road and just go. Whatever pace I want. Of course, I took my favorite running partners: the dogs. I love running with my pack. They don't care what pace I pick. I can even walk up a hill if I need to; they won't tell. The run sucked but I loved every minute of it. Whenever my lungs felt like they were going to explode, I walked. After about 20 seconds, I would run again. No questions asked. I have to be careful around Travis now. He knows the word, "Run".

The run was followed up with weights. I swam the next day. Only 1500. Speed wasn't bad but it killed me to maintain it. The following day? A bike of course. I was very tired and didn't feel like it but I jumped on the trainer, popped in a Heroes DVD, and I was off. After a brief warm-up, I enjoyed a good episode, zoning out as I did 5-minute steady effort repeats. Huh? Did I just say that?

The day after, I ran again. This time, 6 miles of hilly, sandy Torrey Pines trails. It was in between thunderstorms, and the humidity was as thick as pea soup. Greg and I salivated at the sight of the ocean at the bottom of the trail. We reached the beach at the halfway point, threw off our shoes, and dove in for a refreshing, 60-degree dip. Soaking wet, we put our shoes back on and ran back. It was one of the most fun runs I'd had in a long time. (Especially the random straggler from Black's Beach on the side of the trail, wearing nothing but torn black stockings and a body suit. Greg looked at me and said, "We can talk about that later." We both burst into hysterics.)

Last Friday, I kicked butt. I felt good, and I was on a roll. I joined a friend for a swim at the pool. That's 2 swims in one week! Whoo-hoo! I did a great workout, knocking out 2200 yards, and leaving on a good note. I wanted more! My pace was a bit slow but I felt like I could go forever.
(Swim workout:
Warm Up: 3x thru: 50 free/25 breast/25 back/25 breast/25 back
Main Set: 500, 50 breast, 400, 50 breast, 300, 50 breast, 200, 50 breast, 100, 50 breast, 50, 50 cool down)
Later that same day, I lead Greg on a bike ride through Rancho Santa Fe. He complained about the hills. Heh, heh. It was only 15 miles but it felt great. I didn't want to overdo it. We had a big bike ride on Sunday!

Saturday, I rested, in preparation for Tour de Poway (
It had been a loong time since I had ridden 50 miles. I wasn't sure I could do it. In fact, the last time I had ridden 30, it had almost killed me, tricking me into thinking I was completely out of shape. I was shaking in my cleats. I readied Pandora, took a deep breath, and we started off in the early morning fog. There were thousands of other riders with us. We immediately began climbing. Up, up, up. Having ridden this course 2x before, I was prepared. I settled in and zoned out, toiling up for 5 miles, a mixture of fog and sweat dripping off my forehead.

Once we reached Ramona, I felt nice and warmed up. I had forgotten that there were lots of flat and downhill sections on the course. It was actually pretty forgiving! I ended up having a blast. My favorite part was when I started serenading some strange guy behind me, thinking it was Greg. I was feeling pretty loopy and blabbing/singing away until I heard, "Um. I'm not him. He's back there a bit." Lots of shared laughter over this goof.

I got done with the bike and felt...great. I'm ready for more. I took a day of rest and went for a run with the dogs. This time, I didn't even have to walk! I'm feeling stronger already. I just have to keep plugging away at it. I'm even signed up for a few little races (see below)!

1. San Diego Women's Triathlon, October 17th (
2. Light the Night 5K, Balboa Park, October 23rd (
3. Tour de Julian, November 6th (

Hmmm. What else? Lots of fun trail races coming up. Maybe a trail marathon? We'll see, we'll see.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More awesome dogs for adoption!

The pics of these guys on the website look so sad, almost like "Wanted" pictures. I tried to capture their happiness during my 20 minutes with them. They absolutely LOVE attention!

Sparks, a very sweet, shy German Shephard puppy. I think this boy will get BIG. He was very gentle on the leash!

Howdy, he has lots of love to give. He just wants to run and play. Lots of puppyish energy. My sister called me on the phone while I was in the playyard with him. He wouldn't have it. He insisted I give him all the attention! I realized he was right. Afterall, my time with these dogs is 100% for them. I told my sister I would have to call back because he was insisting on a belly rub.

Boris, my all time favorite! A 5 year-old German Shephard/Aussie mix, he looks like an accident of breeds but his personality can't be beat. Plus, with his long fur, crooked ears, and lolling tongue, you have to admit that he's adoreable in a way that can't be beat. He never barks and is always happy, even in the kennel next to shrill, howling and whining dogs. He's extremely gentle on the leash despite his large size. He's very easy going and laid-back. He's happy to be doing whatever you're doing. Dogs like this are hard to find.

Duncan, resting for a moment before returning to play. He loves to play! Very rambunctious but settles down quickly after a little jog. Full of love, he wants you to play with him and then follow up with lots of belly rubs. Just a sweetie.
Duncan playing with a toy.
This guy (tag 701) had just come in and was pretty skittish. He seemed to be very thankful for some time out of the kennel. I gave him a walk and some playtime with lots of attention. Don't know his breed. Maybe lab mix? Very sweet. What name should this guy get? Banjo?
This cutie doesn't have a name yet. He's a terrier/Border collie mix. Loves to play and very gentle on the leash. Here he's saying, "Rub my belly!" His tag number is N691. What should his name be? How about Archie?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Travis sleeping
Floyd sleeping

Thursday, September 09, 2010

She's At It Again! (Day 5)

Another day done, another workout in the bag. My legs are s.o.r.e....and it feels nothing short of awesome. The four of us hit the road for a mellow 4-mile run last night. Who needs a group run or running buddies when you have dogs? We quickly fell into a synchronized rhythm, sharing an alternate realm of existence where only the fortunate are allowed to go. Travis turned his head back at me, mouth open, tongue hanging out, in a big grin. "This is fun, Mom!" Floyd ran alongside, grinning from ear to ear. I never used to believe that dogs have facial expressions but they really can smile! Side by side we ran, down the path, in rhythm, enjoying our shared experience. We're getting in shape together, one pack at a time.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

New Year Continued....Trainer Workout!

Yes, I rode the trainer last night. Why? Because I wanted to. It was dark, and I didn't want to go more than one day without working out. I hooked Torch up to the trainer, popped in a Spinerval DVD, cranked the tunes, and I was off. It was fantastic. I loved the feeling of working hard, sore muscles, sweat, lungs burning, legs screaming, and huffing and puffing. I followed it up with 25 minutes of weights. Travis wasn't too happy about all the noise (plus, he really wanted to play ball) but he got lots of love afterwards. I'm off to a good start!

P.S. The reef aquarium is really taking off. You can catch up on it's adventures at

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

New Year; Day 4

Little by little, I'm gaining back my energy. I miss the way I used to feel when I was in shape. I'm tired of the sedentary lifestyle. I'm eating better. And I'm working out every day. Well, almost every day (and it's only day 4).

The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) begins at sundown tomorrow. More than ever, I need a new start, a new beginning. I'm more than ready to say goodbye to last year and start fresh. What perfect timing! I need this motivation. My goal is to a) workout every day (it doesn't matter what) and b) eat healthier by cooking more. I went to the grocery store and stockpiled the fridge with lots of fruits and veggies. I love snacking on these goodies at home!

I've been running with the dogs; they love it. I even did weights for the first time in 3 months! I'm craving a bike ride. Saturday, I took the dogs for an off-leash 4-miler on the trails behind the house. Even though I was huffing and puffing up every hill (and even had to take a few walk breathers), I loved every minute of it. It felt so invigorating. The only part I didn't like so much? Leaping over a 3-foot rattlesnake in the middle of the trail. Yikes!

Here's to a new year and a fresh start!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Volunteering at the Animal Shelter

I began volunteering at the Animal Shelter this Sunday. I spent 5 hours in the blazing sun, sweating as I walked hyper, pulling dogs. I picked up poop and came home exhausted, sore, and covered in slobber, fleas, and God know what else. And I absolutely LOVED it. I can't wait to go back next weekend. It was one of the most gratifying, rewarding experiences I've had in a loooong time.

After I got Travis in October, I wanted more doggie time. And then when Floyd joined our family this spring, I realized the only way to get more doggie time would be to volunteer. I couldn't wait to give back to the other dogs at the shelter. After all, Travis has turned out to be such an exceptional dog. If I could help bring some joy and happiness to the other shelter dogs and somehow help them get adopted, well, words can't explain how good that would make me feel.

--Travis, the day I brought him home from the shelter.

--Floyd and Travis, bosom buddies; these guys are now inseparable!

I learned a lot about dogs on Sunday. 99.9% of dogs are joyous, love people, and just want a little love, attention and exercise. Although I could only spend 20-30 minutes with each dog, they relished every second. Dogs know how to live in the moment. Also, since the majority of the dogs at the shelter are pit bull or pit bull mix, I'm quickly learning that the bad rap these guys have is undeserved. I haven't met a pit bull I don't like. Contrary to popular belief, instead of being aggressive, these guys are huge sweeties! They loooove people and attention and are mostly low energy, easy-going and mellow. Of course, since Travis is half pit, I know this from personal experience as well. Can't wait to go back next week!

Please, please, please, if you are thinking of getting a dog, cat, or bunny (or most any pet--the shelter has reptiles, birds, mice, hamsters, roosters, and even a few pigs!), look at your local shelter. There are so many loving animals there that desperately need a home.

Some of the dogs I walked on Sunday:

--sweet, young and plaful

--one of my favorites! Great with other dogs, easy on the leash, affectionate. Loves belly rubs!

--Very polite and mild-mannered. This gal LOVES walks. Who can resist that face and floppy ears?

--Look at that beautiful steel gray coat!

--The first guy I met. Handsome, polite, and very affectionate.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thanks! I Needed That.

I've been battling with some depression lately, evident in my last post. Needless to say, it was quite the timely e-mail that I got the other day:

"Hi Rachel,

We just posted an article, “50 Informative & Inspiring Blogs for Triathletes” ( ). I thought I'd bring it to your attention in case you think your readers would find it interesting.

I am happy to let you know that your site has been included in this list.

Either way, thanks for your time!"

Thanks so much for the shout-out!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Reunited with Torch

--Spring Sprint '08

I'm almost too embarrassed to admit this but yesterday was the first time I rode Torch in 3 months. Ironman Utah really took it out of me. I've never experienced this before. I simply had no interest in Torch after Utah. Of coures, the 6-week-long period of physical chronic fatigue didn't help. Every now and then, I'd take Pandora out for a ride, hike or do a leisurely run with the dogs, and maybe pop into the ocean for a dip. But even that was becoming more and more infrequent.
I would be lying if I said everything was fine. Work is tough right now. Very tough. I'm actively searching for my first "real job" at the age of 32. I have a PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology, and I can't find a job. The economy is shit. I keep getting turned down because I'm overqualified or don't have enough "biotech" experience. It's frustrating. What I need right now is an outlet.

I wrestled with Torch for about half-an-hour, replacing the race wheels with training wheels. Undoing the aero bottle from the bars, still half-full of dirty Ironman Utah water. Slapped a spare kit in a bag under the seat. And took off.

I was a bit worried. The one thing I didn't need right now was a bad ride. A bad run a week ago had popped the last little bit of wind out of my sails. How would I feel on a 16-mile ride? I feel like I'm starting all over again. It's just been too long.

I quickly settled into the aero position. It was like putting on an old pair of your favorite jeans. Like walking by a bakery and reveling in childhood memories of your mother's chocolate-chip cookies. It was like, was like riding a bike. You never forget. I remembered all those hours, all those hills, all the bottles of water, the eons of time riding next to friends in idle conversation. The long, endless Saturdays of starting out with the group at the crack of dawn and riding non-stop until mid-afternoon. The feeling that there was nothing else but that moment. Nothing else existed. The ocean stretching endlessly to the left. The bright sun in the cloudless sky, cooled by a soft, mist breeze, carried from the waves crashing on the shore. I felt strangely free and at peace. The knowledge that you had nothing else planned for the rest of the day, and the only thing that mattered was finishing that ride. Afterwards, a hot shower, lots of comfort food, and lounging in front of the t.v., gleefully weary and totally satisfied. Then, going to bed early to get ready to wake up early on Sunday and do it all over again (this time on foot).

This ride, in and of itself, was uneventful. I rode on the path I had ridden on hundreds of time before. But I relished in it. Appreciated the sleeping power in my core and glutes. Took advantage of the knowledge of every turn and bump in the road. Enjoyed the predictable westwardly wind. I loved the familiarity of the ride. Something within me stirred.

Monday, August 02, 2010


Bad Floyd:
What was supposed to be a relaxing, mellow late-night walk turned into an anxiety-ridden, harrowing 9 mile rescue search. Friday night, Greg and I decide to go for a night walk with the dogs. We trekked along a dirt path in one of the plowed fields behind the house, illuminated only by moonlight. About halfway out and 3 miles from home, Floyd disappeared. One minute he was there, and the next, POOF! Gone.

We speculated on the rationale for his absconding into darkness without warning. What was going through his little head? Did he get spooked? Took one path, and we took the other? Chased a rabbit until we got separated? Or did he simply get bored of the walk and decide on his own to take off? In the end, it was just Greg, Travis, and me, searching endlessly for someone who was no longer there.

Amazingly, Travis, usually quite mischievous about coming when called, came straight away in response to my whistling. He actually seemed somewhat worried. He put his head into the leash as if to say, "Okay. I'm done with this game. Let's go home." I gave him some water and lots of pats.

We walked back and forth in search of Floyd. Traversed the path to the point where we had seen him last. Went to each fork in the road. We went back and forth like that for awhile until we were quite disoriented. Luckily, I noticed that whenever we turned down one path, Travis surged ahead. When we went down the other, Travis obediently followed but more sluggishly at our heels. Hmmm. Let's go down the one where Travis pulls ahead. Just like horses, dogs seem to have an incredible honing instinct for sensing direction of home. We decided to let Travis lead us home and prayed that Floyd would be there waiting for us.

When we got a call from my housemate, we were both instantly relieved. He confirmed our suspicions: Floyd had been waiting on the front porch when he had come home from the pub. Little bastard had gotten tired of our wanderings and taken upon himself to steal away silently and go home. We took our time walking home after that, knowing Floyd was safe and sound. I stood for several minutes, gaping in awe, when we passed directly underneath a giant, great-horned owl, swiveling his head this way and that, in search of prey.

Bad Travis:
We went for a run Sunday evening. We waited until the sun was setting and the temps had cooled off. As the shadows grew long, we took the dogs off leash and set off on a familiar trail, aiming for 3-4 easy miles. The dogs were always better at staying with us when we were running; I had no doubt we would run together as a pack.

The dogs darted in and out of the bushes, stirring up critters and cavorted in the fields. They seemed so happy. About 2 miles out, Travis darted into some thick shrubs alongside a narrow creek. Oh, Travis, I thought. I whistled and waited for him to come out. I heard jingling and rustling. He was taking his time. I ran up ahead and whistled again. He never failed to follow. Except for today. Several minutes elapsed. I whistled repeatedly. I doubled-back on the path, whistling. When I returned to where I had last seen him, only 50 feet back, I was met with nothing but silence and a family of red-tailed hawks, excitedly flitting about in the trees as the field mice skittered about below. A horrible sinking feeling tore through my chest. Travis was gone.

I had no doubt what had gone through Travis' head. It was dusk, when the rabbits, his most favorite thing to chase in the world, were most active. He had seen rabbits! and taken chase. Now he was gone and completely disinterested in returning. I was pissed. Greg, Floyd and I ran along the trails snaking through the fields and creek in a futile search for Travis. Travis had no interest in listening to our calls and whistles. Darkness was only minutes away from encompassing the land, and I knew it would be pointless to search for him after the sun set.

Frustrated, I took Floyd and set off for home. Greg refused to surrender. He set back out at a mad sprint to find Travis. I scoffed, thinking it was impossible. It was a long walk/run home. I was relieved to be in the company of Floyd. In my head, I was already putting together the "Missing Dog" fliers, thinking of the best places to hang them, and calling the local shelters. By the time I got home, I was shaking and almost in tears.

Just a mere 5 minutes later, Greg burst through the front door with an exhausted, panting Travis at his heels. I stared in disbelief, overcome with conflicting yet simultaneous emotions of immense relief and fury. I took Travis out back to check him for wounds and hose him down to cool him off. He's a bit tired but doesn't have a scratch on him.

Needless to say, it will be awhile before these guys go off leash again!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Check out my new blog!

These are my new pets, Bonnie and Clyde, a pair of baby clownfish. I'm the proud owner of a young 75-gallon saltwater aquarium. Check out the successes and failures of my new mini-ocean.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Science Thursday: Exercise Physiology--Women vs Men

Intuitively, we know that women respond differently to exercise, training, and nutrition than men. Men are faster due to bigger hearts and more muscle mass (among other things). Women tend to recover faster from workouts, however, and may also have more endurance in ultra events. Also, women rarely get calf cramps while men succumb to these crippling stabs of pain. Men tend to lose weight faster than women; women hang on to body fat and have higher body fat percentages. Obviously, these are trends and observations. Surprisingly, little research has been done on the specific physiological differences between men and women during exercise.

Women can be faster than men? There have been several instances of some women kicking men's asses, especially at the ultra endurance events. Check out Gertrude Ederle) who swam the English Channel faster than the 5 men who had done it before her. Lynne Cox , who swam in Antarctic waters, completing ultraswimming events where men who had tried before her died. Seana Hogan, ultracycling legend (yes, even better than men), and Pam Reed, bad-ass at Badwater and overall winner (several times!).

Back to the main story:
Recently, an article in the New York Times highlighted some of the differences in the physiology between men and women. We've all been hearing the hype about protein and muscle recovery after a workout. The idea is that muscle is made of protein. Working out breaks the muscle tissue down. It then recovers and rebuilds, coming back stronger than before. Studies have shown taking in a certain amount of protein within 30 minutes after a workout speeds up the recovery process, presumably by helping the muscle rebuild. That's why we've all been slugging chocolate milk after a good training session. Or at least, that's the excuse we've been telling ourselves for all the chocolate milk we've been guzzling (yum, yum). This study was first published by Rowlands et al., 2008 in Appl Physiol Nutr Metab.

Unfortunately, this study used all male subjects. Almost as an afterthought, Dr. Rowlands conducted a follow-up study, this time focusing on female subjects. Surprisingly, females did not respond like the males to ingesting protein after a cycling workout. They had no measurable benefit to the protein (Rowlands et al., 2010. Med Sci Sports Exerc). This may be due to the higher amounts of estrogen and lower amounts of testosterone in women vs men, although this is probably only a part of the total complex number of factors in the end equation.

This is not the first time gender differences have been observed with respect to physiology and training. For instance, studies have indicated that females do not respond to carbo loading like males do (See Tarnopolsky et al., 2001 J Appl Physiol). That well-intended, detailed meal plan you bought from the nutritionist to carbo load the week or two before your A race? If you're female, you may be simply wasting your time. The benefit of carbo-loading was not as great in women. For whatever reason (blame it on estrogen), women are not able to utilize the greater percentage of ingested carbohydrates to restock their glycogen stores, compared to men.

Finally, the heart-rate training you've been doing? If you're a woman, you may be using the wrong formulas. All those detailed books with numbers and percentages you're supposed to be a slave to in training were calculated based on studies using male subjects. Not to mention treadmill and their automatic heart rate programs. The ole' 220-age is not accurate. Apparently, this is about 8 beats too high for women, which may lead to premature fatigue and frustration if you're trying to adhere to a heart rate plan. Honestly, I think it's better to train based on feel and breathing anyway (I love the talk test but maybe because I love to talk). Researchers from the University of Colorado devised a more accurate formula for both sexes: 208-0.7*age (Tanaka et al., 2001. J Am Coll Cardiol). For more information, check out this article in the Times.

Basically, women should be wary when new recommendations arise for training, fitness, exercise and nutrition. Check out the source of the study. Was the gender of the subjects all male? If so, any conclusions should be taken with a pound of salt when it comes to changing up your program. Reynolds states in her article, As Dr. Rowlands says — echoing a chorus of men before him — when it comes to women, there’s a great deal that sports scientists “just don’t understand.” Afterall, women are not men. Thankfully.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bay to Breakers Continues...

Most of you probably know this but just in case...

Bay to Breakers ( is one of the oldest traditions and largest running races in the world. Held in San Francisco each May, tens of thousands of people show up, dressed in costume (or none at all) for the infamous 12K race through the streets of San Fran. Unfortunately, ING, the main sponsor of Bay to Breakers pulled out after this year. Was Bay to Breakers to go bankrupt as it's 100th anniversary approached? I did this race with my dad and sister in '06 ( and had more fun than I've ever had running before. I was actually sad when I reached the finish line at the Golden Gate Bridge. It was like a running party. So I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I received this e-mail:

Bay to Breakers 100th running announced for May 15, 2011
Cooperation with City and Neighborhoods will result in improvements for 100th running of “Civic Treasure”

San Francisco, July 7, 2010—The organizer of the Bay to Breakers road race confirmed that the 100th running of the venerable 12k race will take place on May 15, 2011. The race, a unique celebration of San Francisco and its culture, will institute new measures this year as part of its centennial celebration.

“We cherish the fun aspects of the race that have made it unique worldwide--runners dressed in costumes, centipedes, group running--that add to the excitement of a professional internationally important 12K footrace,” said Angela Fang, general manager of the Bay to Breakers race. “In the coming months we will be announcing a number of compelling programs to enhance the race and the racing.”

Fang said the race has been meeting with residents, neighborhood associations, race participants and representatives of the City and SFPD and that they have collectively highlighted a number of changes which are required to make the race a fun and safe event that can be enjoyed by everyone--runners, walkers, families, children, neighbors and the City as a whole.

Concerned about threats to public safety, particularly as it relates to illegal and excessive alcohol consumption, Fang stated the race is working with San Francisco Police Department officials, the Mayor’s Office, neighbors and neighborhood associations to enforce public alcohol consumption and public drunkenness laws at the 100th anniversary of the event.

She said this year’s 99th running of the race on May 16 had more than 30 ambulance transports, the majority of which were alcohol related. Bay to Breakers had many times the number of ambulance transports as other comparable races in the United States.

Alcohol consumption and its negative impacts garnered the attention of civic leaders, many of whom want to see a positive change. “Another of San Francisco's cherished special events is being threatened by people who consider bad behavior a good time…There is no "right" to party when the party turns into destroying or defacing the property of others, threatening the safety and lives of those around you or leaving a trail of debris…behind you,” wrote Joe D'Alessandro, CEO of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau, in the aftermath of the race this year in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The illegal and dangerous abuse of alcohol must stop if the race is to continue as a fun and safe event that can be enjoyed by everyone—runners, walkers, families, children, neighbors and the City as a whole,” Fang said.

"Drunkenness, and drunks, take away from the individuality and creativity that make the Bay to Breakers a unique and compelling civic tradition” Fang said, adding that these individuals will be arrested, cited and fined by SFPD next year.

“We are concerned for public safety, for the participants, for spectators and for neighborhood residents,” said Jeff Godown, San Francisco Police Department Assistant Chief of Police. “We want to help everyone safely enjoy a wonderful tradition.”

A large crowd is anticipated for the 100th anniversary of the event, which was established in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake by civic leaders who wanted to boost morale and promote the image of the recovering city. In 1964, the race was dubbed ‘the Bay to Breakers.’

The first annual Cross City Race, held Jan. 1, 1912, was won by student Bobby Vlught, who crossed the finish line with a time of 44:10. By contrast, this year’s women’s winner, Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya, made world history finishing in 38:07 and the men’s winner, Sammy Kitwara of Kenya, became a back to back winner at the race with the time of 34:15.

“The Bay to Breakers is a San Francisco civic treasure,” Fang said. She added that the race will also make other changes to the 100th anniversary event, including:

--Allowing only registered participants on the race course will reserve the right to fence the course and to remove non-registered “bandits.”
--Working to have all streets opened by noon.
--Eliminating floats, which have to an unacceptable extent become alcohol delivery vehicles and magnets for unacceptable behavior
--Limiting the number of registrations for the 100th anniversary.
“We are making these changes so that neighbors, the community, registrants, and spectators alike can enjoy the event in the spirit in which it was founded. We want our 100th anniversary to be a shining success for San Francisco and its residents,” Fang said.

She said the race is “working closely with SFPD to ensure that there is a sufficient police presence to enforce the law, including arrests” and will make a significant investment in advertising and promoting the rule changes so that the public will know that there are serious legal consequences for abusing alcohol and defacing the neighborhoods. She said that irresponsible individuals who have taken advantage of a fun civic event to trash San Francisco’s neighborhoods, homes, parks and streets and endanger themselves and others with reckless behavior “are not welcome at future races.”

About Bay to Breakers 12K

Bay to Breakers 12K is one of the world’s largest and oldest footraces, held annually in San Francisco, Calif. The name reflects the traditional course which takes tens of thousands of participants from the northeast end of the downtown area near the Embarcadero (the “bay” side of the city) to the west end of the city and the “breakers” of Ocean Beach. The 7.46 mile (12 kilometer) race features world-class athletes in addition to costumed runners and ‘fun-loving’ folks out for a great day of running and walking through San Francisco. For more information, visit

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Annual Fall

For the past 3 years, like clockwork, I take a fall while running. Not sure what happens but my feet trip over some mysterious object, I flail my arms wildly taking giant, heavy steps to try to futilely regain my balance and...then BAM! Tri Grrl go down; go boom. Those who have witnessed my annual elusive fall claim I fall with style. I think I look a bit like Superman. My arms shoot forward and I tip forward like a chopped-down tree, performing a not-so-graceful belly flop on the ground. This time would not disappoint...

I've been trying desperately to get back into shape. No upcoming races, no goals, just working out. It's fun and freeing. So relaxing. Back to basics. Unfortunately, I've been having a monster of a time waking up early. Sunday morning, I woke up at 6:30 am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, which would probably be the first and last time my physiology would support this energy state in about 5 years, past and future. I jumped on the opportunity.

I got up, showed my running shoes to the boys (Floyd and Travis), who immediately started salivating and doing mini-360s. We grabbed the leashes and set off down the trail. Travis sprinted out the gate, pulling us along at a impossible, blistering pace. Floyd, like me, takes awhile to warm up. We slogged along, wearily following eager Travis.

Finally, after a mile or so, Floyd and I started settling in. Travis, like clockwork, slowed and matched our pace. The pack was in sync. I loped along easily, my breathing settled, and, for the first time since I've started working out again (a few weeks), I started feeling good. Ah, the elusive runner's high.

Just when I was starting to really enjoy myself, reflecting on past fuzzy memories of 20-mile trail runs and marathons, my toe caught a rock. I stumbled, trying to catch myself. For one fleeting moment, I thought I had it, as I took several clodhopper steps to try and save myself. But, alas, no, it was not to be. Down I went. My hands flew forward but the momentum was too much. I landed knees, thighs, stomach, hands, and then, smack!, chin. Blood gushed onto the rocks and dirt beneath. A sharp stinging sensation pulsed on my chin, my jaw ached, and my head pounded. Shit!

Two years ago, I had continued a run like this with a concussion, only to deeply regret this rash decision later. I would not exhibit such silly bravado today. Using my running tee (sporting an ultra runner logo "Out 'n Back") to stop the bleeding, I held the cloth to my chin as I walked gingerly back towards home, head hung low, run stopped short.

Once home, I assessed the damage. I was relieved to see that the cut had already stopped bleeding and would not require stitches. All my teeth were in place. Although tired, ice and ibuprofen stopped much of the pain. Thankfully, I have no serious injuries. So I survived my requisite annual fall without too much drama or inconvenience. I'll try again tomorrow.

Previous Years' Falls:

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Amateur Tri Girl Battles Burnout

For the first time in 6 years, I've been experiencing burnout. Back-to-back Ironmans, including an Ironman, an ultra, and a half IM in 6 weeks will do that. Ironically, I thought I was immune to such folly things as "burnout". That only happens to the weak-minded, right? Wrong.

I was budding with enthusiasm and forget to pace myself. I felt great, my body was able, so why not? Unfortunately, being in great shape can get you into trouble. I used my body as a playground and almost broke my favorite toy. I know I will get through this, but how?, you ask. It certainly has been challenging.

For one, I've been going easy on myself. I've been pushing myself to go farther and faster for the last 6 years. It's okay to take a break. First, I allowed myself time off. I know I was supposed to be cross-training. Stuff like surfing, mountain biking, and hiking. But to be honest, I just couldn't bring myself to get off the couch. I slept a lot. Watched a lot of movies. Started a salt water aquarium. Did some cartoons. After 2 months of this, I realized something was wrong.

That brings me to step #2. Make sure there's nothing physically wrong. Turns out, I was suffering from chronic fatigue. I coudn't even work a full day. I was sleeping 16-18 hours a day. I had some bloodwork done, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to predict it was low thyroid (since I've suffered from that before). After much-painful tweaking to my medication (first it was too high, and then I suffered from migraines. Yay), my energy started returning. I also began focusing on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating regular meals full of greens, fruits, and whole grains.

Step #3. Begin doing something active but without purpose. For me, this basically meant getting out with the dogs. Hiking, walking, running, playing fetch at the beach, and even biking with the dogs. And my favorite...roller skating. Although the punishment for screwing up on this one is quite severe; I have several painful deep bruises to my tailbone that have taken weeks to heal. Sitting for long periods is quite painful but, hey, that's an even better excuse to get movin'! It felt good to just move, even though it was at low intensities.

Step #4 has been to reintroduce myself to exercise again. I don't have any race goals. I just want to be healthy and get into shape at this point. And have fun. Most of my friends are through the tri club so that's how I get my socializing done. Yet another excuse to get moving. It's been slow, and I have lots of false starts but little by little, I'm starting to work out again. I'm trying to do something every day. A short ocean swim, a run with the dogs, a fun little bike ride. I even signed up for a few races. Some sprint tris. The Carlsbad Tri is this Sunday. I'm not going to race it. Just use it as a workout.

Step #5 will be to fall in love with the sport again. I'm hoping to get my body back into shape and ease back into it. I really love trail running and am hoping to feel well enough to run a hilly, trail marathon this November (Catalina). I know from past experience that it gets easier with time. I just have to be consistent, take the pressure off myself, and get out there and move!