Monday, October 14, 2019

Not Giving Up

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 02, 2019

Keep on Keeping On

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

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 Perhaps some of my fat has been replaced by muscle?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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Biking When It's Hot

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

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

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

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

Monday was a rest day. Boo.

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

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Becoming a habit

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Working out even when I don't want to

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 05, 2019

More Workouts in the Bag!

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019

1 week of workouts!

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

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

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

Saturday, July 20, 2019

I went for a run.

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

Monday, April 08, 2019

Ironman Wisconsin Race Report--4th for 40

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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