Sunday, December 28, 2008

At least the days are getting longer now

I'm deeply engaged in the season. No, not the holiday falala well met good fellow thing, the seasonal affective disorder thing. According to our wiki friends, this syndrome comes complete with "... may sleep too much, have little energy, and crave sweets and starchy foods. They may also feel depressed." Hey, that's exactly what I was going to complain about! Except it's more like "get no sleep, have little energy, eat sweets and fatty starches and drink too much." Not to mention the whole "don't want to socialize or go out or see anyone or join friends" thing. Yeah, it's my normal winter thing, only a little worse than usual.

Ok, enough about that. I've been almost keeping up with training. On Thursday Bree and I went for a 5+ mile run. To guarantee we'd do the entire distance we parked a car at each end of the trail and ran from one to the other. We lucked out by the rain stopping just as we got out of the car and only having cold, windy weather to deal with. It was a good run and the total of what I accomplished on my day off. For the first time in umpteen years I didn't go to my friend's house to celebrate with her (see above re: don't want to socialize). I felt very bad cutting out on the holiday celebration but they were probably better off without me.

I joined my family twice this week for Mexican food, once with just my bro's family and once with my mom, my nephew's friend and two of my bro's friends included. It's that whole fatty foods and drinking thing, but at the second dinner I wasn't even interested in eating anything or drinking too much since I planned to ride the next morning.

And ride I did. Another crispy cold, bright sunny morning. I got to the team's meeting place in Pleasanton at about 7:50 am and wondered where everyone else was. I was under the impression that we were meeting, as usual, at 8:00 am. My bad. We were meeting at 8:30 so I sat in my car, polluting the air with the exhaust from the car that was keeping me warm. I've got to do something about my issues with being on time, which usually result in my being early. I've also got to do something about reading the team emails correctly.

Everyone else finally showed up and we headed off. This was to be another hilly ride, the famous Palomares route. Down Foothill, along Niles Canyon (damn those cars are fast and close!), then sharp turn up, down shift NOW and climb for 20 miles. Huh? It was only 4 miles? It felt like I was climbing for hours. For the most part, while it wasn't easy it also wasn't killer. There were a few spots where I thought my lungs were going to jump past my throat and out my mouth and go running off on their own. After one incredibly steep part, one very long tough stretch, I pulled over to catch my breath and stop wheezing. It bothered me that I had to stop but I was losing it and decided that oxygen was very important. I continued on, finally getting to where our group had reassembled at the top of the hill.

I didn't hang around too long but I wanted most people to leave before me since I was scared of the downhills. The first part down was steep and twisty and I felt like I'd pitch over the bars. Then the road straightened out and I decided to see how fast I could go without toppling over or skidding off the side of the road. I went much faster than I thought I could, but I'm not sure exactly what speed I was going since I turned Mr. Garmin off at the top of the hill and whoopsie forgot to turn it back on until I was halfway down. Yes, I blurted some very rude things when I realized it but I was going fast enough that nobody heard me. Hopefully.

I was worn out and the rest of the ride went slowly for me. I didn't push until I got to the downhill part then I let it go again and whizzed along. I knew that part of the road well and made it just under 31 mph, the fastest I've gone on this bike. I was very happy to finish and put warm, dry boots on my numb toes (yes, numb again). A group of us headed over to the Hopyard for lunch and a lovely winter brew was enough to put me down for the remainder of the day.

Today I ran with Anita and Mary Ann. Although scheduled for 8 miles, once again we ran 6. The weather was great for running; low 40s and sunny. Whenever we took walk breaks we'd steam up our glasses. We were speedy, for us, and finished the entire run (including the regular walk breaks) at an 11:58 average. I don't think I've done 6 miles at that speed in quite a while. Of course, for most of the run I wasn't able to talk since I was breathing too hard, but I felt fine once I finished. My legs were tired, especially my quads, but it was great running with Mary Ann again.

I rounded out the weekend with mom stuff and normal weekend stuff. I've been doing a lot of reading, a lot of knitting and a lot of dvd watching. That goes very well with doing a lot of eating, a lot of drinking and a lot of hanging out at home.

Is it spring yet?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cold ride, short run

Saturday I met the Team at the Orinda BART station for an anticipated 3 Bears ride. It was very cold and I was nervous about the hills. And nervous about the cold; it was below freezing and there was ice on the roads. When I was offered a chance to take an alternate route which also included hills I jumped on it.

There were only 6 people in our group, a very nice size for a ride. We headed in the opposite direction of the Bears, toward the hills between Orinda and Oakland. I had last ridden that route (from the other direction) more than 10 years ago and all I remembered was it was very tough. We rode down Moraga Road and within minutes my toes and fingers were numb. We paused a couple of times to regroup since we didn't all ride the same speed. Then we turned onto Canyon and went up toward Pinehurst.

This was the route where we did hill repeats and the ride portion of our bricks during tri training. I was wondering how I would do without the run portion, without the back pain, with the new bike. I was at the top of the first hill before I realized it was much easier than it was a couple months ago. Although I was in my lowest gear I was still able to spin at a good cadence. Then we got to Pinehurst and oy, it was as tough as I remembered.

Because I'd been flexing them my fingers felt ok but I still couldn't feel my toes. The cold was causing my eyes to drip as badly as if I had been crying. I had to blink rapidly to be able to see the pavement at all. I ran out of gears right at the bottom of the hill and had to watch out for the icy patches on the road; anything wet in the shade was suspect.

It was nowhere near as hard as the Bears but it wasn't a piece of cake either. The climb was shorter and had less of a grade but I was in my last gear and working hard. I got slower and slower and finally -- finally - made it to the top. We stopped there for a breather and to regroup. Then it was time to go down toward Redwood Road.

That was very unnerving. The ice, remember? And the whole feel-like-a-weenie-descending on the new light bike. The road had some twists and turns and switch-backs and don't forget the ice. Scary. I was a little freaked out by the time I reached the bottom and faced the reality that I had to go back up again.

The climb wasn't that bad, although I think it was steeper than the climb in other direction. At least I could give my hands a break and didn't have to squeeze the brakes for dear life. We regrouped again at the top and then uh-oh, time to descend again.

This was just as scary to me as the other descent: icy, twisty, fast and bouncy. I was glad to reach the spot where I knew it was a straight, although very fast, road. I went faster there than anywhere else during the ride but it was still only mid-20s where I had gone in the mid-30s on the other bike. Yeah, I really need to get used to this light-as-a-feather bike.

The rest of the ride was very uneventful except that my breathing got bad. It wasn't deep asthma but I still couldn't get a good breath. I'm sure it was the cold and the tree pollens being sucked into my lungs while I was gasping on the uphills. I was thrilled to finally pull back into the parking lot and put on warmer clothes, pull on my new fuzzy boots, anticipate feeling my toes again.

why yes, it was hilly

I was happy going a different route than the 3 Bears even if it was an easier ride and maybe not as good training. It was very close to the same distance but much less climbing. If I had done the Bears my lungs would my given it up just about the middle of Papa and it would have been very uncomfortable. I'm glad I didn't have to deal with that. There will be plenty of hills as we proceed with training.

I need to mention that despite the freezing cold and the bad breathing I enjoyed the ride, enjoyed our group, enjoyed the scenery and the company and the working hard and the pay-off at the tops (and bottoms) of the hills. I'm remembering how much I used to like to ride. It's not running, but it's still fun.

I had planned to run 8 miles on Sunday; I haven't run more than 6 miles since my wipe-out at the 18 miler. But my lungs weren't feeling much better and it was still hard to get a deep breath. I was just Anita and I, and after running less than a mile we started walking. We turned around after 2 miles and since it was down-grade I figured it would be easier to run. We ran a mile, (an amazingly fast mile), then walked and ran the remainder. I wasn't happy to only go 4 miles but I don't need to push the running when I don't feel well. I need to schedule a running race soon, otherwise I'll keep telling myself that!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A conversation

Someone said to me today:
"I have a couple of things I have to tell you. They're very important.
First of all, I have no memory anymore. I can't remember a damn thing. So I'm either going to drop dead or end up in a facility somewhere."

Me: "Uh huh."

Other Person: "I am. I'm not going to live long."

Me: "Uh huh. You've been saying that for 20 years."

Other Person: "I have not.
The other thing is..."
pause ... pause ... pause ...
"... the other thing is ..."
wait for it ...
"... I can't remember the other thing."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Maybe it's the holidays

Or maybe it's just that I'm feeling lethargic and lazy and the darkness and cold are already getting me down. My energy level is just about enough to go to work and come home. Nothing left for running, cycling, cross training. That's going to change.

I've talked before about how I can't wait until I feel like it, can't wait for the motivating factor. I just need to drag myself through the cold outside (or the cold inside, for that matter) and run. I'm becoming a weekend warrior and that isn't going to work with a Century on the schedule.

This weekend I'm planning on riding the 3 Bears on Saturday, running 8 miles on Sunday, spending time with family and friends and pretending to myself that exercise is a habit. Pretend that I don't mind being cold, that I'm a good self-starter. Monday I'll continue with cycling, Tuesday with running, Wednesday with cross training, Thursday with a run or a ride. That's the plan!

I had a great time with my family in Nashville. It was fun running in a new area, seeing local neighborhoods on one run and a very pretty trail on the other. We did some shopping, some eating, some shivering, lots of talking and enjoyed spending time together. It's very hard every time I realize that my sister will never live close to me. That she will always live across the country and only during vacations can we be together.

Back when we were little girls, yelling and fighting and pulling hair, I never thought my sister would be the most important person in my life. Our mother used to tell us to be nice, that we'd need each other when we got older, and we'd laugh at her. Then fight some more. It doesn't happen much these days, but back then my mom knew what she was talking about. I miss my sister.

Back to business

It's amazing how soon the vacation glow disappears.

Monday, December 15, 2008

... a little break from my vacation to say hello

I'm in Nashville visiting my sis and bro-in-law, enjoying being away, enjoying not working for a few days. Although I'm still sad that I wasn't able to run the marathon, I had fun running (in the freezing cold) short routes on Saturday and Sunday. I've also been knitting, shopping and eating. And enjoying my family.

I've been busy twittering away (look over there to the right) so if you want to know what I'm doing, follow me!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Regaining some structure

I don't think I've mentioned lately (oh, in the past week or so) how much I miss Pam and how much I miss our regular after work runs. For many years we ran twice each week, either Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Thursday. It was unusual for us to cancel a run, normally only if one of us was out of town or if the weather was too horrible even for a short run. I wasn't able to run for most of the beginning of this year due to knee (then back) problems, and by the time I was able to throw out a few miles she had deserted us moved away. Olivia had joined Pam while I was on injured reserve and we continued running together on a regular, although somewhat sporadic, basis this fall.

When Olivia told me she was joining the TnT marathon team this winter I felt deserted again worried because I know how bad I am at running alone. I decided to crash her buddy runs, just to get my ass out the door. So far the commitment has held. My first run with her group wasn't great because my speed was right in the middle (again) and I ended up walking with one of the participants. I enjoyed the company but it was not the workout I needed. I returned again after deciding that even if I ran alone, there would still be people out there on the trail who would notice if I disappeared and would probably look for me if I fell in the canal or something.

The run isn't very convenient for me; I need to stay at work late or find some way to amuse myself for a couple of hours beforehand, since driving back and forth is a waste of time and gas. I've been able to talk myself into staying in the office for the past few weeks and I'm glad I did.

There's a good sized group that meets with people of varying speeds. I've been able to find someone to run with, and for the short time I ran alone I didn't feel at all creeped out by the darkness and isolation. I had a great run last night, still short because their mileage doesn't increase until next week. It was just over 5k and I felt very comfortable with my pace. I did my sprint at the end, my token speedwork, and that was the only time I was breathless. I wanted more time out there, more mileage. I felt warm, invigorated, healthy.

That's why I run, and that's why I'll be crashing the run on a regular basis.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Perchance to dream

I normally don't recall any of my dreams. Once in a while I'll go through a period when my dreams are so realistically bizarre or frightening or wonderful that I'll wake up and not be quite sure whether I had dreamed something or whether something had really happened ("is my grandfather alive?" "oh crap did I really start smoking again?" "is there someone in my bedroom watching me?" "am I in high school again?"). Last night I went to the marathon.

In particular, the Dallas White Rock Marathon, the one I'm DNS'ing this weekend. I had been looking forward to running that marathon (or any marathon this year) since the middle of the summer. I was so certain that I'd be in good shape, that my distance running would be going well, that I'd get to see a new city and run a new race. In my dream I had to line up at the very back of the pack, which was about the size and shape of the Rocket City Marathon (i.e. very small crowd). When the gun went off I had to stay behind to make sure that everyone else had started, before they'd let me start. Then I walked a couple of blocks and the markers said I was at mile 20 (or it may have been 18, it kept changing). I was told that they had to shut the course down early and only the fastest people could continue. At this point the course was similar to the Chicago Distance Classic course at about mile 10. They made me stand there for a long time, passing out towels and cookies to the thousands of other runners going by. I was then somehow magically transported to the 26 mile marker where I was allowed to walk to the finish. I refused to take a medal since I had only gone about 4 blocks total but they insisted.

Then I woke up, as tired as if I had run 20 miles, as sad as if I didn't get to finish a race I had started. I know I'm disappointed that I won't be running the race but usually my race anxiety dreams are for races I will actually be running. It makes me even more determined to get back to running distances, glad that tonight's a running night in my awake life.

Maybe tonight in my dreams I'll win the big $170 million lottery jackpot. If I do, I hope I dream that I then retire from work to run all the exciting marathons in the country, traveling every week to run a different state. I know that in reality some day I will run Dallas. Only in my dreams will I win the lottery!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Three bears are not better than one

Have I mentioned recently that I don't like being cold? Be prepared for me to whine about mention it frequently if this weather keeps up. I thought I was prepared for cold weather cycling but I was sadly mistaken.

Saturday morning I started getting ready for our ride and realized that my cycling tights were too big. This would normally make me happy since usually I realize my clothes have gotten too small. But they were my only long pants for cycling and I knew it was going to be a chilly ride. I put on my knickers, two tops and a jacket and hoped for the best.

Before our ride we had a clinic on nutrition yawn zzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry. Since this is, by a conservative estimate, my gazillionth nutrition clinic I tend to stand at the back of the crowd and only pay attention when the speaker says something I find either erroneous or ridiculous or hilariously outdated. Why yes I am critical, thank you for asking! While during the tri season I was impatient for our clinics to end because it was getting hotter and hotter, yesterday I was impatient because I was getting colder and colder.

By the time we got on our bikes the fog had mostly cleared away, the sun was coming through hazy skies and it had warmed up to the mid-40's. Unfortunately by then my toes and fingers were already cold. I had glove liners and ear warmers and a buff for my neck but my toes were only covered by a thin pair of socks and my aerated cycling shoes.

I stayed with the same group I've been with the past weeks and this week we numbered about 15; way too big to stay together for long. I started in the front, knowing I was faster than some but I'd be slow on the upcoming hills. The Three Bears, to be exact.

This is a very famous cycling route in the Bay Area; almost every cyclist knows where it is and what the hills are like. I've ridden it before but not for at least 12 years so I've forgotten everything about it except that the hills are long and cruel. I had also forgotten how remote and beautiful it is. Part of the road is busy main street, part is back road with cows and farms and fields. And hills. Long, literally breathtaking hills.Even before we got to Mama Bear I was in my granny, my very lowest gear. We had a headwind and that wasn't helping, but mostly I'm just a wuss and not great (yet?) on hills. While I love my new bike, the old one had just a little lower gear that I miss. The lightness and responsiveness of the new bike makes up for that going uphill, but just barely. I pedaled up Mama and got slower and slower and tried to relax and even out my breathing and ohgoodlord can I stop yet? I made it to the top where we had our sag stop and was delighted to take a break, although I didn't stop long because my climb induced heat rapidly dissipated in the cold.

The downhill was interesting. On my old bike my top speed ever was 40 or maybe 41 mph, on a long straight downhill. On this bike I'm having trouble holding the bike straight on the same type of downhill when I was only in the mid-20s. I felt every crosswind, every bump in the road, and felt just a little out of control. Hello carbon fiber! Everything I love about the bike on the flats came back to kick me in the ass on the downhills; the lightness and responsiveness. I was right when I said it was too much bike for me, but I'll get better (oh yes I will!) and it'll be fine.

As it was, I managed upper 20's on the way down Mama. Very little flat riding then howdy Papa Bear. Holy hell climb Batman! I ended up treating that 6 hour climb (that's subjectively, it really only took about 15 minutes) as if it was a marathon. I went light post to fence post, telling myself I could stop at the next one if I needed to and take a break. I told myself to relax my shoulders, relax my face, relax my breathing. Then I'd tighten up again and have to tell myself all that all over again. And again. A few guys passed me and made comments and I tried to respond but I didn't have the energy or breath.

By the time I got to the top I was literally going about 3 mph. I was never able to hold the old bike upright going that slowly so this bike is an improvement. I took a break at the top of Papa Bear to look at the scenery (that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!), then took off on another screaming downhill.

This one wasn't quite as straight as going down Mama; I couldn't see as far and I worried about careening around a corner and flying into a ditch. Nevertheless I hit just over 30 mph so I was definitely testing my limits. My brakes got quite a workout though.

It was mostly downhill from there except for one treacherously steep uphill just before the main road. An unexpected short wall that took every last bit of effort I had to get up. The ride back down the main road was a flat delight compared to the previous hills and it was great to get my frozen toes and fingers back to my car.

Unfortunately our team had two people fall, badly enough that there were two 911 calls. Double unfortunately, one of them was our head coach. We were told that they were both ok and I'm hoping that's really true; "ok" is relative. "Ok" could mean just a separated shoulder, or "ok" could mean only a bit of roadrash, or "ok" could mean conscious and no spinal injury. Until I hear more I'm going to assume that "ok" means the 911 calls were only just in case and the neck brace and backboard were only routine and that "ok" indeed means fine and dandy.

I think we were all shook up by the sight of our teammates and coach in the road and we saw them at the very beginning of our ride. Hopefully this will teach us all to be more careful, to be better about riding in a crowd or a paceline, to notice where we're going and point out obstacles to those behind us and not get too close to those next to or in front of us until we're more experienced and better riders. I'm hoping this won't happen again this season!

After the ride I took a nap. A long nap. Then I got up and knit a hat for a while, did some house stuff, finished knitting the hat, read a while, starting knitting mitts with the leftover hat yarn, read some more, went to bed. Didn't get any errands run but oh well, can't do everything.

This morning I met Bree at the Rudgear Park & Ride and man oh man it was cold! Even though we didn't get on the bikes until after 8:30 it was cold and foggy and never improved or warmed up. We considered blowing off the ride and going for bacon and coffee instead, but did the right thing and headed out. We had intended to ride about 30 miles but we never warmed up and indeed, I completely lost all feeling in my feet and hands. We turned around after less than 9 miles and called it a day with under 18 miles.

No joke, it took the toes on my left foot about 2 hours before I could feel them again. I was getting scared that I had frostbite, but it wasn't literally freezing out, just 40 degrees, so I didn't think that was possible. You have to have freezing temps to freeze, don't you? Hypothermic yes, freezing no. I think.

Since the coupon we had gotten from the Team for Sports Basement expired today, Bree and I decided to go shopping and get some warm stuff for future rides. Heh. Think of when you go grocery shopping while hungry and buy way too much food, unhealthy food, impulse food. That's what it's like going shopping for gear when you're frozen. Cycling tights: check. Shoe covers: check. Warm fuzzy pants: check. Uggs: not so check, they didn't have any I loved and I couldn't rationalize buying very expensive (fuzzy warm) boots just because I was frozen. Anyway, I couldn't tell whether they fit since I couldn't feel my feet.

Afterward I spent time with my mom, doing mom things. I then dragged myself to the hardware store to buy fluorescent tubes to replace the flickering ones in my bathroom, knowing I had to change them today while it was light out. Can't change a light bulb in a dark room and it's dark when I leave for work and dark when I return. I came home, changed the bulb, did some laundry, took a nap.

I finally warmed up too!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bearrrrs .... in .... spaaaaace ....

I had a major Muppet Show flashback when I heard the story about University of Cambridge launching teddy bears into space as part of lesson to teach some science to school kids. I'll have to admit that the Pigs in Space feature was one of my favorite parts of the Muppet Show. Oh hush, you know you watched it too. Kermit? Miss Piggy? Gonzo?? The wonderful guest stars?

Unfortunately these teddy bears weren't piloting their own spaceship and having wonderful Star Trekian adventures. They were just passive observers in an experiment. I think this was a great teaching tool for the students and a clever way to engage their interest. I wish they could have done something like this when I was in school but back then they were still launching chimps into orbit as a precursor to real space flight.

Hopefully the teddies found happy homes afterward for their retirement. The teds in space deserve it!

All together now: "It's time to play the music, it's time to light the lights, it's time to get things started ...."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Glove season

I've only been running for about 8 years and one thing has remained constant. I really really really don't like to be cold. I've learned to under-dress when I run because my core heats up quickly but my extremities stay cold for the entire time I'm outside. I think 57 degrees is my fingertip freezing point. No, not literal freezing point, just when it becomes so uncomfortable that the only thing I can concentrate on is my hands.

Last night I joined Olivia for her buddy run at Heather Farm. My brain was busy whining because it was dark and hazy and cool. I had thrown my change of clothes in the car the night before and thought I had packed everything but apparently my brain didn't get the memo about how cool it would be. I had long sleeves and knickers but forgot gloves. Darn. I knew, just from standing around chatting before we started, that I'd have chilly fingers the entire time.

I was right. Except for my hands I had a wonderful, easy, short run. The group hasn't started building time or mileage so we only ran for a half hour. I was running with Olivia (who is considerable faster than I am) and another woman (who is somewhat slower than I am). We did an out-and-back along the trail, going rather slowly in the first direction. After we turned around we increased our speed which was noticeable when we all stopped talking. We slowed a little when we realized that, but then picked up again in the last stretch and finished with a fast sprint. Admittedly it was a short run, but I felt great afterward.

My hands were almost too cold to hold my steering wheel which is ridiculous when it was still in the 50's. I'm going to have to make a point to keep gloves in the car, replacing them after each run. I wash them after I use them and I'll have to remember to put them in the car straight from the drier. If I had a place in the car I'd just leave a pile of them there, but I don't have a cargo cover and I hate to leave anything in sight. Not that I think a thief is going to break into my car to steal cheap gloves, but still.

I didn't want to run last night. I fought myself to not go directly home. But when I was done with the run I wondered what all the fuss was about. I felt so good (except for some knee and back pain but I'm pretending that doesn't exit or if it does then it was caused by the cold) that it's ridiculous for me to not want to do it every day. I don't understand why it's so hard for me to get started when the results are so good.

This morning I intended to get up early and do a quick cross-training workout. I had my clothes all ready to pop out of bed and get started. But the alarm went off and it was freezing. Too cold to get up. I re-set the alarm and got up at my usual time. I checked and it was 53 degrees in my house. But that's no excuse and I'll need to come up with something that will force me out of bed, some way to get my workouts done. I just feel too good afterward to be slacking.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Egrets, I've seen a few

It was foggy Saturday morning when I headed out toward Sausalito and our buddy ride. I had intended to go for a (flatter) (closer) ride and didn't decide to join the Team until 6:45 am. That gave me 1 hour and 15 minutes to put my bike and all cycling stuff in my car, turn on my computer and print out directions, drink a sip of my coffee and grab an energy bar instead of the planned oatmeal and drive very quickly to the North Bay. My directions said the ride would take 59 minutes without traffic. We were meeting at 8:00, rolling by 8:30.

The no-traffic thing worked like a dream; it was early enough on a Saturday morning, even a holiday Saturday morning, that the freeways weren't crowded. Unfortunately there was intermittent thick fog on the roadway making it incredibly dangerous to go the speed limit, let alone faster (which I would never do, of course, since that would mean breaking the law) (at least I'd never admit in writing to breaking the law). There were people weaving in and out of the slower cars at what must have been at least 85 mph but I cruised carefully along between 55 and 75 65, depending on the fog.

The directions were correct, 59 minutes on the nose when I exited the freeway. Unfortunately that was also when I got lost. I don't know what it is with me and Tiburon and Sausalito, but I've never gone there without getting lost. I've gone there many times for our long runs and each time I manage to find a different way to go the wrong way. Luckily I realized quickly I wasn't in the right place and I pulled over and took out my handy dandy iPhone, located where I was and where I should be, and turned around to go back the way I came. Without that phone I'm pretty sure I'd still be driving around looking for our meeting point. As it was, I arrived just in time to get my bike out and be ready before it was time to roll.

A couple dozen people were at the ride, the rest of the team apparently still in food comas from Thanksgiving. We were supposed to ride the Paradise Loop but we didn't have maps. We were going to break into a group that was going to ride the hilly Loop for about 35 miles and a group that was going to ride a flatter route, about 25 miles. While I wanted to ride the hills I was afraid that I'd be too slow to keep up with the group. We headed out along the trail and it seemed that almost everyone was doing the hills.

We all cycled out the same direction but at the first hill we split into groups. Yes, I was in the back group. There were, I think, 6 of us of similar speed and hill climbing capability; some of us were a little faster, some of us a little slower, but all with the same relative talents.

I ended up being very pleased that I got to go on this ride. They may call it Paradise Loop but I started thinking of it as the 3 Bridges Route. Depending on which hill we were on we could see the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge, the Bay Bridge or the Golden Gate Bridge. Have I mentioned lately how incredibly lucky I feel to live in this gorgeous area? The views were breathtaking and I don't think it was just hypoxia from the steep hills. Looking down at coves, across the Bay (when the fog lifted enough to see), up greening hillsides. Well tended (high priced) homes, roads filled with cyclists and runners, the first poppies. The air and the water were filled with birds, most of which I couldn't identify because I was moving so fast. At least on the downhill parts. It was hard work but spectacular. Well worth the 2-1/2 hours it took me to drive there and back. Which was about 20 minutes longer than I spent cycling.
We finished with just under 25 miles and I felt I had a great workout. The elevation shows the first endless hill and the other smaller hills. I think I used each and every one of my gears and I realized that my old bike, while having about half the number of gears of the new bike, had lower gears that helped me on the steepest hills. I did make it up all of the hills without stopping but I was working really hard. I certainly don't want to start changing gears on my new bike so I'll have to see how it goes when we get into the hilly 50+ milers. Hopefully my mad hill skilz will improve enough that it won't be an issue. Otherwise I'll hie back to ye ol' bike shoppe and see what I can do.

Sunday morning was even foggier and cooler. I met Bree, Anita and our very special visitor Mary Ann at the Lafayette-Moraga Trail. After a slow start we ran 6 good miles, chatting and yakking the entire run. By keeping the run short we all felt good when we finished. Although I think we all warmed up, I still had my gloves and my ear warmer on when we finished. I was surprised to see that it was still under 50 degrees when we got back in our cars. We were reluctant to separate so we made a stop at the local coffee shop and continued our talks.

My weekend was rounded out by the usual house tasks, some yard work and a lot of time both days with my mom. I also finished my latest pair of fingerless mitts and then got a good start on knitting my newest hat, a spiral rib made with some of my precious Cider Moon stash. It's their Glacier in Paintbox, a superwash Merino in lively bright colors.

It was a great weekend, despite my usual lack of sleep and a nagging headache I've had for over a week. Friends, family, riding and running, knitting. November ended very well!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

A year has gone by since I originally posted this. It hasn't changed very much.

I am thankful for:

Sue (and of course Tracy)
Mom Ron Carol Mac
My other family
My dear friend Ellen (at whose home I'll be celebrating today)
My oldest friend Carol
My running friends
My knitting friends
My running and knitting friends
My friends who used to run with me and have moved to other states
My friends who don't knit or run with me
My health and physical capabilities (and modern pharmaceuticals to keep it that way)
My job (despite major changes)
My home
My bears
My yarn
My snazzy new bike
My abundant stuff
The ability to do almost anything I want, anywhere, at any time
The knowledge that I am whole, complete, and mostly content

I hope you have as many things that make you thankful, and that you have a happy, safe Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lazy week

I knew it was a bad idea to cancel my plans to run the marathon next month. Especially this time of year I need a goal, an incentive, to participate in any activity during the week. My body's inclination when it's dark and cool is to hibernate: stuff myself with food and sleep for a couple of months. The fear of knowing I'll soon have to run for 6 hours usually will help me fight my natural inclinations.

It also doesn't help that I don't have a regular, comfortable, evening running buddy. Since I started running distances I've always had someone or several someones who I was meeting to run. I knew that my running buddy would miss out on her own run if I stayed home so I'd force myself to get out of the house. Once I got out there and after I was finished I was almost always happy that I had run. Both the exercise itself and the social contacts were important.

Now there's only the TnT buddy run on Tuesday where I don't really have anyone my speed. Attending that run means I have to stay at work a couple hours later than usual since driving home and back is a waste of time and gas (side note: gas at my corner station was down to $1.99 today! Whoohoo!). The trail we run is dark and the pavement is cracked and broken. Yes, I'm making extended excuses for not showing up.

Even if I don't leave the house there's no excuse not to be active. I have a fabulous treadmill, a comfortable recumbent exercycle, a trainer set up with my old bicycle, free weights of all sizes and shapes, a weight bench in the garage and a bazillion aerobics tapes. My exercise room has a television hooked up to cable, a vcr (yes, I still use it) and a dvd player. There's a lovely view of my backyard out the window and the room can be cooled or heated as necessary.

I haven't gained back any of the weight I lost this summer but if I stay on the couch napping and knitting it's only a matter of time. Must ... be ... active ... this ... winter ...

No excuses. Get up, get out, do something.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Family gems

This weekend while I was out riding my new Ruby, my bro and his family picked up Jewel. She's a Golden Retriever puppy, 8 weeks old, tiny and fluffy and adorable. She's active and inquisitive and lively and runs around madly and then collapses sound asleep. Only to awaken a few minutes later and resume play. She's going to be a great addition to the family and I hope I get to see lots of her as she grows up.

Thursday morning I played hooky and went to test the bicycle I'd been thinking about all week. The one that I had decided was more bike than I needed. The one above and beyond my price range. I couldn't get the way that the bike felt, as if I was riding the perfect machine for me, out of my brain. I decided to give it one more try to see if it was really as great as I remembered. I went to Livermore Cyclery, the Dublin shop, and again they switched out the pedals from my old bike so that I could test the new one under good conditions.

It felt just as good, if not better, than it had the first time. It was effortless to climb the small hill, the flats were comfortable and the downhills was screaming. The shifting was incredible and braking, even in the drops, was easy and responsive. I knew that I'd have to buy the bike and just stick my head in the sand regarding the price.

It's a 2008 Specialized Ruby Comp Triple. According to the Specialized website,
Ride like hell! The Ruby is purpose-built for women who demand a ride without compromise. Utilizing the latest in proprietary Specialized FACT carbon composite technology, female cyclists now have every advantage in equipment that had historically been available to the other half of the population. Whether it's the local race circuit or long rides with fast friends, the Ruby is the perfect riding partner.
And it just looks hot. It's black with carbon shading and hot pink lettering and design. The only thing closer to my colors would have been black with red, but this bike makes my heart sing. It comes with a white saddle and bar tape; the tape was grungy just from test rides and the saddle was starting to look off-white. I decided to switch them both to black and after it was done the bike looked even hotter. I added lightweight Look pedals and of course needed new shoes to go with them. I picked the women's Specialized BG Spirita Sport Road Shoe in black with pink stitching, just because they're beautiful and match the bike and feel more comfortable than any other cycling shoe I've tried this year. Black bottle cages and a wireless computer with altitude and cadence (and temperature!) rounded out the must-have accessories.

Technically, for those who know or care, the frame and fork are Specialized FACT 7r carbon, triple monocoque construction, Designs for Women compact design with Zertz inserts. The components are all Shimano 105; gearing with a compact 50x39x30, 10-speed 12-27. For those counting, that's 30 gears compared to the old bike with 18. Although those 18 gears did manage to get me where I was going. The bike weighs almost nothing and is easy to lift into the car or to hang in the garage. And let me repeat, it looks hot!

I spent several hours on Thursday and Friday at the shop getting the bike fit properly. I thought it was wonderful before that; it was incredible afterward. When I bought my old bike they fit it by raising or lowering the seat, and maybe tilting the handlebars. This was technical, measured, fit to me and me alone. After I got the new shoes it even had to be readjusted for just that little tiny change.

I can't say enough good things about the shop. Since they don't work on commission, everyone who has spare time is helping. During my first tests on Sunday I had one guy dedicated to helping me but several others pitching in with comments or assistance. When I returned on Thursday I had 2 others helping me, including the shop's fit specialist. Again on Friday everyone who had time was assisting with this and that. They were friendly, helpful, and not at all judgmental about someone like me who knows diddly squat about bikes or isn't a fast, competitive rider.

The final price was -- er -- considerably higher than my budget. Since the bike was a 2008 model it was definitely cheaper than the 2009 and was marked down from the original price. Just the bike alone, with none of the added stuff, was over my original price ceiling. Whoops. But I got a 10% Team in Training discount (go team!) on the bike and a 15% discount on the rest of the stuff and the total, while higher than I had planned, was not too horribly out of line. Really, it was worth it. And seriously, someone has to step up and stimulate this economy! I'm glad to help support my country!

On Saturday the Team met in San Francisco at Sports Basement for a maintenance clinic. Afterward we split off into groups for the ride. I again decided to go with the beginner group since they were doing a handling clinic (and really, I just didn't want to ride over the bridge and back without getting a better feel for the bike). Our large group headed over to a big empty parking lot in the Presidio. We rode around a line of cones, both upgrade and downgrade, with our hands on the bars then the hoods then in the drops; we sped up and slammed on the brakes; we rode around the cones with 1 leg. My bike performed like a dream and it just felt right. Since it was still early our group went for what I had thought would be a short easy ride.

Uh, that would be a short hard ride. We headed up and through the Presidio, down a big freaking steep hill and to Golden Gate Park. It was a great technical ride with tons of stopping and starting and grades and hills. Our group got used to "slowing" "stopping" "rolling" "take the lane" "on your left" and all the other things that you say in a big group. In fact, it must have been pretty hilarious to hear us going on and on. In the Park I think there are stop signs about every 300 feet and most of them have pedestrians so we had to come to complete halts at almost every single one. I was having deep dark thoughts about having to return the way we came; thinking of going back up that big freaking steep hill did not make me happy. It was, however, a gorgeous day and the Park is always scenic and special when you get to see it under your own power.

Although I had been riding near the front of the pack for most of the ride, I went last at the hill. I told everyone that they had to go ahead because I would almost certainly have to stop. My breathing had been sucky (heh, pun not intended) all day with wheezing and heaving scary gasping and I didn't think my lungs had it in them to climb that sucker (my inhaler was in my car - smart move). Not to mention that my legs were fatigued and I hadn't eaten enough. I headed up the hill, going as slowly as I felt I could without toppling over. I'm not secure enough to stand on the bike while climbing (I never could on the old bike either; something to work on) so I just sat and pushed the pedals and pulled the handlebars and hoped and gasped.

In a complete and utter surprise to nobody except myself, I made it up to the top without pause or stopping. Yippee! As a reward at the top we got a fabulous view of the Bay. As a bigger reward it was downhill or down grade the rest of the way back. When we arrived back at the staging area I was exhausted and my hands and forearms were sore from all the braking we had done. I was completely impressed by the new bike, entranced by the fit and the comfort and performance. Now I just have to improve my riding to match the bike!

I'm glad I took the opportunity to feel out the bike, find what I can do with it, see my own limitations and skill level. But I was sad that I didn't get a chance to open up, to just go. I'm hoping I can do that this weekend. The weather better hold up, I'm not taking my brand spanking new bike out in the rain. That's what the old bike is for!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I decided which bike to buy

Yet another MMKP. With bobbles!

Friday night's Magical Mystery Knitting Party started off the usual way - with a glass of wine. The MMKP is at knit-one-one and is described as:
Party time! You arrive with your needles and yarn in hand. We serve you food and the beverage of your choice. Then abracadabra, the fun begins. Kate tells you how many stitches to cast on. She gives you each subsequent instruction as needed. You and your friends are literally in stitches as you try to figure out what on earth you are knitting. The mystery is revealed at the end of the party.
Included in the cost is a light dinner, wine and shortbread. Homemade shortbread. Delicious shortbread, and I don't even normally like shortbread! Anita and I have decided that it's more fun to go to the MMKP than to go out for dinner and drinks. This is my 4th (??) MMKP; in the past we've learned colorwork while knitting a skull and crossbones pattern, made a felted jellyfish (seriously), and did lots of i-cord for a felted scarf with flowers.

This time we were instructed to bring about 100 yards of worsted weight yarn from stash, straight and double pointed needles to match, a cable needle and various and assorted knitting supplies. I piled many different leftover balls of yarn and several sizes of needles into my bag, not knowing which would be the most appropriate. When I arrived I asked speedy needle Kate which she thought would be best and she picked out my mint green Malabrigo. I sipped my wine while the incredible Sile greeted all the students and when all arrived, we began.

Cast on, join in the round, knit while increasing, cable, increase more. Kate instructed us line by line, stitch by stitch. I consider myself an intermediate knitter and didn't have problems, but I guess some people are visual and do better with written instructions. There were mistakes, unknitting and ripping, catching up, and counting out loud. Shhh! Counting out loud might help you, but that just confuses the rest of us! Continuing with increases and cables, but not much in the way of guessing. I was throwing out guesses, ridiculous guesses, just to be guessing.Our light dinner was a great salad, and a delicious quiche from Sweet Adeline Bakeshop down the block. Most of us trying to eat in a healthy manner stay away from food made with lots of butter or cream; this quiche made no such attempts. It was so tasty I wanted to lick my plate. Since I was in public I restrained myself. Of course I never lick a plate in private either. No, I don't. You'll never get me to admit something like that.After we finished eating Kate passed around the pattern but that didn't give away the mystery, even if we read ahead. I got a little beyond the group and then had to unknit my last row because I didn't follow directions right. It was time for a bobble. For something so involved, a bobble is really simple once you've bobbled. We finished that bobble row, 6 bobbles, and I just knew: it was a turtle cover.

Head, front legs, back legs, tail. Each bobble would hold one extremity. What?? Not a turtle cover?? Ok, how about an ornament? Someone else guessed something like a wardrobe malfunction. Not many other guesses. We knit until we had run out of time, only at round 12 of the 30 row pattern. I still thought it was an ornament.

And I was right! Sile and Kate brought out a finished version and it was very cute. They gave us all stuffing for when we finished our own and we all left. A great evening with good people and a fun project and wonderful food. And bobbles! Best of all, another chance to spend some time with Anita.
turtle covers, right?

I didn't have a chance to knit again until last night and then I just whipped the rest of it out. It really was an easy pattern to follow. After I stuffed the ornament I braided a cord to use to hang it. It's hanging in my office now.
If you ever have a chance, and want to learn how to knit things like bobbles or jellyfish while enjoying good company and food, join the party!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

One small step off the couch

Tonight I joined the marathon team's buddy run in Walnut Creek. I knew if I didn't go run with people I'd just go home and flake out on the couch. Needing to break that habit I decided to stay late at work and head right over to the run.

It was a great night to run, cooling down from a warmer day, but nice as can be. There was a small group there, mostly faster runners with one slow runner. I stuck with the slower woman. But she was really a walker, so we spent more time walking than running. We had a nice time, went a little over 2 miles, and enjoyed ourselves.

But I need to run, not walk. I'll run slowly with someone, very slowly, but running is what I want to do. Walking actually irritates my back and doesn't give me enough of a workout to make hanging around Walnut Creek worthwhile. I hate to desert anyone on the team, even if it's not my current team. I have to decide whether I'll actually run alone or on my treadmill, or if the walk will be more than I'd do alone.

Speaking of decisions, I still haven't decided which bike to buy or where to buy it. I'm seriously thinking of taking half a vacation day this week to test or retest the bikes. I'd like to get on with this and get my new bike. Whichever one it is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Is knit, cycle, swim a triathlon?

Friday night was the Mystery Knitting Party at knit-one-one. Saturday morning (and part of the afternoon) was a tire changing clinic and my first ride with my new cycle team. Saturday afternoon and early evening was full of mom. Sunday morning was running. Sunday afternoon was testing new bicycles. I wasn't home all weekend and I'm exhausted. No clean clothes, no clean house, no clean yard. Whoopsie, I guess "productive" is in the eye of the beholder.

I've been knitting away lately, rediscovering my love of finishing projects. Of course, that means I have to knit very easy, quick projects. I'll talk more about Friday night's knitting tomorrow. Or the next day.

When I got in late Friday night I loaded my bike into my car and set out all my cycling gear for the morning. Helmet-shoes-gloves-bike sounds fine and dandy, but I need clothes, food, drinks. Knowing how spacey I normally am in the early morn, I have to get everything together or I'll forget something that I need. I wasn't wrong and when I left the house early Saturday I was glad everything was ready to go.

I'll come right out and say I don't like to change bike tires. I know how to change them, I just don't like to do it. I have weak little hands and even though I know what to do, I can't always do it. I tried hard to rip the darn tire off the wheel but I ... just ... couldn't ... get ... it ... off! I ended up with a bruised hand from it. The captain of my group finally brought me a speed lever (cool little tool!) and I was able, with some struggling, to detach the tire. Finally. The rest of the change went quite easily until I went to put the wheel back on the bike. I was very mindful of my last tire clinic when the wheel slipped and I spent the next couple of hours trying to cycle while the tire rubbed against my frame. I could see why that happened; the wheel has to be placed just so while tightening the whatchamacallit or it slips out. It pretty much took 3 hands to get the wheel in right.

Part of being a team means that when someone is having mechanical issues, or someone is slower, or someone has a cramp, or someone wants another drink of water, you wait for them. That's why we didn't get back to the staging area until after 1:00 pm. We had a wonderful ride, a tough ride, a windy ride, a hilly ride. We left from Las Positas College and headed up Collier Canyon Road. We toured through Livermore along hilly windy roads and flat windy roads. It was hot, clear, beautiful for mid-November. I'll take windy warm sun over cold rain any day!

There were several newbies in my group and we're all getting to know each others' habits and inclinations. I didn't want to follow anyone too closely because people were slowing for no discernible reason, weaving when there didn't seem to be any obstacles, stopping without warning. I know everyone will get better at it as time goes on, but for this ride it was a little awkward in our big group. Luckily, on our very windiest stretch I was following some people who seemed to have ridden in a paceline before and it was easier to get closer and get a little wind-blocking and draft. Again, I know it's going to get better as people get used to riding, used to cycling in a crowd, used to saying "on your left" and pointing out schmootz in the road or indicating if they're stopping or turning. I'm looking forward to it!

When we wheeled back into the parking lot I was tired and very hungry (not to mention cranky). I had brought enough food for a couple hour ride, but not enough food to be gone from home for over 5 hours. There were snacks at our water stop but I wasn't ready to try real food in the middle of my exercising, and didn't want to try different bars or bits that I wasn't used to. I'm going to make sure that next week, and the weeks after, that I have lots of calories in my bento box and pockets. I don't think a gel here or there will be sufficient so I'm going to start improvising. High carb, non-fat, non-fiber. Uh, cookies?

At noon today I met Coach Al at a bike shop in Berkeley. Coach was kind enough to volunteer to make sure that I got a good bike, the right bike for me. Knowing what I do about bikes (that would be "not much" and "hardly anything") I was ready and willing to take any good advice offered. The salesman pulled a couple of bikes out for testing, did some adjusting, pumped the tires and Coach and I headed out on the first one. I mean, I was on the first one. Coach was on his own bike. Sheesh. It was a Specialized Dolce Comp Triple and lemme tell you, I really liked that bike! Riding a bike made in this century was nice, but this bike was special. We went for a ride with a little uphill, a little downhill, some turns, some grades. A very good test of the bike. And a very good test of my ability to learn how to brake and shift on something brand spanking new.

We returned to the store and decided I should try something else; anything would be an improvement over my twenty year old bike and I didn't know if it was that this bike was so wonderful or if anything new would be wonderful. I tried the Specialized Elite Triple and we headed out along the same roads. It didn't feel the same, didn't feel anywhere near as nice to me as the first bike. We had the salesman price out the Comp, with all added components and accessories that I wanted, and I decided to think on it a bit.

I was so honored that Coach Al helped me with this, that he took a couple of hours of his valuable time to come assist me with this. Thank you Coach!

On my way home I decided to stop at my local bike shop to see what they had available. The shop in Berkeley was great, but it's 40 minutes from my home in each direction with no traffic and if I tried to get there after work, forget it. I went to a shop in Dublin where I've been several times before; I know they have a wide assortment of new bikes and they've worked on my bike several times over at least the last 10 years. I know their service is good, but I didn't know about their sales practices.

I was greatly impressed. The salesguy (I keep calling them salesmen, but they aren't really; they're cyclists, mechanics, salesmen, instructors) pulled several bikes off the racks; a low end one, a high end one (above my price range, but he thought I should see what a really good bike felt like), and one in the middle. They were from different manufacturers so it would be a good test. When he found that I had my bike in the car, he took the pedals off of my bike and put them on the first one I was going to try. That way I could compare the bikes equally and ride them comfortably. Hey, why didn't the first shop do that? He also measured the seat placement so that each bike could be set up the same. I didn't know what order I was testing the bikes, which one cost what.

He told me a good route for a test with a little uphill and a great downhill and a couple of grades and some flats. I set off gingerly, not sure whether I should clip in one foot but then I decided that I know my pedals, I know how to get in and out and I could do it quickly. I didn't like the bike at all, thought it was stiff and unresponsive and clunky. I returned to the shop and he swapped out the pedals to the second bike.

I didn't like the gearing on that bike, but otherwise WOW! It was the most attractive one in my eyes but that wasn't it. It was peppy, and sassy and I felt like I was flying. Remember, by this time I was on my 4th bike of the day, after my 6 mile run in the morning (oh yeah, I ran 6 miles with Bree and Anita, a really good run and the perfect length) and after my Saturday hilly bike ride which was longer than anything I'd ridden for quite a while. Despite my growing fatigue I loved that bike. But I also thought it was too much bike for me. I'm not really a good enough cyclist to handle that much bike, to hold it down and keep it straight. Maybe if I was more experienced, or planning on needing to go really fast, but not for what I want now.

The next bike was very close to what I wanted, but still not as nice as the very first, the Dolce. By the time I went up that hill for the final time I needed that granny gear. I had managed on all of bikes that I tested to try all the gears and on this one I was granny-ing a bit longer than any other time. I was glad to get back to the shop. Unfortunately they didn't have a Dolce in my size so I couldn't try it again to compare it again to what I had ridden.

It turned out that the first bike was the cheapest. The middle bike was the expensive, high end carbon bike. Over my self-imposed price limit. The last bike was similar in price to the Dolce.

Once again I had them price out the Dolce Comp with all the components and additions and accessories. They didn't carry exactly the same accessories as the first place, but it was still pedals, bottle cages, computer, different seat, different tape. It would cost about $50 more than the other shop, mostly because I want to switch from a white seat to a black one and the first shop can swap them out and this one will charge. The labor warranty isn't quite as good at the second shop either; the first store will do any labor needed for 90 days and the second will just give a discount. The first will fix tires, but I know I'm not going to drive for a couple of hours just to fix a tire. I'm not even sure I would go there for the labor, it's so far out of my way. Another big difference is the first shop is on commission and it was the one salesman and all the others mostly ignored us. The second shop doesn't have commissions and all the other guys were helping out.

So I have a decision. Do I go to the first shop, get the bike they have in stock with the lower price and the good labor package, and just use all the gas and time to get to and from Berkeley? Do I go to my local bike shop, 5 miles from my house, wait for them to order the bike (about 2 weeks), pay a little bit for upfront and a little more for maintenance? Or do I continue shopping, see what else is out there?

Remember when I said I don't like shopping? This is why!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday jumble

I've had a lovely week of sloth. I intended to take a couple of days to recover from my disastrous run on Sunday but I really didn't intend to take off the entire week. It just -- happened that way. My energy level has been very low and I just couldn't manage to talk myself into doing anything after work other than reading or knitting. Productive, but not in the manner in which it should have been.

To start getting myself a little more excited about the century training I did some online shopping yesterday. I really don't like to shop (how un-girly, right?) but if I can at least do it from the comfort of my desk I can get through it. I bought myself a trainer because despite our current heatwave, it's too dark outside after work for me to ride and I need to ride more than one a week. It should arrive next week or the week after and until then I'll have to do some cross training. Seriously.

I also put the bike rack back in my car. When I put it away after the tri I figured I wouldn't need it again; with a ride here and there I could just toss my bike in willy-nilly and not worry about it. Since I'll be riding weekly I'll use the rack. It takes up a lot of room but it's still easier on my bike than flinging it into the back and letting it slide all over while I drive.

My new mentor Amy (did I mention how nice and easy it'll be to remember her name?) sent an email to our group reminding us of what we'd need at the training tomorrow. Back when I used to ride frequently my memory mantra was "helmet shoes gloves" and I'd be out the door. Anything else, I figured I could get away with forgetting. Amy reminded us to bring our bike. And both tires. I cracked up, picturing me arriving at the ride location with half a bike. That would be too funny, but seeing how early I'll be leaving for most of the rides it's a good reminder. New mantra for packing up the car: "helmet shoes gloves BIKE!"

We have a tire changing clinic tomorrow before our ride (and funny, but I typed that first as a "tired clinic" which I think I could use too). I know I need more practice but yuck. With my weak little fingers it's a pain. And since the tire on the back (which is the one I assume we'll be changing) is new, it's stiff and it'll be hard. I anticipate much whining on my part before it goes back on. At least this time I'll make sure the tire is reinstalled correctly and doesn't drag against the frame.

Tonight Anita and I are taking another Mystery Knitting Class. I wonder what we'll end up with this time??

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Exercise hangover

In the old days I used to regularly stay out late, drinking vast quantities of various forms of adult beverages. Somehow I always, or almost always, made it to work the next morning despite how I felt: tired, worn out, nauseous, shaky, achy, dehydrated, dizzy, confused, etc. The usual morning after payment, often day after day. By the time I changed my indulgences from alcohol to marathons I was no longer used to staying up late or drinking much or having hangovers.

Imagine my surprise after my first few 20+ mile runs when I woke up feeling exactly as as if I'd been partying all night. Vaguely flu-ish, somewhat ill, all those symptoms without the indulgences. It made no difference whether I actually had any alcohol or not. I'd still feel hungover. But unlike a regular hangover I didn't feel better the next day. The dizziness and confusion would be gone but the aches would be much worse. I'm sure there's some scientific and medical explanation that goes beyond the stresses imposed on the body by running for hours and the damage to the immune system and dehydration and squinting into the sun and wind in your face and ... wait, maybe there isn't any other explanation.

I'm not going to stop, despite feeling like crap afterward. When all goes right then it doesn't matter how I feel the next day, or the day after, or even the day after that. I'm convinced that once again running will get easier, will feel good, will give me that certain, unexplainable feeling I get from running a marathon and nothing else. I have to believe.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Don't let ego overrule good judgment

It's one of the very first and most important things that Coach Al tries to teach all his runners. Don't do something stupid just because you want to prove something, just because you've said that's what you'll do. I can hear him saying it now, heard him in my thoughts during my run today. With that in mind I will not, despite my deepest desire, be running the Dallas White Rock Marathon this December.

I had such high hopes for the 30k race that Bree and I were running this morning, the Clarksburg Country Run. I was feeling good, feeling prepared. My 13.1 mile run didn't go so well, my 16 miler wasn't much fun, but I thought this one I'd ace. I thought that today I could run well for at least 14 miles, run slowly for another 3, finish strong at the line. In no way did that happen.

I had an excellent 5k training run. We didn't start out too fast, kept to our plan to keep this a training run instead a race, and found ourselves at the very back of the pack. Not a problem, we had a plan. For me the plan fell apart before mile 5. I was struggling to keep up an almost 13 minute mile. I was tired and my breathing was wretched. I wasn't having a bit of fun.

For the next couple of miles I questioned whether I should just give it up, just DNF and call it a bad day. At that point I definitely let ego overrule my good judgment. I continued going and told Bree to go on ahead and run her own race or her own training run. I took more gel, drank more, walked more. Nothing helped. I was gasping despite a slow pace, feeling dizzy, feeling nauseous. There was only one conclusion: I didn't have nearly enough miles on my legs to even consider running a marathon in 5 weeks.

By mile 13 I badly wanted to pack it in but I wouldn't ask for help. I continued onward, walking for a few minutes of every 10. I had no excuse, no reason why I was doing so badly. Oh, I could say that I hadn't slept well, but I never sleep well. I could say that I hadn't eaten the perfect foods, but I don't always eat perfectly. I could say that I can never run well with wind in my face and the winds today were gusting to over 20 mph, mostly in my face. I could say that I started too fast (I didn't), that the course was boring (so what?), that I was all alone (but I love to run a race alone).

I thought that being in good tri shape from all the training this summer would carry me through. I thought I could go straight to mid then long runs, like I've done for the past several years. I thought that I was tough, that I was strong, that I could do anything that I set my mind to.

By about mile 15 I was walking more than I was running. Bree dropped back to join me and I was bargaining with myself: run to the sign, walk to the post. After a couple of minutes I had to stop even that. I could walk, even walk briskly, but I was done running for the day. The last few miles were all walking. I still had no breath to talk, still felt dizzy and nauseous. I just wanted to get it over with.

That's not the shape I need to be in if I intend to run a marathon. I won't participate in a 26.2 mile race just because I've registered, just because I want to complete a marathon this year, just because I told everyone I was going to do it. Coach Al taught me better than that.

So why can't I stop crying about my decision?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I think she was trying to kill me

Otherwise why would Olivia have continued to increase her speed as our run progressed? Since it was our first dark run this season we decided to go North on the trail instead of South as we normally do. The consequences of that decision involved slope and distance. We wanted to go to the end of the trail but it was farther than we had thought. Knowing that our return would be the up-grade direction, we nevertheless continued running. We didn't go that much farther than normal before turning around, but our average for the first half of the run, the downhill half, was 11:11. Yikes.

Remember, I run a 12 minute mile. More if I'm not feeling at the top of my game. Anything else for me is speed work. At our turnaround we had a brisk walk so I could catch my breath, then we resumed running. Faster. On the first part of our outward leg I was chattering away, running smoothly enough to be able to talk. As we neared the turn I got quieter. Once we resumed running my talking was reduced to grunts and single syllables. As I got more tired, Olivia ran faster.

We are not as aware of landmarks on that end of the trail, and it was dark. Sure, we both had headlights but it was pitch black away from our little lights. We kept hoping that the next block would be our last but the end dragged out. Olivia ran faster, I debated whether to let her go and walk in the remainder. Of course I didn't, my ego is much too strong for that, but by the end she was moving along so fast that I finished 10 paces behind her. Yeah, I counted.

We finished those 3.7 miles at an average of 11:42/mile. Beyond not only my comfort zone, it's beyond my panting and gasping zone. Most of that run was a good, hard sprint for me. I don't think speed work is supposed to be like that, but hopefully it will be helpful for my 18 miler this weekend. Yes, I'm very well aware that you shouldn't do such a hard run a couple of days before the long run, but I really think it won't have the slightest effect on my long run. Hopefully. I enjoyed the run, despite feeling like my eyeballs would pop, and recovered much quicker than I had thought I would.

I also finished my fingerless mitts tonight, wove in the last ends and cleaned up the thumb joins. They're loud and warm and very cute. I'll take pictures this weekend and post them next week.

Kick-off on Saturday, the 30k race on Sunday, mom in between and normal weekend stuff to do. My plate is full. I have the option to take Tuesday as a holiday. I think I just might need it!

Should I upgrade?

I'm getting very excited about re-joining the Team. Kick-off is Saturday and our first ride is Sunday. Unfortunately I'll be missing that first ride to run my 18+ miler for Dallas in Clarksburg. It seems strange that I'll miss my first century training ride for a marathon training run. I got a call last night from my new mentor. Despite my horrible problem with remembering names I won't have trouble with hers; it's the same as mine. Whew, I'll remember at least one new person!

As I noted while training for the tri my bike is ancient. Well, maybe not quite ancient, but it's at least 18 years old. It worked perfectly well for the length rides we were doing for the tri but I think that something modern might be more appropriate. When I bought it they hadn't started making bikes with women in mind and they didn't have things like short-reach levers or other sizing for women. My gearing is ok (and don't ask what it is, I know I have a granny but the sizes are beyond my comprehension) but I'd like the simplified gear shifters on the hoods. I'm a bit concerned with metal fatigue from it hanging in a damp garage for almost 2 decades, not to mention all the weight I put on it while riding.

I'd like to think that if I buy a new bike it will be incentive to keep riding after this season (and yes I know it's premature to speak of the end of the season when it hasn't even started yet). I'm not sure that buying a spanking new bike right at the beginning of winter, the start of the rainy season, is a good idea. But I think I'll be better able to keep up with the crowd with a more operator friendly machine. Hopefully I'll make a decision soon. It would be dumb to train all season on my beater and then get a new bike right before the event.

Speaking of dumb, I was exactly that to think I'd have no problem swimming all winter. The pool is outside. It's cold and dark after work. I don't like being cold. That adds up to me not wanting to swim in the cold outside pool. I'd be ok once I was actually in the pool, but the whole getting in and out will be t0ugh, if not impossible for me. Maybe if I have peer pressure I'll be able to do it but on my own I know I'll be looking for something else to do on Wednesday nights.

Like knit! That's what I've been doing. I've rediscovered the pleasure of instant gratification projects. Leg warmers, fingerless mitts; they fly off the needles and within days I have a finished object. I'll need to weave in ends on the mitts and then I'll have pictures of my wild stripey project. Probably nothing I'd wear outside the house but fun and relaxing to make.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Yes we can!"

For the first time in 8 years I have hope. The possibilities seem unlimited. People heard, people listened, people paid attention. Thank you, America, for this change.

Go Vote

I'm serious. If you haven't done it already, go right now and cast your ballot. I'm not kidding. Don't make me come over there!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Enough already!

I have had it up to HERE with the hate and the lies and the misinformation and bigotry being spread during this interminable election season. I sincerely can't believe that people are stupid enough to believe things that even the candidates or proposition initiators spreading the disinformation say are false. Do people get their news from their corner diner? Do they only listen to opinion and not fact? Is the only way to win an election these days to distort issues and statements and values and views?

This election is historic for so many reasons, not only because of the race and sex of the presidential teams, but because of the length of the campaigning and the money spent. It appears that there is no longer any middle ground, no longer any central idea or view that cannot be ridiculed as not taking a stand on an idea or ideal. All you hear is that it's one thing or the other and the opposing side is wrong and evil and will either destroy our country or life as we know it.

I make no secret of the fact that I'm a liberal. A feminist. An environmentalist. When did those become dirty words? None of them are four letters, yet the fanatics on an opposing side have made them appear so. Fine then, tar me with that brush because I'm not ashamed to feel that we need to help the needy. We owe it to the world to leave it a little better than we found it. I believe that all people are created equally and everyone deserves a chance to live the American dream.

If I get ONE MORE CALL or ONE MORE EMAIL from someone telling me that marriage is only for a man and a woman who want a family, I'm going to spit. Procreation is not the only reason to get married, and if it were then any woman past menopause or any couple experiencing infertility or anyone who doesn't want children wouldn't be allowed to marry. "Protect Marriage" my ass. A far better way to protect marriage would be to somehow fix the ridiculously high divorce rate. What is sacred about an institution that so many people feel is just a revolving door? Why shouldn't everyone have the exact same right to go through a hateful, expensive divorce? Or two?

Don't get me started on robocalls. I had thought these were illegal in California and couldn't understand why I've been receiving so many. Turns out it's just illegal to place the calls in California. Anyone can set these annoying things up in any other state and dial right in to us. Even my party has the bigwigs recording these things, even politicians who should know better.

And if you STILL haven't made up your mind who or what to vote for, take your head out of the sand, look around, go to the candidates' websites or to the library, read the propositions and make a decision. Good grief, the election is tomorrow. And if you're voting against someone because they aren't the same color as you, or because you don't like their glasses or you've bought into the lies and hate and scandal being spread by the so-called liberal press or the co-called conservative media, think again and make your own decision. It might not be a decision that I would make, might be something that appalls me or scares me, but make your own damn decision, own it, vote it.

Get it over with so we have a few months of peace before it all starts up again.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I did WHAT???

On Saturday I joined the cycling team of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training. On March 14, 2009 I will ride 100 miles (actually 104) in the Solvang Century. As the website states, "the 100 mile ride is a loop course to Lompoc, Vandenberg, Santa Maria and back through Olivos to Solvang with 4950 feet of elevation gain." Oy. And, yikes.

I have been reliably informed that the scenery is gorgeous. I'm not worried about the hills (that's a lie), have no fear of the distance (another lie) and I think the training while I'm also training for marathons will be easy to manage (yet another lie; I should be a politician). So why did I do it?

Running is, and hopefully will remain, my real love. But I'm terrified if I go back to only running, with a little bit of cross training here and there, I'll not only re-injure myself but I'll permanently injure myself beyond all hope of recovery. I don't want to be told that easy workouts in the gym are all I can do.

I'm in no hurry to ever do another triathlon; to do it right would take way more dedication and time than I'm willing to give now. But except for the back injury and my various and assorted injuries, I ended the season in the best shape I've been in for -- well, possibly forever. I remembered while tri training how much I enjoyed cycling. Even on my ancient bicycle I feel like I'm floating along which is something I'll never feel while running. I like swimming but I'm not good enough for a masters team and I just can't stand the lingering odor of chlorine. That left me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I should do some more cycling.

But why, you might ask, would I want to go ohsofar overboard and decide to ride a century?? Yes, I've said in the past that the 72 mile ride I completed many years ago, a mis-measured metric century, was as far as I needed to go. I looked at a full century like I used to look at marathons: something only crazy people do. Then I ran a marathon, then another marathon, then another and another, and realized that I am in fact crazy. And that's it: since I love marathons so much, maybe I'll fall in love with distance cycling too.

I've ridden about a dozen metric centuries but the last one was at least 10 years ago. Probably more. Except for one summer when we rode several, I'm pretty sure the training consisted of a couple of 40 mile rides and some aerobics during the week. Just think how improved my performance would be with real training.

The schedule and timing actually fit quite well with my marathon plans. I'll miss the very first training which doesn't please me (I'll be running the 30k as our 18 mile training run), and I'll miss one other, the weekend I'm in Dallas racing. But while I'm running long miles for the marathon I'll still be on short mileage on the bike. I can ride with the team on Saturday and run on Sunday. When the longest training rides and the century arrive I'll only need to be at 12-14 miles for my anticipated May marathon (Vermont City Marathon, in case you were wondering). During the week I'll have to tweak the team training schedule to get in a run or two and a swim, but it'll still be easier than our training for the tri.

And the whole TnT thing. It's going to be challenging to raise money again right after I just completed fundraising. Luckily my deadline will be next year. Next fiscal tax year, to be exact. I won't even ask for money until December and tell people that a 2009 contribution would be welcome. I'm also thinking I'll be making a very large personal contribution to the cause, which I normally make in dribs and drabs to other people fundraising. I believe in the cause and think every cent raised is used efficiently.

I'm looking forward to the cycle team. The training is supposed to be much more social than the tri training, which makes sense if you think about it. Your entire tri is done individually, a race against all others, so that's how you train. But this century is not a race, it's a ride. A pack, a pelaton, a group is how you train and how you ride. I'm ready to meet new people and make friends, something I was unable to do this summer.

So bring it on! I'm incredibly excited for my new adventure!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What's that wet stuff?

It seems that our winter weather has finally arrived. I'm trying very hard not to whine about rain since we need it so badly. My lawn is brown, my shrubs are brown, my perennials are almost dead, my citrus trees have lost most of their fruit. I'm taking short showers (except when I'm frozen after a run), not letting water run while I wash dishes or brush or wash anything. We need the rain. That doesn't mean I'm happy about running in it.

The last time I had checked the weather forecast it was for rain on Friday. Friday, not today! I packed my running gear last night, thinking it would be the same warmish, dry weather. All day long it was gloomy and overcast and getting dark. At about 3 pm I realized it was raining. Just a light drizzle to drippier rain, but water from the sky. We were scheduled to meet at 5:00 pm and decide then whether it was raining too much to run.

There were a couple of heavier moments, but it mostly just dripped on my drive to the trail. Olivia and I decided we were good to go and set off down the rapidly darkening trail. I had left Mr. Garmin in my pack, just in case it started pouring. I wore my watch but we didn't know how fast we were going. Unlike Tuesday this was an eye popping, pushing to the edge run. I didn't understand it; I felt like we were running slowly, running through mud or soup or sand.

After our walk at the turnaround we took off, possibly faster than the first half. I was out of breath almost the entire way and for the last mile was only able to grunt a reply when Olivia talked. She didn't say anything the last couple of blocks, we were running that hard. We zipped in the last part, figuring that since we were done it didn't matter how hard we ran.

Turns out this was the fastest run the two of us have run since we started running together. Tuesday's just-beyond-comfortable average of 12:07 was smashed. We averaged 11:38 tonight. No wonder I felt like my heart would explode, like my lungs weren't working, like my legs were cement. Quite simply, I was running too fast. Amazingly I recovered very quickly and I feel great now. I couldn't have kept up that pace for even a quarter mile more, but at least now I know what I can do at a 5k.

The rain held off. There was some drizzle and some tree dripping but that felt good while we were speeding along. I'm not looking forward to rainy night runs, but I am looking forward to long showers again!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I smell like chlorine again

Swimming feels new again, as if I didn't swim three times each week for several months this summer. Phil and I met at the pool tonight, thinking it would be our last swim until December. Our pool is being closed for maintenance and we all thought we'd just take the month off. We discovered that the other city pool will be taking on the lap swim for November only, so it looks like we can keep swimming.

Last week, when I ended up not swimming, I had a workout and a plan. This week my only plan was just to swim a few sets of 400 yards. Boring, so I changed it a bit once I was in the water. I did a 200 yard warm-up with half of it kicking only, then a 400 yard set of comfortable pace. After a 30 second break I swam a 500 yard set at race pace. My last length was at level 8 or 9, or as I called it, a Phil sprint. He was going the same direction at the same time and I just swam as hard as I could to keep up. I repeated that set once more, including the sprint. By then I was tired, but feeling energetic at the same time. I did a 200 yard cool-down, decreasing from race pace to about level 3, and called it a night with 1800 yards. I felt really good when I finished and was incredibly glad that I had hauled myself out of my house, despite wanting to just sit inside and knit.

As it gets darker earlier I find it harder and harder to do anything except work and hibernate. For the past six or seven years I've had Pam to meet up with after work for running; no excuse worked to keep me home. In a couple of weeks I'll be on my own and will have to find some way to run by myself. Since it'll be dark in the morning and evening, I'm not sure what I'll do. I'm very uncomfortable running on my own, even on the streets and trails that are so familiar to me. I know it's safe but there's that little teeny part of me that is paranoid. I'm so very not looking forward to running all winter on my treadmill!

For this week, at least, I'm running and swimming. I'll take next week as it comes!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Starting the week right

After work today Olivia and I went for a short run. It's hard to believe that next week it'll be dark if we run after work. I'm still thinking that it's the middle of the summer (except for a short time at work today when I was convinced it was the end of November -- yeah, I don't know where that came from). I didn't need sunglasses when we ran but at least we didn't need head lamps either.

By slowing down a little bit we had a great run. Our overall average was 12:07, only about 15 seconds slower than we've been running (except when Claudia joined us, then we were much faster). Those few seconds made the difference between my eyeballs almost popping out of my head or just pushing hard. Talking was only possible for me as blurts between breaths but at least I was blurtable. The cooler weather helped too. A thoroughly enjoyable run.

Today I registered not only for the marathon, but for a race that we'll use as a training run. I'm a little nervous that now I'll get injured, now I'll trip or fall or drop something on my foot or do something that will eliminate any chance of running either race. Not that I'm superstitious or anything, it's just been one of those years. I think before I fall asleep each night I'll need to find a new visualization mantra. Something like "stay healthy, stay strong" or "don't hurt yourself, don't trip" or "you're not a klutz, you're graceful" or ... no, even repeating that last one every night couldn't convince me. I think I'll stick with my first try!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm going to run a marathon this year!

Saturday morning dark and early I met Bree at the Lafayette-Moraga Trail for our run. It was very cool, lowest 50s or so, but forecast to become much warmer, possibly 70s before we finished. I decided to wear shorts and a short sleeved top, but added throwaway gloves (which was good since I wore them on and off for the greater part of the run). The sun rose as we started out along the trail, both feeling pretty good.

Sixteen miles later I wasn't feeling quite as good. Don't get me wrong; nothing hurt. Even after several hours out on the trail, moving along, nothing hurt. That was astounding in itself. But I was very tired again, maybe just a little less than after the half last weekend. We stopped a few times along the way to refill bottles and potty but otherwise kept moving along.

Since the entire trail from the start at Reliez Station Road to the far end at Canyon Road is only about 7.5 miles, we had to do a bit of looping. We found a flat, shady area and turned around for some distance, then repeated it. We had been doing a good (slow) job of run:walking my normal 9:1 but when we got to about mile 14 or so we switched to 4:1. That only lasted minutes before I begged for 2:2 - I was really tired and my lungs just didn't want to keep up with my legs any longer. My legs again seemed to have more energy than the rest of me.

I wasn't really surprised that I was exhausted since I'd spent the past 2 days with undertheweatheritis. In fact, I was surprised that I managed to stay on my feet for that long. At one point I was a bit dizzy and almost stepped (tripped) off the edge of the trail and we were joking about how Bree would have to run quick quick back to her car to come pick me up. Then we decided a cab would be easier. It never came to that, I don't think we ever seriously thought there was a chance I couldn't finish. Too much "mind over matter" training, I guess. I did find that Bree was able to run much faster than I was, so she tried to hang behind my shoulder and not "rabbit."

Once I caught my breath, sat on my bumper and took off my shoes, had a drink, I realized I felt better after that run than I had after a run since -- well -- since all year, I think. It was the longest I've run this year and mentally it was a major step. Physically it was major too. I didn't even get a blister!

The rest of the day, through my afternoon of pampering, my massage (ahhhhhh) and facial/massage (ahhhhh) I waited for my back to start aching. Or for my knee to hurt. Or for my neck to get stiff. Or something to go wrong. It didn't. Finally, in the middle of dinner (and after a nice cold beer) I made the decision I'd been waiting for. Sunday, December 14 I'm going to run the full Dallas White Rock Marathon. Run, I tell ya. My plan is to stick with my normal 9:1 for the entire 26.2 miles and finish feeling strong. We have 2 more long runs and hopefully a bunch of shorter runs (and maybe a swim or two and a bike ride here and there) to keep building strength and endurance.

I'm so excited about planning a marathon that I'm ready to do the happy dance. Except I don't want to risk injuring my back!