Monday, June 30, 2008

No whining here

Remember I said that I was going to stop whining? In the spirit of that, this may be my last post here for a while. Nothing happy to say and I'm not sharing my depression with the rest of you.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Smoke gets in your eyes

Unoriginal, I know. The air quality keeps getting worse here as the fires in California continue to burn. Today officially the air is unhealthy (active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease, such as asthma, should avoid prolonged outdoor exertion; everyone else, especially children, should limit prolonged outdoor exertion), another step down from "unhealthy for sensitive individuals" (active children and adults, and people with respiratory disease should limit outdoor exertion). It's ugly and smelly out. Right now we're getting smoke from a fire to the north of us in Lake County that has burned 14,000 acres and is only 5% contained. They're predicting a wind shift by the weekend but that only means we'll be getting the smoke from the fires in Monterey County which have burned 60,000 acres so far. Different fire, same result. The air in the Bay Area will not be clearing up any time soon. It's a good time to go out of town. As far out as possible.

I had thought I had breathing problems before but know I'm getting a taste of what it's truly like to have COPD or other disease with compromised lung function. I decided to skip the Team track workout yesterday and instead exercise inside with the air conditioning hopefully filtering the crap from the air. A good decision and a bad decision; I wouldn't have been able to run around the track once but I didn't do much better inside. I set up my own private circuit drills and started with a warmup on the treadmill. I ran for 6 minutes at a slow speed and was gasping when I finished. Then I did the first half of my lower body toning tape and continue to gasp. I started to run again on the TM and ended up with a fast walk. Still gasping. Then part 2 of the tape, walk on the TM, finish the tape, walk on the TM, then crunches and other core work. I was wheezing and coughing and feeling like total crap and it shouldn't have been a hard workout. Amazing how lack of oxygen will impact your physical condition.

Today I'm feeling like I have a chest cold, or horrific allergy problems. I don't know how I'm going to do the swim workout tonight and I may end up either doing an easy 2000 yards or even cutting it short. I'll make the attempt, but I'll quit if I'm hacking up a lung in the pool. I know from other times if I push my lungs they'll just hurt for a week and I don't need to do that.

And here I thought that the heat would be the big problem during tri training. I'll push myself during blazing heat and during freezing cold and during rain but there isn't anything I can do to push through the smoke. I'll have to figure out something, I can't just skip training until this clears!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hey, I DO remember how to swim!

I proved last night that my abysmal performance in the water on Saturday was a fluke, an aberration, a mystery. In fact I'm quite able to swim thank you, at varying levels of intensity and strength. At least as long as I'm in a nice clean, clear pool.

I met with Claudia and Phil for our scheduled swim workout. I was concerned about the crap in the air, worried that I wouldn't be able to breathe and thus wouldn't be able to perform the drills. I planned to take it easy, not do the highest intensity stuff and see how things went. By the time the lanes cleared and we started it seemed like the air was getting cleaner. I could actually see the hills for the first time in a couple of days and I thought that was a good sign.

We nabbed 2 lanes; Phil in one and Claudia and I sharing the other. Because it was cooler than it had been and probably because of the air, it wasn't as crowded as it's been lately. The swim started with a 300 yard, level 2 warmup. That felt fine. Then we had a 200 yard kick. I loved that to pieces and asked Phil and Claudia if they thought I could use the kickboard during the tri. Uh, no. They're not half as enamored of the kicking thing as I am and couldn't wait to get it over with. I liked it because it was the only part of the swim where I could actually keep up with them. A couple more drills and then we were into the main set.

We were supposed to start with "6 x 150 LVL 3-6 (Descending). When I read that I figured that it meant we'd start out at level 6 intensity and decrease to level 3. Wrongo. It means exactly the opposite of what you'd think, and starts at 3 and builds to 6. Okey dokey. I kept up with them for the level 3, fell behind on the 4, and way back after that. I didn't want to fall too far behind because with my lack of memory I'd lose track of where I was in the repeats so I didn't take as many or as long rest intervals as I should have.

My form was great through level 5 and fell apart at level 6, mostly because I just can't get a good breath when I'm going faster. Well, and I start flailing a bit with my arms. I did the entire workout though, at the levels stated, and only got lapped by Claudia twice. Cripes, that meant they were 100 yards ahead of me. Which shouldn't mean anything to me since they're both much faster runners too, but still. It does bother me. Competitive much??

Somewhere in the last set of 4 x 100 LVL 3-6 (Descending) my feet started to cramp. That's pretty good and I think the longest I've gone before cramping. Nevertheless it's very challenging to swim that way and I was determined to swim every last yard that was scheduled. Dope. Luckily the cooldown was 100 LVL 1 and that meant that when both of my feet and both of my legs cramped in the middle of a lap I just flipped on my back and swam that way for a while. It worked, I finished the 2300 total yards. In significantly better form than my open water tri swim, even with cramps.

The air quality wasn't much of a factor and I had hopes that it meant the smoke was clearing out. Not true. It seems even worse this morning, even in my office where I'm struggling not to hack and wheeze. I'm planning on skipping the track workout tonight to save my lungs and rest my back. I won't be resting anything else though, I intend to get a good workout in my air conditioned house!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Our excuse for a season

In most places there are four regular seasons: fall, winter, spring and summer. In California we have only have two: rainy season and fire season. The shorter the first season, the longer the second. We're in the middle of a drought right now with statewide precipitation at the lowest for over a century and conditions are ripe for a long, smoky fire season. Because of unexpected lightning storms there are over 800 active fires in the state and more than 100,000 acres burned so far. Much of that smoke drifts over the Bay Area and just hangs there until a front moves through and blows it away.

The air and the sky look like some cheap apocalyptic B movie set with thick reddish air. Right now the trees are still and it's pretty creepy looking outside. All that's missing is the somber, scary music wafting through the background and I'm out of here because I've seen enough of those movies to know that something bad will happen.

Probably though the worst that will happen is that I'll go swimming tonight and cough up a lung or two trying to get in my workout. I didn't run last night and I'm wondering if I'll be able to do anything tonight other than drift lazily along, lap after lap. We're scheduled for a long, higher intensity swim so we'll see what happens!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cough cough cough

The air today is beyond foul. Fires throughout the Bay Area have left a thick layer of smoke hanging over the valley. From my home this morning I not only couldn't see Mt. Diablo, I couldn't see the hills. Which are only blocks from my house. Before I left for the day I went back inside and closed the only open window. Hopefully when I return late tonight the inside of the house will be clear. Even the office air is bad. My eyes are watering and my lungs are sore.

And I itch. I have the Shadow Cliffs crud all over my body. I have bites on my face, my scalp, my legs and places I don't need to be discussing here. I think I even have one in my ear. Ew and yuck and gross.

Yesterday we were scheduled to run with the team for 45 minutes. Since I had "run" at the tri on Saturday and because the air was already getting smoky I decided to walk with Claudia instead. We ended up walking a little over 3 miles along the Iron Horse Trail in Danville. Turns out it was the correct decision and except for an aching back I felt pretty good afterward.

I hope the air clears up by tomorrow, I don't want to have to do any exercise outdoors in this schmootz. After last week's "recovery training" (ooops) we build again with longer, harder workouts. It would sure be nice if we could breathe!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tri for Fun #1 Race Report

Today I completed my very first ever triathlon, the Tri for Fun #1 in Pleasanton. It was a sprint distance fun race, meant for novices or training. The distances were 400 yard swim, 11 mile bike, 3.1 mile run. Not exactly a piece of cake but doable. In the past few weeks of tri training I've completed a couple of bricks but this was my first time to try all 3 together. I was (unreasonably) nervous about the race, mostly because it was new to me. And because I'm a freak.

Early Morning
I set my clock for 4:00 am (with a back-up set for 4:15 in case the first didn't go off or maybe I'd fall back asleep or sleep through it. Right.) but I was awake by then, tossing and turning because of the heat. Although I had set my air conditioning to keep the house cool, it goes off at 11:00 pm and the house steadily got warmer from then. I generate enough heat at night; extra heat keeps me awake.

I did all the morning stuff, ate my getting-so-sick-of-it-I-can-hardly-eat it-now oatmeal, paced around the house a bit, shoved ice and Ultima in my bottles. I had packed my bag the night before and was pretty certain it contained everything I needed (for a week long vacation). My bike was in the car, tires pumped and ready to go. I was wearing my brand spanking new Danskin tri suit with a sports bra under it and a tee over it until the race, gobs of sunscreen, and flip flops. I got in my car at 5:00 am and left home. It was getting light out and already warm.

The race wasn't scheduled to start until 7:00 am but the gates at Shadow Cliffs opened at 5:30 am. I was worried about possible traffic problems (huh? at 5am on a Saturday?) and thought it would take at least a half hour to get there. That's exactly how long it took. I paid my $6 parking fee at the gate and nabbed a great parking space. As I was getting out of the car I saw that Claudia was as much a worrier as I; she and Rocky were already there, unloading her bike and pack.

They had grabbed a primo spot to rack her bike and I set up right next to her. We spaced ourselves out, knowing we'd get squished later but hoping for the best. I spread out an extra towel I had brought and laid out my helmet, gloves, socks, shoes, tank top, buff, hat, glasses, extra bottle, swim cap, goggles and probably more that I can't think of now. Claudia was doing the exact same thing. I had brought a red scarf to tie to the rack as a sighting guide but the people at the rack right behind us had a red helium heart balloon and that worked even better.

We picked up our bibs, got our cheap cotton short sleeved tee shirt, and got marked. My first time being marked, with red indelible marker on my left thigh and right upper arm. Almost immediately the marker and my sunscreen started interacting and the markings started to fade.

We hung out, went to the bathroom, hung out, went to the bathroom, hung out. The guy who racked his bike right next to mine noticed my TnT water bottle and asked about it. I told him I'm on the the tri team and surprise, so is he! We all chatted as more and more people arrived and squashed us in on the racks. And then we still had more time to wait.

At 6:50 we walked over to the starting area. When we got to the beach, Rocky had me turn around and sight to our rack. It was an excellent bit of advice and I'm really glad he pointed it out. Although the race was scheduled to start at 7:00 am, because of announcements and talking and more announcements and thank yous and blah blah get it over with already it was 7:15 before the first wave was sent out. This was the elite wave, men and women. Wave 2 was young men, wave 3 was older men, wave 4 was young women (bye Claudia!) and wave 5 was older women. Although wave 6 was for newbies and novices and scaredy cats, I decided to go with my age group. It was hot, I was tired of standing in the sun and I just wanted to get going. Finally the gun for my wave went off aaaaand Go!

I forgot how to swim
Seriously, what's up with that? I've been swimming for 50 years, I'm comfortable in the water, I've been at Shadow Cliffs several times, I'm even swimming in a straight line now. But my heart was racing and there were lots of people and the water was muddy and I just couldn't focus. I kept moving forward but what kind of stroke is this?? Dog paddle? Breast stroke (which I haven't practiced at all because of my knee)? Side stroke? Where's my neatly performed crawl? When I rounded the first big red buoy I firmly told myself to relax, breathe, stroke stroke stroke breathe, just like I've been practicing. Didn't matter. My heart was pounding so fast and I was breathing so shallowly that I couldn't get enough breath on every stroke. I focused in the woman ahead of me, then the one ahead of her, kept moving forward but never swam well at all. Before I knew it I was back at the shallow end and it was time to run out. Swim time: 10:38 (just about what I had guessed predicted)

Transition 1
Jeez, I needed to calm down. I saw Jeanette and Olivia cheering (oh! I haven't mentioned yet that Olivia and Jeanette got up at the buttcrack of dawn to come cheer us on! And they were carrying a great sign for us, and it was fantastic having them there and they're the Best! Cheerleaders! Ever!) and tried to run out. My legs were wobbly, I was ripping off my cap and goggles, trying to slow my breathing. I think I sat down to put on my socks and shoes, pulled on my tank top, tried to get my helmet on with fumbly fingers, pulled on my gloves, unracked my bike (I think the last remaining one on that rack). I ran out with the bike, stepped off the curb to the street and was off. T1 time: 3:31

In which I kick ass cycling
To get to the road there's a sharp uphill. In my oxygen starved, adrenalin saturated brain fog, I shifted backwards. D'oh! The last several yards up the hill were really tough, seeing as I was in the wrong gear. But I powered through and headed out Stanley. I was flying and figured I had a hecka tail wind. I was finally managing to slow my breathing, managing to get my overexcited body under control. I took a couple of glugs of Ultima, ate a sports bean, settled in. I was passing people right and left and being passed myself. Lots of rude peeps out there, very few "on your left"s or people riding to the side. I guess that's a problem with novices, nobody to teach them etiquette. I continued breezing along, riding strong, knowing that sooner or later I'd be slowing down for a hill or a headwind or something. It was hot and sunny out there.

I had turned on my cyclecomputer when I started but I guess at about 27 minutes I hit the off switch because it was 27 minutes for about 10 minutes before I realized something was up. Knowing that my average these days is no more than 12 mph, I had guessed I'd be out there about an hour. The course was a bunch of turns and out-and-backs, mostly on roads with coned off lanes. At one point on Vineyard the CHP directing traffic was letting through cars and stopped the cyclists. That was a pisser, not only did I have to come to a complete stop, I had to power back up again and repass all those behind me that caught the light at the right time. I probably lost almost a minute there. And told myself that this was a training race and why did I care and why was I riding so hard anyway and ease up! No surprise, I didn't slow down, I was feeling gooood!

There was one sizable hill on the route, the type that I'd normally take at about 4 mph but I powered up at about 7-8 mph. Dummy. I was flying and didn't care; it felt good, I was strong, I had my breathing in check and lookit me go! Before I knew it I saw the signal light that was at the park and the ride was over. Wha? How could that be? I rode down the hills, clipped out, jumped off and hurried over to the rack. Cycling time: 41:52 (20 minutes faster than predicted and almost a 16 mph average)

Transition 2
Everyone was back already, bikes shoved on the racks, only a couple of inches left for mine. I squeezed mine between Claudia's and Matt's bikes and figured they could worry about it when they finished. I ripped off my gloves, tore off my helmet, toed off the shoes. I replaced them with my cap and running shoes and picked up my bottle. I had decided against a waist belt because it was only a 5k. Not my greatest decision. At the last minute I sucked down a gel, hoping it would give me a great run. Transition 2 time: 1:38

In which I fall apart
I waved at the Best! Cheerleaders! Ever! and headed out. By this time it was easily 80+ degrees, sun blazing down. For about the first quarter mile my legs felt strong, then they gave up. We were running on a fire road; hard pack gravel and dirt with ruts and gullies. Not my favorite but at least I had known it was coming. What I didn't know about were all the hills; I was under the impression that the run was flat. Not even. There were uphills, downhills, uphills, downhills, outs, backs, up again. I was toast. Cooked, burnt, stick a fork in it. I walked the uphills and decided to do a run-walk on the rest. I set my watch to beep at a 4:1 but the hills took the rhythm out of that. There were a couple of water stops that we hit a few times each and I dumped a cup of water on my head each time we passed. I drank my Ultima and cursed myself for carrying the bottle with the hand strap, instead of the belt. I was so hot that I was heating the drink and that little bottle weighed a ton.

I was running so slowly I had no clue where I was or how far I had gotten. There were no mile markers anywhere on the course, but someone said that one of the water stops at the top of a hill had been half way. I felt like I'd been running for hours by then. I walked a little more, then tried to run. My running was pitifully slow, almost slo mo. Finally I got to the top of the hill where a woman directing things told us it was the last hill, it was downhill to the finish from there. Goodie! I couldn't power down the hill because I was afraid I'd trip on the rocks or ridges, but I was a little faster than I'd been.

Then I realized we still had a bit of a way to go, this time through all the picnic tables and partiers who were on the pathway. I felt like Godzilla by this time, people looking over their shoulders to see me lumbering along and them pulling their children out of my way so the kids wouldn't get trampled. Good plan. I finally saw the finish line, the finish clock reading 2 hours and something. Claudia, Rocky, Jeanette and Olivia were cheering me to the end and I ran in feeling thrilled that I had made it. Run time: 42:55 (at least 4 minutes slower than I'd predicted, 13:49 average)

Wrap-up and final thoughts
There were muffins, melon and bottles of some electrolyte drink at the end. I wasn't interested in any of them, I was more concerned with not falling over or puking. I paced my heart rate back down to normal and got hugs from everyone. I was dazed, as if I had completed a 20 mile run. My legs were shaky, my arms hurt, I felt sunburned and gritty and sticky and wet. I almost thought I should jump back in the water to cool off but the thought of getting back in that icky water deterred me. My knee was sore, my lower back was aching but at least they hadn't bothered me at all during the race.

I was happy with my clothing choice, not so much with my bottles. I think my food/drink plan worked ok, it was just the anxiety and excitement and adrenaline that threw me off. That and a total lack of good pacing on the bike, not caring whether there was anything left for a run.

I'm thrilled I did this before the big day, glad that only my good friends were there to see me (and they didn't even realize how I slowed down at the end, they were looking at overall). I will definitely work on slowing down my cycling (ha, never thought I'd have to say that) to save something for later. More bricks will take care of that. I have to do something about the swim and I don't think that being in a calm pool will help; I have no problems there.

The biggest surprise to me was that I persisted in treating this as a race when it was supposed to be a training exercise. I've managed to run 5k and 10k and half marathons, heck, even full marathons, as easy training runs so I don't know why I was pushing here. Maybe it's because it was the first; all of my first running races at all distances were treated as races too. I know my only competition is myself and today I proved that I'm a competitor (even when I'm not supposed to be one).

Total time for my first triathlon: 1:40:33

Now it's time for a well-earned glass of wine!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Quitcher whining!

I'm making a concerted effort to not feel as crappy about my training and conditioning as I have for the past, oh, six months. Despite feeling like an out-of-shape wimp, I'm still able to swim 2200 yards in fairly good form, still able to run a few miles at track while doing some of the drills, still able to ride my bike for at least an hour. All that while my knee is aching and my back is screaming and my lungs are wheezing and my nose drips. Instead of feeling bad about how things are now, I'm trying to feel good about how great my performance will be when my knee heals (and I still firmly believe it will heal magically on its own), when my back relaxes and when my asthma and allergies improve. And when I start to sleep once in a while. There are too many others out there who can't run at all (and my heart is with you, my dear friend) or who have cancer or another life threatening disease where getting out of bed is an effort. Enough is enough.

That's not to say I won't slip and let out a whine here or there. Forewarned!

The swim last night went much better. I joined Phil, Claudia and Jeanette at the San Ramon pool. It was hot out, somewhere around the low 90's, and the pool was crowded in a big way. Nevertheless we scored two lanes next to each other; Phil and I in one and Claudia and Jeanette in the other. I think I do better in the pool when my effort is at 4 or below. When I jack it up to 6 I think I'm trying too hard and I start flailing around and my form goes haywire and I feel like crap. When I do the higher intensity drills for long lengths it gets even worse. Resulting in meltdown. I'll have to keep an eye on that and maybe just not go that hard for that long. At least I'm not swimming into the lane markers now, a significant improvement.

Although I felt good swimming, when I got out of the pool my back tightened up and each step felt like a sledgehammer to my lower back. Nice. It's too damn hot for a heating pad so I treated it with advil and wine. The wine acted nicely as a stress reducer and at least helped with my neck pain, if not so much with my lower back pain. I'm finding that after a long swim my range of motion in my neck is highly reduced so I may have to see someone about that. Or maybe just drink a hecka lot more wine!

Family stress levels are off the charts this week. My mom decided that the pins and wire in her elbow are causing significant pain and she wants them out, stat. She saw the doctors and scheduled the surgery and decided she'd take a bus there (!!). The day before surgery we were told that she was being sent directly home afterward and she'd need 24-48 hours of constant monitoring. Since she lives alone that meant either I'd have to stay there, my bro would have to stay there, or we'd have to hire someone. We went with option 3 and after several calls I managed to find a good company that would provide an care assistant for 24 hours.

I took my mom to her appointment, helped her with all the paperwork, waited, stayed with her in pre-op while she got an IV and filled out more forms and signed more releases, then met her surgeon and anesthesiologist. Whereupon it turns out that she hadn't discontinued a medication in time and surgery would be canceled. D'oh! Everyone was very nice about it, it isn't clear whether she had actually been told to discontinue it, she was scheduled for surgery with a whole 3 days notice, so it really isn't anyone's fault. Next week we get to go through all this again.

Less than 24 hours from now I'll be swimming with the fishies at the start of my very first ever triathlon. I've managed to find something to wear, a nice sausage casing trisuit that I can swim, bike and run in. It's not beautiful but hopefully it will be functional. I'm wondering how I'll manage the run with sand between my toes and whether I should carry a bottle or use my waist pack and how much I'll need to eat and drink and if the air will clear up a little and if it'll be 80 degrees when I start cycling and will I get any sleep and how will I feel afterward and will I fall over going up the hill and will I get kicked in the water and will I trip on the gravel road and what, me, anxious? Oh yeah. You'd think I was doing more than a sprint, that I'd never been in a race, that I haven't been swimming and cycling for months, let alone running for years. I'm very anxious excited!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I don't know what's causing my lack of perceived fitness and my waning confidence. Monday was a scheduled rest night and since Pam and Olivia were both busy, I decided not to run on my own. Tuesday was a swim night with Claudia and Phil, Wednesday was track with the team and at both I felt like total crap. My swimming was off, my running was off, my strength was absent, my energy was lagging and my coordination sucked. This led up to a spectacular meltdown after the the swim and a smaller one after finishing the track workout.

I blame hormones.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Another Magical Mystery Knitting Party

Friday the 13th I attended the Magical Mystery Knitting Party at the new knit-one-one studio. I've attended a couple of these events in the past and they've always been fun and informative. The end results have varied from scarves to squid with everything in between. We're told in advance what kind of yarn and size needles to bring and we knit along as a group, learning new techniques and having a great time.

I spoke with Anita when I heard about the party and told her that if she signed up, I would too. We haven't seen each other much this year since I haven't been running a lot and this was a perfect chance to catch up and spend time together. We both registered and did our homework: cast on and knit several rows in two contrasting colors.
I thought about using some other colors but decided to stay with my tried and true, red and gray. This class was to learn color work; using two colors and reading a chart. So as not to give away the product, the Amazing Kate gave us copies of the pattern a few rows at a time. We'd knit along, then get another strip of instructions.
I think we all made a mistake or two. Or several. I had a hard time remembering to read the even rows from the other direction. To me, if you start one row from the right you start all rows from the right. None of this read from the left nonsense. I also made one little mistake with the red and since I didn't catch it until I was two rows past, I left it.

We knit along, with a little break for a dinner of pasta salad and sides. I was being smart and not drinking as much wine as I'd have liked, knowing I had a double workout early the next morning. I think it improved my mad knitting skilz a bit.

We were pretty sure from almost the get-go that we were knitting a skull and cross-bones, but that didn't keep us from making some absurd guesses about the end product. It's fun and just a little silly but I really don't think the end product is the total point here. It's the whole process of knitting as a group, learning things, having fun.
Right about the time the shortbread made its honored appearance we confirmed that the pattern was the indeed the skull and crossbones from Hello Yarn. I've actually already knit the tote that goes with the skull, but the colorwork was a little too advanced for me at the time and I left it out in favor of stripes.I pulled the contrasting color too tight so working on my tension will be important when I do some color work for real. In fact, I think I should probably do another sampler type project before doing any real projects. It's fun to look at everyone's end results, seeing the skulls all lined up. I may felt mine the next time I use hot water in the washer (darn this drought for keeping me from excess water usage). This will make a cute hot plate holder!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Week 2 in the books

The short version of my second full week of tri training consisted of a short run on Monday, swimming in the pool on Tuesday, track circuit drills on Wednesday, swimming at Shadow Cliffs on Thursday (yuck yuck), knitting on Friday (what, knitting isn't a triathlon-related sport?), running and swimming on Saturday and cycling on Sunday. I'm feeling pretty good about it, except for the pain in my lower back from track, the pain in my calves from the cramping they did in the pool and the headache from lack of sleep. Otherwise, everything is cool. My knee hurts too but, well, it's going to so nevermind.

Saturday morning I arrived at our workout at Foothill High School ready to jump in the pool and -- it had been changed. I never did get the announcement but we were locked out of the pool until 9:00 am so we were going to run first. I grumbled back to my car, crawled into the back seat and changed out of my swimsuit and into running gear. Grrr. I was already in a cranky mood because of lack of sleep and that didn't help. We had a clinic on running form, then took off. I decided to take off with the Half IM group so I could get in extra miles but it ended up not making much difference. We were running a little loop around the school, about 1.5 miles, and I really just had time to go around twice.

The route started off flat but then there was a large downhill. In the past I would have just screamed down, and in fact I started doing just that, but I got a twinge in my knee and remembered in time that running downhill is not great for my particular aggravation. I slowed down (bummer, I hate slowing when I don't actually do it naturally) and wondered what the corresponding uphill was going to be like. Steep! I decided that since it was such short route I'd just power up, no slowing or walking. Coach Paul and I had a short talk about the downhill when I circled around and he recommended that I walk it; I think my comment was something like I know that would be the smart thing to do, but walk a downhill? It just seemed wrong. I ended up taking it faster the second time around and it only hurt a little bit more than the first time. The uphill, on the other hand, seemed much harder the second time around.

When we all finished running we changed into swimsuits and had another short clinic, this time on swim form. Interesting information. Then we jumped in the water and the pool was amazingly hot. I don't think I've ever swam in a pool that warm, it was like a bathtub. I had hoped that it would cool me down after the run but it just increased my body temp. I went in with the intermediate group, figuring that like last week I'd never get the entire workout done in the time anyway. I was wrong, I got it all done. Despite my calves which kept cramping up. It wasn't electrolytes (or lack of them) since I was drinking Ultima and had a salt tablet mixed in with the drink. I don't think it was dehydration since I drank a lot of fluids on Friday. It wasn't that the water was cold. No idea. But I tried to ignore the cramping and bull through it, just to get the workout done. I added up the yardage (and promptly forgot the result) but I think I swam about 1200 yards total. Or so.

When the workout was almost over I decided to ask the coach overseeing our group if he had any suggestions for improving my technique. I'm getting tired of always veering off to the right and my right arm is very sore from thwacking it against the lane separators all the time. I mean all the time. He had me swim another lap, watched me, and had some interesting comments. Apparently I swim crooked with my left arm; I throw it too far over to the right. Also, although I pivot nicely onto my right side (when breathing to the left), I don't pivot well on the left side (when breathing to the right). Wow, this is fixable! I've only been doing both-side breathing since we started swimming a couple of months ago so rolling a bit more is just one more thing to keep in mind. And I'll work on straightening my left arm stroke. Hey, this coaching stuff is worthwhile! Yay!

I was pretty achy and tired when the workout was over. A large group of us threw on dry clothes and went and had pizza. It was great getting to know some of my teammates a bit better. It's just like the marathon team, more of the mentors and captains showed up than participants. I'm not sure why that happens, going out after the workouts is one of the things that makes being on the team fun. Afterwards I had a lovely nap.

Sunday morning was a chance to sleep in a bit since our run wasn't scheduled until 8:30 am and we were meeting right off the freeway in Walnut Creek. It wasn't a chance I took full advantage of because I awoke at what's becoming my normal wake time of 4 am. Yuck. I stayed in bed and drowsed until I gave up a couple of hours later.

I started the morning again feeling cranky (yeah, it's becoming a pattern) and didn't really have high hopes for a good ride. The Olympic group was supposed to ride for an hour, the Half IM group for 90 minutes. I decided that 80 minutes would be good for me (where do I come up with these ideas??) and since we all started at about the same time, figured I'd be back before the last people. The route was very familiar since it was the same one Bree and I have been riding, only in reverse. Down Danville Road to San Ramon Valley Road and back again. Easy peasy.

I stuck with a few people for the first several miles, riding mostly behind and pacing off of Claudia. Not drafting, since that's a tri no-no, but a couple of lengths back. She asked if I wanted to pass but I was happy there. We had a strong headwind but were still cruising along at a decent clip. Finally she stopped at a red light while I caught it right when it changed so I sped on past.

I knew there was one and only one hill on the route and was pretty sure I'd be climbing it. Sure enough, I was at just about the halfway point when it appeared before me. I was warmed up and feeling fine by then, threw it in my granny gear and slowly made it to the top and over. I think a headwind on an uphill is just adding insult to injury. I wasn't in the mood to go down the other side and have to climb back up so I turned around.

That's when the real fun began. Downhill and a tail wind. Wheeee! I bent down into the drops, held on and pedaled away. Didn't put it in gear mind you, just spinning to keep my legs from stiffening up. I had some speed happening there and it felt wonderful. I slowed down for the lights but the entire way back I powered along with that wind and felt strong and fast. I blew past Claudia and ended up back at the start with something like a 10 minute negative split. Dang, that meant my ride was short! Didn't matter, my cruddy mood was gone with the wind and I was happy. Sore, but happy.My ride ended up being a measly 14 miles but the average was higher than the rides I did with Bree and I certainly wasn't working as hard to get that. I know the wind was the major reason but I'll delude myself for a while that training helps too. Makes me feel a little better about the Tri for Fun which is in -- holy scumwater -- less than a week.

I'm feeling better about the training (and the team) (and my general fitness level) this week. I have a feeling that will change week to week, depending on my energy level and pain. Er, I mean discomfort. No pain here! This week I'm realizing that while I'm a novice at this, there are others who are novicer than I. I get the work done and do the drills and the workouts at a higher level than my event calls for. I've dropped a couple of pounds, I'm getting tanned (ooops) and fit. What more can I ask for?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

We knew it was gross

This morning before our training started Claudia and I were telling each other that we were covered in what seemed to be flea or mosquito bites - all over our bodies. She had been thinking that maybe her doggies had picked up something, I had been thinking that I had slept the night before without a sheet and the mosquitoes must have gone to town. Hers had started on Friday but I didn't notice mine until this morning.

Slowly the light dawned. Ohhhh. We walked over and asked Phil if he had any bites and that confirmed it. We all picked up something in the water at Shadow Cliffs. Ew, yuck yuck ew. We're covered with bites from something -- something unknown.

And we have to swim there next week at the Tri for Fun. Imagine how excited we are about that!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Who needs sleep?

Apparently not me. After awakening at 4am, tossing and turning for an hour, I decided that enough was enough and I might as well get up and be productive. Yep, productive on about 4 hours sleep. Probably not happening. I think some time about noon my head will crash down on my desk and I'll sleep for another hour.

We discovered last night that the swim lane at Shadow Cliffs is 140. I'm not certain 140 what; meters or yards? We use meters and yards somewhat indiscriminately, although they really aren't quite the same. A meter is 1.09 yards, a yard is .914 meters. A true Olympic pool is 25 meters across but I'm not sure how many of the school pools are true Olympic because our training measurements are in yards. So I'll proclaim it yards since the last time I checked the US never quite made it over to the metric standard.

The swim last night was hard. I wasn't in optimal condition since I tweaked my lower back at track. Many advil later it wasn't screaming, but it hurt. Add in tired, worn out arms from both the swim Tuesday night and the circuit drills on Wednesday and I knew the swim would be challenging. I just didn't realize how challenging.

I struggled to get across even one length. One little 140 yard length. Sheesh, I was doing much better than that the last time we went there. When we started the air was a very toasty 90-ish degrees and it was much easier to get in the water. The water was still cold, freezing in spots and warmer in others. In fact, there were times it felt like I was swimming straight from ice through someone's pee. You're welcome, I'm sure that's a visual you'll treasure.

Since our workout schedule called for 2250 yards we decided to swim 8 laps (16 lengths). That seemed pretty questionable after one little length but we persevered. I was having great luck keeping my feet up but I was totally unable to swim straight. I think my back ache had me arching my back exactly correctly to keep my feet up. Very strange. But I have rope burns on my arms from repeatedly smashing into the lanes and I was lucky I didn't end up at the other side of the lake. Normally I angle right but last night I was zigging and zagging back and forth. I'm pretty sure that the lane was more like 180 yards, the way I was going so far out of my way.

Claudia was a stud, back and forthing with nary a pause. Phil and I were just a bit wimpier and we stopped for a short break at the end of every length. At the end of every lap we decided that the next one would be the very last lap but we kept going; either he'd take off or I would and the other would follow. On the 12th length my right leg cramped up and after a couple of futile kicks, my left decided to join in the fun. I tried to just kick it out but ended up flipping on my back and just sculling along. Which depressingly seemed just as fast as I'd been swimming. When I swam through a warmer patch the cramp eased and I flipped back over and finished the lap.

During the 7th lap my calves kept cramping up and that made swimming even more challenging, to say the least. I knew I wasn't going to drown and surprisingly flipping onto my back again and again to ease the cramps didn't slow me down, but I decided not to take chances. Claudia had lapped us at some point and finished all 8 scheduled laps but Phil and I decided to call it a day and end with 7. Since that was 1960 yards we felt we had one hecka workout!

I can't believe the Tri For Fun is in one week. I'm so deeply in denial about that. I'm glad we swam there for an hour because the 400 yard swim in the tri will be cake, even with the crowds. Too bad we'll have to ruin it with a bike ride and run!

The sunrise this morning was lovely. I think all the fires in the area have spewed so much schmootz into the atmosphere that the sky is so nicely colored. Not so good for breathing but made my insomnia almost worthwhile. Almost.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How tough is it to make a latte correctly?

Apparently very tough. I made my usual stop before work this morning at the local Safeway Starbucks. I waited in their long line and ordered my usual skinny vanilla latte. After another long wait, she finally calls out skinny vanilla latte, I grab it and walk out. It was very hot but I took a sip. Even through the scorching heat I could tell it wasn't sweetened so I went back and asked her to add the vanilla that I had paid for. She did, capped it up, I left. A few stop signs later I took another sip and realized she had made it with whole milk. Yuck ick and I can't drink that. To recap, my non-fat sugar-free vanilla latte was delivered to me extra hot (scorched, actually), whole milk, no syrup. I poured the entire thing down the sink and had to go out an get another latte elsewhere.

I wouldn't have fussed about it (too much) but in addition to my daily caffeine, my latte is also my breakfast. The 8 ounces of milk keeps me full until lunchtime and has all the nutritious benefits and calcium for early in the day. I also count on it as being "food" in my stomach that I need before I'll take any advil. Which I needed after last night's track workout.

You can see details of the workout from Phil and Claudia, so I won't list all the drills here. I managed 1.25 miles on the warm-up at an easy-ish level 3, then once around again before starting the drills. I had no problem with the squats and actually managed the side planks this time. Not easily and off my elbow with a bent arm and with sweat pouring down my face, but I did them. Again around the track. Doing the mule kicks I could feel something grinding in the small of my back but I figured it was just things moving into position after disuse. I did 10 push-ups, regular form, one at a time. Around the track. Arm/leg extensions were no problems but I skipped the burpies. I don't need to be doing any kind of explosive movements with my knee, don't need to be jumping on it, so I just skipped 'em. Around the track. Crunches and one-legged squats, check and check. Around the track.

Unfortunately I was faster this time than last week so I had to repeat the first circuit before they decided it was time for the 10 minute cool-down. I did 2 laps and called it a night. My knee was aching, more from the drills that involve kneeling than from anything else. Ok, maybe a little from going round and round on the track. My back was starting to hurt too and I had a feeling I might have overdone the mule kicks.

We all hung around a little bit, stretching and chatting and finally headed to our cars. This week I had the second half of an energy bar in the car and I nibbled on it while I drove. It was delicious; I'm not sure if I was just starving or if it was really good. It was a Think Thin bar in white chocolate chip and slightly heated from being in the car. Half the bar is 30g and has 10g protein, 13g carbs, 4g fat and 120 calories. Gluten free, no sugar, no trans fat and good grief, it tasted wonderful. I have a couple of other flavors at home and I think these will become my lifeline for after late workouts.

By the time I got home and cleaned up it was 9:00 pm and although I was starving, nothing sounded too good. I nuked a Boca Burger, put it on a slice of sourdough and covered it with lettuce shreds. Boring but filling and easy. Because I had the bar I wasn't ready to eat everything in sight and could go with the quick dinner.

I had gotten to the track early and I sat in my car for almost an hour knitting. My arms and hands are worn out from the swimming; I was actually having a bit of trouble holding onto the needles. It was even worse when I got home. I've signed up for knit-one-one's Magical Mystery Knitting Party and there's homework. When I finished my gourmet dinner I rummaged through my stash to find a total of 50 yards of two contrasting colors in a worsted yarn. Not too tough, most of my scrap yarns are worsted since it's my favorite weight to knit. I ended up with a dark gray and a bright red. Typical, hmm? But then I had to cast on and knit 8 rows and my hands were so tired the needles were flopping around. I got it done but I'm not sure it's my finest work. I'll look at it again tonight, but I don't anticipate I'll be any less tired then so I'll probably leave it be.

It's supposed to be hot hot hot tonight - perfect for our outing to Shadow Cliffs!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


While I'm not a birder or even a bird fancier, I have nothing against birds. I've been known to ooh or aah over a particularly beautiful or unusual specimen but mostly I can take or leave them. Except when they're outside my bedroom window heralding the dawn at 4:30 am. At 150 decibels. Then I'm thinking about finding a slingshot or maybe a howitzer and taking them out. Damn birdy, I have enough trouble sleeping as it is, I don't need to be serenaded in my bed and awoken hours before my alarm.

I really needed the sleep after the hellacious swim workout last night. Because Claudia and I have decided to swim at Shadow Cliffs on Thursday, we decided to switch the scheduled workouts for the two nights; do Thursday's drills on Tuesday and Tuesday's workout on Thursday. Got it? So I printed out both sets of workouts and brought them to the pool. We convinced Phil to switch with us so we'd all be doing the same swim. Claudia taught us that if you soak the paper it will stick to the side of the pool, making it easier to keep reading the drills.

The reason we did this was that Thursday's schedule was for a bunch of repeats of sets of different drills; Tuesdays workout was just several hundred yards of different levels of effort, making it easier to remember what we were supposed to do while we were swimming in the lake without a cheat sheet. So we did all the warm ups and went to read what we were supposed to do next and -- whoopsie -- the sheet was at the bottom of the pool in the next lane. I swam over and got it but by then the paper was pulp. We ended up doing the intensity drills instead and holy paper pulper, Batman, that done us in!

I figured that like in running I have about 2 speeds in swimming: slow and slower. But the drills we were doing called for level 2, 3, 5 and 7. Level 7?? 200 yards of level 7?? Oy. For the first time I was really sweating and overheating while swimming. In fact, I felt just as crappy as if I'd been running speed repeats on a track for a mile. I even managed my first ever hot flash while swimming. And don't even get me started on asthmatic breathing.

We made it through, complete with a nice little cool down. We dragged our sorry bodies out of the pool and anticipated that we'd be nice and sore for track tonight. Oh yeah, it's going to be a challenge doing track drills!

We're going to be so darn well trained for our triathlons that we're going to kick butts and take names. If we don't fall on our faces and sleep through the next three month's training ...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Is it just me, or is it hot in here?

A week ago, just a mere week, I was complaining that I was up all night because I was so cold. Be careful what you wish for and all that, because last night I was up all night because I was so hot. Sheesh, I even turned on my a/c for a bit to specifically combat the sleepy-time heat but it wasn't enough. That and the fact that I'm just not sleeping well at all and chalk up another sleepless night. I'm very curious about one thing. At one of our tri clinics we were told we should increase our sleep to help repair the little injuries we're causing by the intense training. Is there actually anyone anywhere that's able to just say okey dokey and begin sleeping more on command? Are there people who can just fall asleep and wake up whenever they want? Without drugs? If so color me green for envy of that ability. Just because I've had insomnia my entire life doesn't mean that it's any easier to deal with in my old age. Er, middle age. Sleepiness makes me feel older.

I had a sort-of nice run last night with Pam and Olivia. None of us was brave enough to call the others and cancel so we all showed up, despite starting time temps over 90 degrees. We agreed to take it slowly, both because of the heat and for my benefit. Despite our piddly pace I was still having trouble breathing and it felt like my inner organs were baking so with about a mile to go I sent them off ahead of me. From there I walked in the sunny parts, ran in the shade, and finished feeling like I had had an intense workout instead of the easy run I'd signed up for. I love to run with them and don't think I'll be giving it up any time soon, but I'm not sure it's working well with my tri training. Oh well, I'll just make it work!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Week 1 done, take a breath

Wow, this training stuff is hard. Heh, I guess I'd forgotten what working out 6 days per week is like. On the one hand I feel like I'm not doing anything ("only 10 miles on the bike??" "only a 3 mile run?") and on the other hand I'm pooped. I don't know if it's just so many days in a row or maybe it's the cross-training. Although I've heard rumors that cross-training is supposed to make you feel better, not worse.

To recap, week 1 consisted of running a half marathon on Saturday (well, that was really my own decision, not part of any training plan); swimming and cycling on Sunday, running with Pam on Monday (again, my own decision on what should have been an off day), swimming in a pool on Tuesday, circuit drills at the track on Wednesday, swimming in the pool again on Thursday, and collapsing on Friday. Oh wait, that was my decision too; it was an optional day off and I grabbed it with open arms. A girl's got to do laundry some day!

Saturday was another swim/cycle day, complete with clinics. This week we were at College Park High in Pleasant Hill. Less pool than at Campolindo so it was more crowded. I jumped into the pool with the intermediate swimmers and I think it was a good choice, but the lane had 5 people in it so there were lots of pauses to space ourselves out. The advanced swimmers are just too fast and although I have the stamina to keep swimming without all the pauses, I'd have to keep pausing anyways to let them pass. We all swam the same total time and I don't think anyone made it through all the sets of drills.

I was told I keep lifting my head when I breathe and I think I sounded defensive when I replied that I do that because (1) I've never tried breathing on the right side before and I'm learning, and (2) I noticed I don't swim straight and I'm doing that partially to sight. I really wasn't trying to be a smart ass to the coach, I'm very appreciative of critique and criticism. Otherwise I might as well just train alone, right? Sigh. I think I'm getting that pain in the ass reputation I was trying so hard to avoid. He told me to work on form and worry about sighting later. Okey dokey. I liked it better before we had to put our names on our caps so they'd know who we were.

Speaking of failing in my plan to fly under the radar, it's not easy being invisible when you have to stand up in front of the entire group with a silly hat on your head. Before the swim they announced the person who had raised the most money so far. Claudia tried to tell me it would be me, but she was wrong. Whew. But that was "whew" too fast; he wasn't there and I was the second highest fundraiser thus far. So I got to stand up wearing the purple pirate hat. I know that this all promotes team spirit, as does the spirit cape, yada yada, but I really detest having to get up in front of everyone. I didn't like it when I was a mentor and I don't like it now that I'm a plain old peep. I mean participant. Then I made the supreme mistake of scurrying out to get my bike and legitimately forgetting the hat at the pool. Ooopsie. Got a couple of dirty looks for that. Hey, I'm just trying to do the training, do the fundraising, meet some people, do a tri. Let someone else be the problem child.

The bike ride didn't go badly at all. I stuck with the Olympic group on that one; scheduled for an hour ride. By then it was warm, sunny, and my quads were feeling like melted jello. I was surprised how little oomph they seemed to have. I tried to hang with the front group and made it almost a mile with them. But only because they had to keep stopping at red lights. We're big on following traffic laws in this group, but that means you can't blow through a stop sign even if you can see the way is clear. Even if said stop sign is at the middle of a big freakin' hill, and you know you'll have to continue climbing from a dead stop.

The route was somewhat easier this week. It was just as hilly but rollier; there'd be a big uphill, followed by a big downhill, rinse and repeat. I'm getting to know my granny gear very well. Those 5 mph uphills were followed by 25 mph downhills. I was happy to get to 31 minutes and turn back. Whereupon I tried my utmost not to get lost. This time I made it back since I was able to follow someone, but within the next 3 months I know I'll get irretrievably lost. Either there aren't street signs, or I can't read the street signs, or I'll turn the wrong way. That'll be me, the lost person who doesn't sign out and has to be the little teapot.

We met this morning at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek for a lope along the Contra Costa Canal Trail. Unfortunately we didn't meet until 8:30 and didn't get started until even later. You know how I've been whining about how cold it's been? Buh bye coolness, hullo sunny heat. I think it was only in the low 70's, but the sun was just pouring down. The groups were running by time and I picked 40 minutes; less than the longest group would be out there, but long enough so I'd feel I actually ran a bit. Nobody is running my pace so I ran alone. Probably anyone running my speed is just a beginner and not out as long as I am.

So I'm wondering when the fun starts? We're at such small mileage that I don't feel I'm really doing anything, but we're doing so much of it that I'm tired. I'm frustrated with my lack of conditioning but not experienced enough to do anything about it. I want to schedule a half or two this summer but I don't know how I'll manage to get in 6 mile runs, let along a 10 miler. I feel like I'm swimming wrong, cycling wrong, and if anyone actually saw me they'd say I'm running wrong. After running a gazillion races I was feeling like a pro (fine, a very slow pro) and now I feel like the rawest beginner. I had come to terms with my lack of running speed but confirming that I swim and cycle just as slowly as I run is hard to take.

And then I feel I should just stop whining about it all and suck and up and embrace my ineptitude and inexperience and just get over it. Yeah, the inside of my head is real lively these days.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Swimming, shaking, then some rest

I was sleeping peacefully in bed last night, minding my own business, when a loud noise woke me up at about 1am-ish. I thought it might have been my neighbor slamming his gate (which is right outside my bedroom wall). Or maybe another neighbor starting his very loud truck. I tried to go back to sleep and lightly dozed off. Then at about 1:50 am another very loud noise startled me. I thought it might have been an earthquake, or a truck hitting my house, or that gate being slammed again. Or maybe someone breaking into my garage. My heart rate had finally returned to normal when just after 2am my bed starting shaking and I could hear my washer and drier slamming against each other.

It was actually nice getting confirmation that it was "only" an earthquake! According to the USGS there were 3 little quakes; 3.0, 3.5, 1.7, centered in Alamo less than 10 miles from my house. The first one was at 1:51 am so I still don't know what woke me earlier. Nevertheless, it was a challenge getting back to sleep.

I've decided that swimming is oh-so-very-nice in a clean, toasty warm pool. Such a difference from open water like Shadow Cliffs. But I'm still not certain that I'm getting as good of a workout in that nice shallow pool.

Tuesday and Thursday are swim nights and Claudia, Phil and I are determined to swim every scheduled lap and do all the drills. We all met at the San Ramon pool on Tuesday, swam all the drills and laps and lengths. I was tired afterward, but doing ok. Last night Phil and I met again at the San Ramon pool and the cumulative workouts for the past week caught up with us.

The pool was full of students. What's up with that? It's supposed to be adult lap swim time and there's nowhere to swim. We finally scooted into the very last lane when some young students vacated. It's a hard lane to share because the stairway narrows the lane at one end but we were managing. We even told another woman who showed up that she could join us, but it would be tight. She disappeared somewhere else.

Then a woman stops Phil and tells him she's giving a private lesson and we need to move to another lane. We told her there wasn't another lane. She repeated and insisted that she needed the lane to teach. I told her in a very polite manner to stuff it and try the other pool. No really, I was polite, and it wasn't easy. We swam off and she must have found somewhere else to go.

Both Phil and I were tired, but we were determined to do all the drills and complete the timed swim. I was having cap dysfunction. This happened Saturday too and I'm not sure why; same cap I've been wearing since I started. But it kept slipppping off my head, taking my goggles with it. Believe it or not, the first couple of times I managed to pull it back on my head without a pause in my swim. But the fourth time it happened I stopped and tried to rearrange it, putting my goggles on under the cap, thinking that maybe they were the problem. I was wrong.

Luckily it was time to cool down. My cap stayed on while I did my cool-down laps in sidestroke. Restful, peaceful and soon I was done. 1300 meters and well finished!

Except for my shoulders and upper arms I'm not sore from track, I'm just very tired. Very very tired. Extremely tired. Friday is my day off (exercise day off, not work day off). Yay! A chance to rest and recharge for the busy workout weekend!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Right Stuff

I've been single for a long time, the majority of it quite happily. I like having nobody telling me what to do, how to do it, when to get it done (been there, done that, got the decrees). Still, there are times I'd like having that someone special. Someone who cleans up well and can go places. My search is over since I've finally found Mr. Right:Straight from his birthplace at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company is my newest bear. To quote the VTB, "He's cute, huggable, and dressed to impress. No doubt about it, this guy is Mr. Right. Wearing a satin-lined tuxedo with satin side seam stripes on the pants, a white shirt front, handkerchief, black bowtie, and boutonniere, you can't go wrong with Mr. Right." And they're absolutely correct!I wasn't planning on getting a new bear. I have a few (hundred) already, I haven't run a full marathon recently, my house is looking stuffed (literally). But this little bear is different. We all know that I'm not sparing in my admiration for the VTB. I think they have a great product and I'm fortunate enough to be able to indulge my habit of bearification in my home. I've written about their bears here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Not to mention a few postings about waiting to receive the bears, thinking about ordering a bear and so forth. I'm a true believer (addict?) and love getting their emails every couple of weeks to see what's new and tempt myself.
But I currently wasn't in the market for a new bear. So I was surprised, honored and truly astounded when I was contacted by the VTB. It seems they've been blog-stalking following my bear adventures for some time now. And to misquote Sally Field, they like me! They really like me! And offered me my choice of a new VTB bear, if I wanted one. Hokey Smokes Bullwinkle! It took me the better part of a (work)day to decide which bear I wanted in my life. I was literally "ooh ooh, that one" and "ooh, no, that one" and "ohhh, that one!" all day. I didn't want to be greedy and get the most expensive bear, thought about getting a classic bare bear and dressing him up, considered a red bear to match my house, maybe an elegantly dressed bear, a casual bear, even a bear for a marathon I haven't run yet! But I kept coming back to the very handsome Mr. Right. He can't fix my drippy faucet, won't repair my broken fence, won't be cleaning or polishing anything in the house. He'll just sit there and look adorable, be soft and fuzzy and loved. Thank you so much, Vermont Teddy Bear Company!

This tri stuff is a lot of work!

I finally made it; first time ever I went to a track workout at the Clark Kerr track in Berkeley. Eight seasons of East Bay Run where I'd never scoot over there in the dawn hours, but I went there after work yesterday. It's not really the easiest place to find either. The track itself is off the road, hidden away. I got there early and was able to chill for a while, knitting away. A nice rest and needed!
The track is a dirt track in the hills with a gorgeous view of the entire bay. I was fortunate that my first time there was a totally fogless evening, we could see practically to the Farallones. Well, maybe a slight exaggeration. But for the few seconds that I had a chance, it was beautiful looking that way.

And the goats! The hillside was being groomed by a large herd (trip, tribe) of goats. Big ones, little ones, gray ones, black ones. They seemed fascinated by our workout and probably would have liked to join us. Bad idea little goatlings, our workout was hard!

Hi, I'd like to join the Team!

Before the workout Coach Paul asked for shout-outs. Either the crowd is very lucky not knowing anyone who currently has Leukemia, Lymphoma or Myeloma, or they're just private or shy. Since my very personal honoree is dead I don't open my mouth. I sent quiet shout-outs to my other honorees, Raji and Anita's sister. It was a nice moment and reminds people that we're not just there to become studlier.

You can get the gory details of the track workout from Phil's blog over here. Being much slower than him I only had to do the circuit once. As the warmup I ran 4 laps, then 5 laps during the circuit training, then another 4 laps to cool down. I probably did the first ones too fast and I concentrated on slowing down the last ones. Heh, I'm consistent enough that each lap on my final mile was 2 seconds slower than the previous one. And I was really trying to go slower.

I'm reconfirmed to myself that I'm abysmal at circuit drills, one of the reasons I've blown off track in the past. I have zero upper body strength. I'm completely unable to do one of the side planks. Just Can. Not. Do. Them. And yes, there were coaches everywhere, correcting form and very nicely not laughing at my attempts. I managed 5 push-ups, done regular instead of girly style. I'm so careful of my knee that I just don't want any weight on it so I tried the regular ones and no, my form wasn't perfect.

Leg lifts (even done correctly), squats, no problemo. I refuse to do any lunges so I was told to substitute more squats. I find that although my doc warned me about doing them, if I'm very very careful and use good form I can get them done. Unlike lunges which always hurt my knee. As I went to do the crunches I asked Coach Paul whether I should have bent or straight legs; he said either, the upper body form was more important. I told him that I actually have pretty strong abs, in fact I've always thought that if I lost 40 pounds I'd have a great six-pack. I managed to crack him up on that one.

I think by the time I finished the entire circuit all of the coaches had found out I have knee issues, which I had sort of wanted to keep quiet. I don't want to be the injured one, the one they keep an eye on, the one who's different. Bad enough being old and fat and slow so I don't want to add to it. Several of them asked me after the workout how my knee was and I honestly told them it was ok. Hahahah. No, that was a lie. It was very sore and achy by the time I finished. But there are two type of pain I've had in my knee (and all over, for that matter); ow-this-is-sore but will go away tomorrow pain, and holy-crap-I've-screwed-it-up it'll-hurt-for-days pain. I'm thinking I'll spend the entire season with the first type so I'm just not going to mention it. If it isn't advil pain that I'm going to smile and say I'm alright. I know my body, my pain tolerance, my injuries well enough by now to know that I won't have a pain-free season. I'm a marathoner, I'll suck it up.

The worst part of track was the long drive home and not getting out of the shower and headed to food until 8:45 pm. By then I was ready to start chewing my arm off and even a Lean Cuisine takes some time to nuke. I'm highly torn between wanting to eat everything in sight, and realizing I don't need that much food and if I'm careful, I might drop a pound or two. No, I'm not really trying to lose weight but I certainly don't want to gain anything either, and with me it's a fine line. So I don't want to eat 100 calories of energy bar in the car when I can have something good (and slightly more natural) to eat later. I'm going to have to work on this, figure out something to do as our weekday workouts get longer.

I slept well last night, the first time in days. I think I got 6 straight hours of sleep which I haven't gotten for -- um -- weeks, at least. So I'm not as fatigued today as I expected, or as sore. I'm feeling the workout in my upper arms and shoulders, a little residual soreness in my knee. I'm ready for tonight's swim!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

See Jane Run Half Marathon report

They ran out of chocolate!

Last Wednesday I trekked into Oakland to pick up my race packet for the See Jane Run Half Marathon. Packet pick-up was at their Oakland store either Wednesday or Friday, in SF in Thursday or before the race on Saturday. I decided to get it out of the way early. It's a nice little store with a very good selection of athletic clothing, shoes and gear. Including a rack with large sizes, yay. There was a table set up where they were handing out bibs, shirts and goody bags. The shirts were a light-weight tech fabric, short sleeved and v-necked, in white. The back is blank and the front had their race motto: "I run for champagne and chocolate."
I had ordered a large size and it was very large. Too bad it's white; we know how I feel about white running shirts. I'll probably wear it at home for cross training though. The goody bag itself (which they ran out of before Saturday, although an email has already been sent saying they'll be mailed out to those who didn't get them) was a wonderful reusable shopping bag. It had the saying "A Fit Woman is a Powerful Woman" and all the letters were pictures of women athletes. Very cool.Inside was some literature, race announcements, a couple of samples, a Luna Bar and a discount coupon for See Jane Run Sports. At least as nice as you'd get at bigger races.

Early Saturday morning I carpooled to the start with Bree and Sandy. We drove around for a while, looking for street parking, and it was tight. There was apparently a lot charging for parking but we wanted a free spot. We finally got one and walked over to the start area. There was a humongous line for the porto potties so Sandy and I stood there while Bree went to pick up our chips.

While we were standing and waiting Cynthia joined us in line as we inched forward. It didn't take too long and then we headed toward the start line. There were signs with pace but they were really close together. We lost Cynthia, but Bree and Sandy and I lined up together.

The weather was cool, about 50 degrees, and completely overcast. The wind was strong and swirly and could become an issue later. I wore shorts, a short sleeved shirt, a disposable poncho and gloves. The gun went off and woosh, so did Bree and Sandy. Mr. Garmin told me they were going about an 11:15 mile pace so I hung back and got into my own pace.

There seemed to be about 1000 women running the race (oh, did I mention? It was a woman-only race.) and the race results show 995 finishers. Pretty impressive for a small race. It was crowded but I was still able to get into my rhythm without too much weaving and bobbing. A lot of women were run:walking but they were mostly being good about getting out of the way then they slowed down. Mostly.

My plan was to 9:1 it for as long as I could, hopefully not have to walk any additional time because of my knee or my breathing. It worked out well and I managed to stick with it the entire race. The course was a typical Alameda run except for some back and forthing in a couple of business parks. I got totally confused at a couple of points but there was very good course control. At any corner with a questionable turn there were people directing runners and stopping traffic to let us by. I didn't see any markings on the street but maybe I just missed it. It didn't make any difference since the traffic directors and police were very efficient.

Water stops were about every 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 miles apart. They all had water, some electrolyte drink and Gu. Different flavors of Gu were at each table so it was easy to get what I wanted, even though I had some of my own. I was tired and heavy-footed so I took my own Gu on a shorter schedule than I'm used to, about every 40 minutes instead of 50 or 60, hoping the calories and sugar would pep me up.

There was very little crowd support except for some family members cheering on their mom/wife/sister/daughter/friend. These people cheered for everyone and it was nice to see them. Except for one woman at about the 6 mile mark who kept shouting "you're almost there" and I wanted to "almost there" her upside the head. I couldn't restrain myself from telling her to not say that, we were way the hell not almost there. A woman running next to me cracked up and agreed that "almost there" only counted when you could see the finish area.

The sky remained overcast, with maybe a little bit of moisture falling here and there (although that could have been sweat falling). The wind was an issue mostly because I have problems with my allergies and asthma when wind blows into or across my face. I think for a large part of the race the wind was like that, with a couple of short distances of tail wind. My breathing was crappy but I tried not to let it slow me down. I had ditched the poncho after about a mile, dropped one glove after a couple of miles, tossed the other glove after about an hour and a half.

I was happy to finally head back over the bridge, knowing there were only a few miles left. There was a lot of slant on the roads and I tried to run at the crest. I also tried to take every single tangent there was. Mr. Garmin told me that around 6 miles I had run .1 mile more than posted and after that I noticed the mile markers were almost all correct. They were just little signs stuck on pylons and there seemed to be 1 or 2 missing.

I finally got to the park, got to the finish area, crossed the line. I was handed my very cool finisher medallion, a sterling silver charm on a black cord:But they were out of chocolate.

I finished in 2:49, a good time for me. I had basically sprinted the last mile, while needing to walk, because I wanted to break 2:50. I don't know why I needed to do that, but it was a mental thing. I stuck with my game plan throughout, walking only at my 1 minute interval or through the couple of water stops where I got water. Otherwise I ran whether I was wheezing or not, whether my knee hurt or not (and after mid-way it hurt a lot), whether I wanted to stop or not. I was very pleased with my finish time.

After I walked off my little last-mile sprint, I looked over the food to see what was good. They had cut up bagels (3 flavors), some fruit, yogurty things, no chocolate. We walked around the booths and got our champagne. There was about 2 ounces in a glass, perfect. It's the principle of the thing: if a race has free champagne (or beer) at the end you have to drink it. Even if you're feeling like you'll puke it back up. Heh. I just thought of it as bubbly rehydration. We walked around the area and tried to find the chocolate but it was gone. Long gone.

It was still cold out, we were tired, so we didn't hang around too long. All in all, a good morning. My knee was aching, my lungs hurt, I was cold and tired and very happy that I'd been able to run another race. I think the race was well done for a small club-type race.

But they should have had more chocolate!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

This is June?

I awoke in the early hours of the morning today, freezing. I had gone to bed with socks on and when I do that in the middle of winter I alway toss them away after an hour or so because my feet get so hot. They were still on my feet and good grief, by this time of year I should be sleeping with just a sheet instead of 3 blankets. The past several weeks I've been waking up very early and not falling back to sleep. This just isn't going to work well with training almost every day. Wah!

Last night Pam and I ran our usual short short route. I wasn't sure how it would go, my legs are feeling tired and a bit sore from the weekend. But I was fine, if a little slower than normal. Monday is supposed to be my day off but I really like running with Pam so I'm going to try to jiggle the schedule somehow. I'm pretty sure I'll take the optional Friday day off since I like being fresh for my big workout on Saturday. But that means training Saturday through Thursday without a break. Oh yawn!

Speaking of track, tomorrow is going to be the very first time, after 8 or so seasons on the marathon team, that I'll be going to the track in Berkeley. Looking back, I made it to Clark Kerr a grand total of never. I wasn't able to get there first thing on Thursday mornings since it would have meant going San Ramon, Berkeley, San Ramon, Walnut Creek. I'd never have made it to work on time. The run team had an evening training on this side of the hills and when I'd attend any track, that's where I'd go. But the tri team only has the 1 workout and it's in the evening and I don't really have a good excuse since I'll be off work. Except that I always used to get hurt at track and I'm starting with an injury and it might be easier to just not go rather than have to explain why I'm not doing lunges or speed work or whatever.

That and $4.50 gas and a 40 mile round trip may have me training closer to home!

Monday, June 2, 2008

One day down, three months to go

I'm alternately excited and terrified and so far out of my comfort zone that it isn't funny. Yesterday was my first day of tri training and holy schmoly, why in the world did I ever agree to do this?? I have GOT to stop drinking with Claudia and agreeing to her ridiculous suggestions.

The team met in the morning at Campolind0 High in Moraga. After a talk and then an explanation and demonstration of swim techniques and drills it was into the pool. I decided to go in with the intermediate people since I'm slow. Although I can easily do the distance I don't need to get run over in the lane. It worked out pretty well except my brain just will not remember the laps I've completed and I feel like a dolt trying to figure out how far I've gone. The swim coach told me to time one lap, then swim by time. Hmm, I can probably do that!

It was lovely getting in a warm, clean pool after all our swims in nasty Shadow Cliffs, but turning around every 25 yards is a drag. I just don't feel I'm getting any rhythm when I do that. I can work on my form, which is important, but I know that once I get in the open water everything changes. Hopefully all the drilling will help with, I dunno, muscle memory? I think that's the theory, that even when your brain forgets what it's supposed to do, you can keep going without thinking. Good, because I've proven over and over that my brain is not reliable during sports.

Once the swim was over we quickly changed into cycling gear and then sat and had a short clinic on fluids and nutrition. Seriously, for a while there I thought I was at an introductory Weight Watchers meeting. Maybe it's just because I've been eating like that for years and years and years, but I felt Coach Paul was very clear and concise in his information. Small meals and snacks, carbs over protein, low healthy fats, drink enough but not too much, blah blah blah. Don't worry if you're not losing weight, don't weigh yourself every day, experiment with gels and drinks and so forth. I listened but didn't really hear anything new for me.

After a short instruction of bike etiquette and rules of the road, it was on the bikes. I was sticking with the shorter training group yesterday but I think I'm going to train with the Half IM group, just to get in extra miles. We were supposed to ride 40 minutes; head toward Canyon and turn around after 20 minutes. Okey dokey. I was in the last group to set off which included a few people who were actually slower than me. The route passed through Orinda and up a hill. Coach Paul caught up with me at one point and we had a nice conversation.

He told me he wanted to see me spinning at higher revs. I told him that I had a bit of exercise induced asthma and that spinning higher would make me gasp. I told him the short version of my athletic history (joined TnT in 2001 and ran 30 marathons since then and nobody else on the team really has to know that about me). I told him I was probably going to be one of his slowest participants but I could outlast almost anyone else there. He gave me the party line that speed doesn't matter (uh huh, and you're wearing Ironman gear instead of TnT gear why?) and I said that as long as I finished before a time cut-off I didn't really care. I'm hoping I got across that I wasn't saying I don't try to go faster; I'm trying my hardest and not slacking but I realize that speed isn't one of my talents. And yes I do find it frustrating to look like a slow, fat, middle-aged asthmatic woman. And be a slow, fat, middle-aged asthmatic woman. My heart thinks I'm a gazelle but my brain knows I'm more like a rhino.

Anyway, I asked him what he thought of my being able to train for a fall marathon and bottom line, he thinks it should be possible. He told me to run the Half IM group's mileage and that would put me at 13 miles, 4 weeks before my tri. I could then jump up my miles right after my tri and in theory be ready for a November marathon. He thinks that if I'm in tri shape I shouldn't have to do more than an 18-20 miler for my longest run and I didn't tell him that it's a mental thing for me to have to go longer. But that's what I'll shoot for then. I'll be studying races later this week to see what I can do.

The coach also gave me instructions on how to pedal more efficiently up the hill and it helped on the big 'un. I was down to my last granny gear but I made it to the top without stopping (and unfortunately several of the other people in the group did not) and was going a turtle's pace of 5 mph. I was really happy at the top that it was exactly 20 minutes; I wouldn't have to ride down the back side of the hill and back up again!. I told the people behind me we could turn around and I think everyone else was as happy as I was. The return was mostly downhill but I was fatigued by then and I think even the easiest ride would have hurt.

Once people returned we had a tire changing clinic. Could have used it 2 weeks ago! I was interested to see that he didn't take the tire off completely. Mostly what he showed was exactly what we did, only considerably faster. Hey, I've already said I was slow!

So what are my initial impressions of my new team? My goal, other than completing my first tri in good form and time, was to not be the oldest, fattest, slowest or poorest runner/swimmer/cyclist on the team. Yeah, I set high goals, don't I? I'm pretty sure I have that taken care of. I just have to make sure that all the other newbies on the team don't progress faster than I do, or I'll fall to the very bottom of the heap. There are lots of coaches on the team (head coach, swim coach, run coach, bike coach, all those other coaches) and lots of captains and mentors. I didn't get to find out who they all were since I wasn't at kick-off. I didn't find out who our honorees were. There isn't the team spirit I'm used to with Coach Al's team but I'm starting to understand just what a unique gem Coach Al is. I may have been in the locker room or something but I didn't hear anything about the cause. No "go team" and really, no team bonding stuff at all. That may be the nature of the sport; you can't swim or cycle with someone else during the race. Or it could be that it'll come later.

Oh. And I'm NOT HAPPY that the pictures on the team website include one of my fat ass in a bathing suit! Now that was something I could have gone forever without having to see!