Friday, August 29, 2008

Last swim at Shadow Cliffs

I was almost looking forward to jumping in the lake at Shadow Cliffs last night. Almost. It was hot as heck here, in the lower 100's. We were having another Spare the Air Day because the pollution was at levels dangerous for sensitive individuals. And I wanted to have one last swim in a wetsuit to see how I've progressed.

Claudia and I met up early since Phil was taking a well deserved night off. We decided that we'd melt if we tried to swim in wetsuits so we just wore bathing suits. The lake was crowded with people sitting in the shallow water, hanging out. It looked like one person was swimming in the lane and from the shore it appeared that the lane had shrunk down to mere inches.

We were scheduled to swim a short warmup and then a 40 minute continuous swim at race pace. To us that translated to 6 laps. We waded out to the lane in the surprisingly cool water, dove in and started swimming. I stood once in the lane and it was only about as deep as my chest. The bottom was gross, slimy, icky with green yucky stuff so we didn't want to stand at all.

The width of the lane wasn't an optical illusion, it truly was only about 3 feet wide in the middle. We started swimming outside the lane but collisions seemed imminent so I swam in the middle and Claudia swam outside. I worked at form, worked at swimming straight, worked at trying to breathe. I had hoped that since I was breathing right at water level I'd have less trouble with the air pollution but it wasn't to be. I was floundering and sputtering and working way harder than I should have been. It was as if I hadn't spent the last several months swimming and was starting all over again.

I quit early, after only 5 laps. I'd had enough of the shallow, stinky, gross water and just wanted to be finished. Since I'd been swimming so slowly I was almost at 40 minutes anyway so I didn't feel too bad about not swimming the entire thing. Also, all of our swimming this season has been at the highest training levels for the Olympic group and the intermediate group (where we probably belonged in the first place) was only swimming 30 minutes so it wasn't as if I was totally under-performing. Yeah, excuses are wonderful things.

We had originally thought we'd be able to go back to Shadow Cliffs one more time next week, after it cooled down, with our wetsuits. After swimming there and seeing how low (and slimy) the water is, we won't be going back. I'd rather just go with the training I have than jump in there again. As the coach says, we're fully trained now and we can't make up for lost training opportunities at this point.

Hmmm. I'm not sure I feel fully trained!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Long swim

Last night was our longest swim yet and what I had thought would be our longest swim of the season. We were scheduled for 3000 yards (1.7 miles), done mostly in sets of 500 yards with 30 second rest intervals in between. We were supposed to swim "race pace."

I arrived determined to only swim as much as I could, thinking I'd go for 2500 yards maybe. Unless the pool was too crowded or unless I was too tired or unless I was too sore or unless I just wasn't in the mood for it. Nice attitude, hmm? Lap swim hours have just reverted back to spring/fall hours and now start at 6:30 pm. I didn't know if classes were resuming or whether the extreme heat would cause lots of extra people to be there.

Phil and I arrived on time and saw that the pool was full of not only swim classes, but the high school's water polo team taking up the deep end. The classes ended on time and we snagged 2 lanes next to each other in the middle of the pool, realizing that we'd probably have to share when more people showed up. We knew that could be a problem since he's a much faster swimmer than I am and we'd have to keep passing and pulling over.

About a half hour into our swim I saw a large group of boys at the other side of the pool, obviously waiting for lessons. They were hanging out in the lanes next to me and some of them looked like they wanted to jump into my lane. I studiously ignored them, turning in the other direction when I was at that side of the pool. Tough luck for them, they ended up crammed into their own lanes while I continued back and forthing in my own lane. From what I could see all the other lanes had filled up.

Swimming 500 yards in a set means 10 laps back and forth. Lots of counting, lots of remembering. We all know how good I am at that, right? My entire evening consisted of me saying to myself "eight eight eight eight eight eight eight eight ..." and then "nine nine nine nine nine ..." and so on, over and over. A bit monotonous, but I actually managed to keep track. I was counting the sets on my watch with the lap counter so I could even keep track of laps and sets at a time.

I started my sets at a very comfortable pace, figuring that I'd never finish if I swam hard. I decided to swim the last sets harder than the first ones, thinking that a harder perceived effort when I was tired would result in my swimming about the same pace as when I swam easier and was fresh. To my surprise I actually swam faster the last 2 sets, with my last set about the same as the first one.

When Phil finished I had almost a complete set left to swim but he very nicely stayed around when he could have gone home and had dinner - thank you Phil! I was tired afterward, my back and neck a little sore, but overall quite happy that I actually swam the entire workout. I thought that was it, thought that was our longest swim of the season.

Then I glanced at the schedule this morning and saw that next Tuesday is 3200 yards. And next Thursday is 3150 yards. Yikes! This is a taper?? I can't wait until tri time!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A run, a swim and a bike ride. But mostly, a run!

Saturday was the Team's long run for the season. For those of us training for the Olympic length Pacific Grove Tri, the schedule was to run no more than 7 miles. For those of us who hadn't run in the past several weeks, that looked daunting. And by "us" I mean me.

I received permission from my physical therapist to run. He said something like "you can run blah blah blah blah" and since I didn't really hear the "blah blah" I didn't worry about it. Oh fine, he said I could run as long as I took it easy and stopped if my back began to hurt. But mostly, he said I could run. So run I did indeed.

Seven miles, which was 7 miles more than I'd run in longer than I can remember. We ran along the Iron Horse Trail from Dublin heading north. A pretty boring part of the trail, in full sunlight, but I didn't care. It was running. To celebrate I decided to try to run without any walk breaks. I ran continuously until the light at Bollinger Canyon, about 2-3/4 miles. I felt pretty good. I continued to run to the turn-around at 3-1/2 miles, then took a walk break while I sucked down some Gu. I ran back to the light, waited for it to change, then ran to the water stop at about the 5 mile mark.

My back felt not too painful, my knee was hurting just a little, but I was very tired and my legs were getting flat. I added in a couple of walk breaks and finished my 7 miles feeling hot, nauseous, sore and thrilled that I was running again. I'll be happy if I can run the tri in that much time and only feel as crappy as I did yesterday.

This morning was our field trip to the kelp-y cove in Pacific Grove where we'll be swimming in just a few weeks. I had dreaded this, afraid that my freak-out factor would send me over the edge. I drove down to Monterey early in the morning with my sis and bro-in-law and arrived at Lover's Point about 8:30 am. I met up with the team and we gazed at the Bay. And at the big old sea lion lounging in the water, waiting for us to go for a swim.We all squeezed into our wetsuits, to the vast amusement of my family. Then we headed to the beach and into the water. It was -- uh -- icky. That's really the only way to describe swimming in that stuff. The kelp was clingy, and scratchy, and smelly, and everywhere.
That's kelp all over the place in the picture. We swam out and through it and along it and yuck. Whenever I'd put my head in the water I'd get a face full of the stuff. I'd swim and it attached itself to my arms, or legs, or head. I tried pulling myself through it and that actually worked. But overall, the swim will be a challenge. The course is a double loop so we have to leave the water, run along the beach, re-enter the water and swim the loop again. Then we run up some steps (whose bright idea was that?), along a ramp and over to the transition area. I know I'll do fine, know that I'll get it done, but I'm not really looking forward to it.

We didn't swim too long, then we headed back to our cars and our bikes. We all rode out along the route, a 6+ mile out-and-back that we'll be riding 4 times in the tri. It's flattish, with a couple of steep grades (or small hills) and will get pretty boring by the last time around. I only rode it twice, although most of the group went for 3 times. I was cold, and tired, and didn't really see the need for continuing.

So I've been over the entire course. I've run the run part of the race several times, both during a race (the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay) and during a leisurely run. It was supposed to incorporate part of the trail but it looks like that part will also be on the street since the trail is torn up for repair or reconstruction. I've ridden the bike portion twice and run it a few times, and swam in the icky water.

My prediction is a finish in 4:20-4:30. I know it's slow, but the only part I'm really certain of is the bike ride which I know will be just over 2 hours. My first transition will be long because my feet and hands and face will be frozen and it'll take me forever to run up the steps, not to mention ripping off the wetsuit and putting on my cycling gear. I know I won't finish the run any faster than 1:14, more likely 1:20 if I'm as tired as I think I'll be. I'm thinking about 45 minutes for the swim, but if I freak out it'll be longer and if I just settle in it'll be much less. There's no doubt that I will finish, I'm way too determined and committed (and stubborn) to not get through it.

Man, I wish it were over.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wait. I thought this was vacation

Apparently I don't schedule my vacations well. Note to self: no vacations with visiting family members during the last build week of training for an athletic event while undergoing physical therapy for some aching part of my body.

I left home early this morning to make my 7:30 am appointment to have my back shmooshed and squished and pounded and bent and ultimately owie. My therapist is getting a little concerned because I initially showed quite a bit of improvement but now I seem to be stuck at this same level of "it hurts - not a lot, not crippling, but -- it hurts." Since I'm not real good at describing the pain (uh, burning pinching firey owies isn't good enough?) (deep sharp dull pain is contradictory??) he's having problems fixing it. So today was some aggressive deep tissue work, adjustment, shoving and digging and ouch.

Anyway, it's tiring. Then I need to go home and still do all the homework exercises and stretches twice daily. Yeah, good thing I don't sleep, gives me more time for therapy.

Since I had family obligations tonight I had to do my swim during the middle of the day. I'd never been to the San Ramon pool during the lunch hour lap swim and didn't know what to expect. It's gotten warm again, very warm so I thought maybe it would be as crowded as the evening. Unknown to me there is only adult lap swim at that time, no family swim and no lessons. The entire pool was laned off for adult swimming so I was able to get my very own lane for the entire time. There were a bunch of people swimming (and the guy in the lane next to me crawling along the bottom of the pool, underwater the entire lane and back and wow, nice lungs but gee, it's odd to see him doing that) but I didn't have any feelings of being rushed or crowded. Too bad I have to work and can't do that every day! I did miss my peeps - it's easier swimming for an hour when you're training with someone. Yes Claudia and Phil, I do appreciate your company!

My schedule was for 2500 yards but since I didn't want to desert my family for that long I cut out one set of 500 and just did 2000. I was swimming straight as an arrow down the middle of the lane but was afraid it was because I was following the white line. So I closed my eyes and didn't look for several strokes. The first time I did that, early in the workout, I was dead on in the middle when I opened my eyes. Exactly where I should have been. But when I did it again after about 1500 yards it was a different story. After 2 strokes I smacked into the lane line. I straightened out and tried it again. Crash again, same side. Hmm. I guess I swim better when I'm not tired. Good thing I'm so very well trained that I won't be tired during the entire 1500 yard icy cold kelp-laden swim. Uh, right.

I'm looking forward to having a rest day tomorrow, even though I'll be doing the PT and even possibly going for a short swim with my sis if the heat increases the way it's supposed to. At this point anything less than our full workout feels like a day off! I'm going to enjoy taper time!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A short vacation

My sis and bro-in law are coming to visit today! I'll be taking a few days off work and no days off of my training. Luckily my sis is a runner and fitness fanatic so she'll be training right along side of me. I mean right in front of me, she's much faster than I am.

Last night Claudia, Phil and I went to Shadow Scum Cliffs for one of the last swims we'll be able to do there this year. The water is rapidly disappearing, drying up, evaporating in our drought. Boats are no longer able to launch but for some reason yesterday they restocked the lake with fish. Huh? The only way to catch them now is to either wade out to the middle of the lake or stand on the shore with a long line. Of course, that meant that we'd have little fishie company during the swim. Claudia was not pleased.

We decided to swim 7 laps this week, increasing last week's swim by 1 lap. That's a total of 1960 yards, well over what we'll be swimming during our tri (well, not Phil - he'll be swimming more than us). The swim went very well for me, I was going straighter than I have been. As long as I was paying attention. When I got into swimming along and cruising happily and just going forward I'd veer off to one side. Then the other. So I need to keep my mind on what I'm doing, keep my mind on my form and sight constantly.

I've watched the Olympic swimmers and the women's triathlon and boy howdy, can they move! It surprises me that the form of some of the swimmers just looks wrong, but they power forward like torpedoes so it has to work for them. The swim part of the tri freaked the crap out of me, all of them swimming madly in a huge splashy crowd, often on top of each other, drafting right on the feet of the swimmers in front. It was interesting to see how they'd breathe to see the person next to them. I don't know how they did it without inhaling great gobs of the water that was splashing in their faces but I guess that's what makes them pros. It was intimidating and inspirational all at the same time.

Twelve years ago I went to a concert festival with my then boyfriend and developed a deep and abiding passion for the music of one of the bands that played that day, the Dave Matthews Band. Since then I've attended their concerts every year that they've played in the Bay Area, often going to both shows if tickets were available. I know many people scoff at their sound and popularity but their music touches something deep inside me. It was with great sorrow that I heard the following, taken directly from the band's website:

LEROI MOORE 1961-2008


We are deeply saddened that LeRoi Moore, saxophonist and founding member of Dave Matthews Band, died unexpectedly Tuesday afternoon, August 19, 2008, at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles from sudden complications stemming from his June ATV accident on his farm near Charlottesville, Virginia. LeRoi had recently returned to his Los Angeles home to begin an intensive physical rehabilitation program.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Denial and delusions

I'm totally prepared for this triathlon, will kick ass and feel fabulous when I finish. Sandy isn't going to move, and if she is then she'll be back in 6 months. Mary Ann will return by the end of the year. Pam will get a job here and move back permanently. My knee is completely healed and will never trouble me again. My back will be completely rehabbed by the end of this week when my physical therapy runs out. The changes at work will be simple and easy to understand. My stomach problems are clearing up. My mom loves living up here. I'll be able to run at least 2 marathons this year, and finish them in about 5:45.


Our longest bike ride was on Saturday. Those of us training for Pac Grove were scheduled to ride 30 miles but we got turned around a bit early so I rode 28.98 miles according to my bike computer and 29.4 according to Mr. Garmin. I'm counting it as 29 miles. We met at the Park & Ride up at my corner and I had intended to just ride over there, but we were supposed to run afterward and I needed my car to keep all my running gear while I rode and my riding stuff while I ran. It felt funny to drive .6 miles to get there but at least I got to leave home later than normal.

Our route was straight down San Ramon Valley Road, which turns into Foothill in Dublin and heads through Pleasanton to Sunol. We then turned onto Calaveras Road heading toward the reservoir but got to turn around way before the hills started. The ride was much easier this time without the mechanical problems I had the first time we did the ride. I was trying to keep my intensity low and my goal was to really pay attention to my nutritional needs.

I did well on all the hills except for the one on the way back just past the high school in Pleasanton. There I felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out or maybe my lungs would burst through my chest wall. I think that was probably a "10" on the effort chart. I recovered well though and took it easy for the last few miles into the mild headwind. It was very warm out and I did well with hydration but I should have taken more gels. I had some little oatmeal bites that I munched on but they seemed to sit in my stomach like tiny rocks so I think I'll go back to only gels or sport beans or sharkies.

Although I probably shouldn't have, I ran the run after the ride. I probably should have done the 2 minute walk, 4 minute run, but I ran 6 minutes, walked 2, ran 2. My legs felt surprisingly steady but tired. I couldn't help but think of how challenging it's going to be to not only run 6 miles afterward, but to do it when I've not only completed the bike ride but also finished the cold swim. I'm wishing I'd had more bricks that were longer. I could have done with more 20 mile rides followed by 4 mile runs or half mile swims followed by 20 mile rides. Whatever, I'll make do.

Sunday's run went well too. We were scheduled to go 40 minutes, meeting at the Rudgear Road Park & Ride and running south on the Iron Horse. I decided to comply with my instructions and ran:walked a 4:2. The running felt good; stiff, creaky, but good. I averaged better time than I thought I would and I'll really be happy if I can keep at least a 4:2 for the tri, although I'll going to attempt to run it all (hah) or go for a 4:1 if my legs are toast.

We had Sandy's good bye dinner Sunday night and wahhhhh! Boo hoo and although she's not leaving for a few weeks yet, sob sob sob.

But I'll just keep telling myself she's not moving, or she'll return immediately, and I'm incredibly ready for this triathlon!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Going straight

Yesterday I made sure that my therapist worked on both sides of my back and neck, hoping the symmetry would help me during my swim. The deep tissue work and electrical stim left me feeling sore but flexible. I could turn my head from side to side for the first time in weeks and my back pain was reduced to a dull throbbing.

Claudia and I showed up at Shadow Scum Cliffs earlier than the scheduled time, simply because we were done with work and didn't want to wait around. One of our teammates was also there. It was crowded since it was around a gazillion degrees out. Even with the water level so low it's still a lake and many families were wading and picnicking and watching the weirdos trying to squeeze into wetsuits.

We discovered that it's much tougher to pull on a wetsuit when you're already hot and sweaty. It sticks, everywhere. What was easy last week took forever this week. There were quite a few of the people who are allowed to swim across the lake, people in their green caps, people who looked at us as the amateurs that we are. I think they were amused with our newbie struggles too.

We finally waded up to the swim lane and took off. We had decided to just swim a mile which would be about 6 laps. I let them set off first since I'm slower and wanted to work on my form. After a few strokes I realized I was swimming much straighter than I had last week. As long as I paid attention to what I was doing. When I settled into swimming, quit sighting, relaxed, I was going off at angles. So along with just swimming I worked hard at swimming well. I practiced sighting (which is tough since I really can't see distances too well), kicking when I sighted and not jumping out of my skin every time someone else swam by (I don't know why I do this, just reaction and impulse). I worked on full arm movements, steady pace, body rotation. By the time I finished a couple of laps I was feeling good about my swimming.

It was really too warm for a wetsuit and periodically I pulled out the neckline and let water flow in. That's a very strange sensation, feeling water oozing and trickling down and out the legs and arms. But it was very cooling and rather than overheat I continued to do it.

We finally completed our 6 laps and decided that we deserved a treat. I haven't managed to eat dinner at all this week, too many late workouts and what's the point of dinner at 9pm or later. So we scurried to rinse off and change and drove back to where we'd met. We sat and had cheap fast Chinese food. Yum, a great reward for hard work!

Our long bike ride is tomorrow with a short run afterward and a longer run on Sunday. I'm looking forward to doing some run/walking, so much better than walking! I hope it cools down some before then.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Actual running during a brick

Tuesday night I swam with Claudia and Phil at the San Ramon pool. Since it was warm (hot) outside it was much more crowded than it's been and we all shared a lane. During the slower parts of the workout that wasn't a problem since many rest breaks were included and I'd catch up while they rested. But then the intensity increased, along with their speed. Ok, my speed increased a little too, but my level 7 speed is oodles slower than theirs. So they kept lapping me. Not a problem, I think I was only about 200 yards behind them at the finish. Nevertheless, I still managed to finish 2500 yards (with some of the rest breaks included) in a bit over an hour. If you think that about 6 minutes is "a bit."

Wednesday night was another brick training, this time in hotville. Why is it when the weather cools we end up in Alameda, and when we have a heatwave we're in Orinda? It was about a million degrees when we started (but it's a dry heat so it only felt like a thousand degrees) and a light breeze picked up during the middle of the workout. We were scheduled for a warmup run, a bike ride, run, ride, run, cool down ride.

I had been given permission by my therapist to do a run/walk, as long as I kept it slow (ha! that's my only speed) and easy (double ha! because of the weather). I thought our runs would be like they have in the past, 10 minutes, so I was supposed to walk 2 minutes, run 4 minutes, walk 2. It turned out that we were doing 6 minute runs so I decided to improvise.

The rides were a short out-and-back of about 4 miles. We were supposed to take it easy on the flats and go up to level 8 on the hills. As I was riding the first time our Coach rode with me for a while, asking me how things were going, how my back was, how my knee was, how my training was going, etc. He asked if riding hills hurt my back and I admitted that it did; he said to take it easy on the hill. I laughed because it normally takes me a level 8 just to get up the hill, even when I'm not trying for the intensity. When he asked if I would I would have liked anything different with the training, I said no, just a different body. Good luck with that.

I busted a gut going up the hill and breezed down, turned around and started back up again. The return isn't as steep so it was easier but I still ended up in my granny gear. When I reached the top I bombed the downhill. I was in my drops and just screaming fast until I realized that it would be a very bad idea to lay my bike down a couple of weeks before my event. I sat up, slowed down a bit and regained a little more control. But it was fun as hell while it lasted. I used to be able to handle going that fast but I need more experience before doing it now.

I mixed up the middle run with walking, didn't do more than 3 minutes of running. And I started with a run instead of a walk since I wanted to feel a real transition. When I got back on my bike again I still felt like I was out of breath from my first ride so I took it even easier on the flat. When I got to the hill I again powered up (all things being relative), sped down, climbed back up. But when I got to the top it had gotten darker and I couldn't see all the flaws and bumps and ridges in the road so I went slower than the first time (again, all things being relative).

The last run I decided to see how much I could do without hurting my back. I ended up running 4 minutes and it was wonderful. I wanted to run the whole thing but that little voice in my head told me not to. One last transition and then a very easy cool down ride. I kept it slow and spinning and was happy to finish.

It was still very warm when I finished and I was drippng and tired and very happy that I had, for once, completed a full set of the bricks. I know my body isn't up to a sustained run, or a run at my normal speed, but every little bit counts.

Since it's still a bazillion degrees out with slightly scummy air, I'm glad that tonight's workout is at Shadow Cliffs. I'll take swimming in a scummy shallow lake while wearing a wetsuit over any other activity while it's this hot.

Well, maybe not any other activity. Drinking margaritas counts as activity, right?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More complete physical therapy update

This has been a physically compromised training season. I started with a knee injury and then re-injured my back. Neither affected my cycling or swimming but I haven't done any significant running. Actually, I haven't done any significant running all year. It's been the un-runningist year since I started in 2000 and I miss it immensely. I've improved my swimming, found my cycling is pretty good, but it just doesn't give me the same enjoyment as running.

I'm back visiting the same therapist that worked on my knee this spring. He's big on assigning homework exercises and I've managed to talk him into decreasing those from a few hours daily to only two sessions of about 40 minutes each. When I visit I get electrical stimulation and heat (very nice), ultrasound and then some active release techniques. The last is supposed to break up any adhesions on muscles and tendons. This is done by the therapist manipulating the tissue while the patient moves. It's like a deep tissue massage and not something of which I'm fond.

I have very sensitive skin (and apparently very sensitive tissues below the skin) and any deep tissue work creates something like a bruise. Unfortunately the technique works. I now have little bruises behind my shoulders and on my lower back, but I also have greatly increased range of motion and less pain inside.

Last night after a great swim with Claudia and Phil at the local crowded pool (it's warm again; all the fair-weather swimmers are out) I was sore all over. I went home and after getting my gear ready for tonight's brick workouts I became the ice queen. I sat there for about 15 minutes with two ice packs on my knee (one on the front, one on the back), a bag of frozen corn across my lower back and another ice pack on my left shoulder. Luckily it was still pretty warm out and the cold didn't bother me.

All that helped. My back and neck have improved and I think my knee may be ok. I was given permission to try to run, for very short periods, as long as it doesn't hurt. Hopefully that means I can at least practice transitions, even though I'll still be walking much of the workout.

I only have a couple more visits to PT left and hopefully I'll be completely cured by then. And more hopefully I won't have another injury. I'm cautiously optimistic that my injuries will continue to improve and that this year was only a fluke.

As another update, remember when I freezer burned my knee with an ice pack? It healed up pretty well, but the skin is still (months later) very discolored and, well, kinda ugly. I find that I have to be very careful icing that spot now because the skin is sensitive to cold. I don't know if it'll ever be back to normal. Let this be a warning: ice carefully!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Physical therapy update

I ran for 5 minutes today. Yippee!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Not as much downtime as I'd like

My hope for the weekend was that I could spend lots and lots of time doing nothing. Sitting around, staring at a book or the Olympics. Sleeping. Reading the paper. I got more accomplished than I had planned and spent less time on the couch than I'd hoped.

Saturday was a team bike ride along the same ol' route we've been riding. I don't mind, at least there's no chance in the world that I'll get lost. The route is easy-ish with an upgrade and a couple of short hills on the way out, downgrade with a tail wind on the return. Since we were finishing up a "recovery" week (ha haha hahahahah) we were to stick with low intensity. Since I pretty much only HAVE one intensity, that's how I rode.

The weather was perfect; the fog had just burned off, the wind was blowing, the sun was bright and the temp was just about 70. I rode most of the ride alone since somebody decided to ride on her own, but that way I was really able to power the return ride. Yeah, I know I was supposed to take it easy, but in that stretch I couldn't help it. My brand new tire behaved itself and didn't pick up any nails so the ride was a great success.

We were supposed to do a short run after the ride, about 1-1/2 miles. I got to walk it. Yawn. There's nothing wrong with walking. I just find having to walk when I want to run a real trial. I had to keep repeating in my brain "don't run, don't run, don'trundon'trun don'tdon'tdon'tdon't" because my feet just wanted to take off. I walked the whole thing though. I'm not stupid, I know that I need to let my back heal. But I'm getting very concerned since I haven't been able to do any bike/run bricks. My first one might be on September 13th and that will be challenging.

Sunday was scheduled for a 45 minute run so again, I walked. The team was running in Berkeley and since travel time would have been about 1-1/2 hours, I decided to stay home. In fact I decided to stay inside and use the treadmill. I watched some Olympics and some news and some cartoons and got my 45 minutes completed.

I miss running, I miss my running buddies.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


My training buddies abandoned me while they went off and partied (happy birthday Linds!) so I headed off to Scum Lake Shadow Cliffs all by myself. Sing it now: Allllll by mysellllff. Ha! Now it'll be stuck in your head all day. Anyhoo, Shadow Cliffs by myself. And about a half dozen team members. Fine, I wasn't alone. But I missed my cohorts!

This was supposed to be another test of swimming in my wetsuit, since there won't be any more weekend open water swims except for our practice in Pacific Grove. I got to the lake and the weather and water didn't really warrant using the wetsuit, but that was the purpose of being there so I suited up. I heavily Body Glided my neck to try to avoid the kind of nasty welt I got on Saturday. A few other places to coat then into the suit. In some ways it's getting easier to pull on but it's still a struggle to place it so I can move my joints comfortably.

I headed out into the water, intending to dive in as soon as the water got over my knees. As soon as the water gets over my knees. As soon as the ... huh? Why's the water so shallow? I was able to easily walk right out to the swim lane which used to be, I dunno, at least 15 feet deep or more. And the bottom of the lake was urgghhh nasty plant life and ickk slimy stuff and ew I'm not touching that again!

As I swam along trying to figure out why they had moved the swim lane in closer I finally remembered reading this. Our drought not only means I have to take shorter showers and water my yard less, it's causing the water levels at Shadow Cliffs to drop 2 to 3 inches per week. That means it's possible that we can only swim there a couple more weeks. We could probably walk across the lake at this point.

So I started swimming, paying attention to using complete arm strokes, sighting and kicking nice and easily. We were scheduled to swim about 35 minutes at race pace. Which is pretty much my normal pace. I realized that yes indeedy Ms. Claudia was right: I do in fact zig and zag when I'm swimming in a wetsuit. It's not just the lane markers in pools that keep me straight, I swam straighter all the other times we've been at Shadow Cliffs. Somehow my arm movements while wearing the wetsuit are so lopsided that I'm going back and forth and back and forth and I probably swam twice as far as I had to.

On my return during the first lap, one of the coaches who was hanging out in the (shallow) (yucky) water told me that I was crossing my right arm in front of me and that was causing me to go left. Which is strange because earlier in the season it was my left arm doing the same thing and causing me to veer right. So I straightened it out and it didn't help in the slightest. Sighting didn't help, keeping an eye on the lane rope didn't help, zip nada nothing helped.

Add to that major cap malfunction. I've had that problem before and have remedied it by putting baby powder in my dry cap. Oops, I forgot. I've also been trying a different hairdo in anticipation of the race, trying to keep the shorter hair out of my face. It's long enough that I've been braiding it. No, not one long one in the back, since the front hair is too short for that. No, not nice little French braids; I don't know how to do that. These are good old fashioned Pocahontas braids. Pippi Longstocking braids. They look faintly ridiculous on someone my age but they're doing the job. Except they didn't help me keep my cap on tonight.

About every hundred feet the cap had drifted so high on my head it threatened to fall off. I'd roll on my back, tug it down, re-settle my goggles, flip over and start swimming again. Then it was every 50 feet. Then I just couldn't get the damn thing on at all and I ripped it off and stuffed it down my wetsuit. The braids kept most of my hair out of my face, but without the cap the goggles didn't fit right and water kept leaking in.

I finally gave up and called it a night, 37 minutes and 1400 yards later. Despite being scheduled for only 35 minutes, I really wanted to get at least 2000 yards (we've been swimming much more than that in the pool). But my frustration level was deeper than the lake so I stood up and walked out. At least I got good practice in ripping off the wetsuit.

Now everything itches. I'm pretty sure it's all psychological at this point, but ick.

You're probably wondering about that "Desserted" and no, I didn't forget how to spell. That refers to my lunch treat. We had a field trip at lunch to check out a new yarn shop, the Yarn Boutique in Lafayette. After billing and cooing at the yarn (and buying some, of course!) we stopped at the Teacake Bake Shop and ohmigosh they have the best cupcake I can remember ever eating. I had their Thursday special, a moist, light, spicy and sweet treat and I wanted to go back for more. I might have to make that my Thursday regular lunch!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Is that water from the sky?

Last night Claudia, Phil and I were some of the very few people who managed to show up to swim at the pool. It was nice, we were able to get 2 lanes so that they didn't have to wait for me and I didn't have to pull over for them. Why was it so uncrowded? I think partially that some of the swim classes are on hiatus right now, just before school starts. And some families are on vacation before school starts. But the biggest reason was the very strange weather.

It was cloudy, humid (all things being relative - no pun intended - since it was still only about 60% humidity), breezy to windy and cool. I think everyone except for the weirdos athletes stayed home. But we had our 2600 yards to swim and had no excuses to skip out. We're getting faster (or totally unable to count sets) and even I finished in under 1 hour 10 minutes. I worked hard on my form; full arm stroke, strong slow kick, face and neck relaxed, calm breathing. All that on sets where the tempo and speed increased. Could it possibly be that we're getting better at this?

As we were walking to the locker rooms I saw a lovely rainbow in the sky. Nice omen! The sky was streaked in beautiful shades of reds and purples and was just gorgeous to look at. And on my drive home it rained. Well, it drizzled. Ok fine, there were 14 drops of water on my windshield. That's more precipitation than we've had since about March.

After I got home I needed to put my bike in the car for the Wednesday night brick workout and decided to see, once again, if I could get my bike rack to work. I bought that rack when I bought my last car (which was substantially the same as my current car) and was never able to get it installed well enough to use it. Either I couldn't fit it in the car, or I couldn't fit the bike onto it without removing the seat, or something else would happen. In frustration I hung it in the garage and ignored it, thinking once in a while that I'd donate it to Goodwill or somewhere. Since my sis and bro-in-law will be here for our trial swim/bike ride down in Monterey I needed to figure out how to get 3 people, my bike and my tri pack in the car at the same time.

Two friends have offered to loan me their back-of-the-car racks and that would have been my last resort. But after way longer than it should have taken I got the rack installed, my bike on the rack, and the rest of my gear stowed away. I need to take the front tire off the bike but I don't have to remove the seat. I only have to fold half the back seat down so I can have my family in the car with my stuff. I think 2 people with 2 bikes and their gear would also fit comfortably. Yay and yippee for one problem solved!

Now I just have to heal my back enough so that I can run, make sure my knee is healed enough to run, learn not to freak out in crowded water and not get nails in my tires and I'll be all set!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I still knit too!

Guess what this is going to be??


Such a small thing, so tiny, so able to ruin my morning.

Nothing ruined Saturday morning though. Up early, headed to Claudia's to carpool into San Francisco for our second Aquatic Park swim. We again got there in good time, way faster than we'd get home later in the day. After some short team business, and an injury prevention clinic from a local chiropractor, we all suited up.

It's getting a little easier pulling on the sausage casing wetsuit. I know how high up to pull the legs, where to place the knee, how to pull up the arms so that I can move my shoulders. I added my booties and squid lid and was ready to jump in the water.

The freezing water. It was considerably colder than our first swim there, and way colder than Del Valle last weekend. I firmly told myself to just run in and start swimming and for the most part, I did. Of course, I couldn't put my face down for more than a second so that slopped up my form, but at least my brain wasn't freaking out. After just a couple of minutes my fingers and face went numb and it got easier to swim along.

I cut the corner, not seeing the buoy we were supposed to swim around. Ooopsie. I was having vision problems, a combo of fogged goggles and a schmootzy contact lens. Luckily there's a building way off in the first direction, kind of hard to miss, that I could sight off of. I was doing ok avoiding other people and thought I was swimming in a straight line but Claudia informed me that I was zigging and zagging. Surprising, it really seemed from my sighting that I was going straight. At least in that direction.

As I was swimming along one of our coaches who was floating around in the water, making sure we didn't drown, told me I was cutting my arm stroke short. Sunofagun, he was right. I guess because of the tightness of the wetsuit I was only doing about half strokes. I started paying a lot of attention to that, thinking that I'd probably go a bit faster than my pitiful pace if I was swimming right. Then as I got around to the beginning again I saw another coach who told me to kick more (I wasn't kicking at all, just letting my legs float along happily behind me) so that I'd go faster. Hmm. I guess my pace worries them. So I started kicking, still paying attention to my arms, trying to get a new rhythm.

This whole season I've been focusing on not kicking since so many people have told me that's what you do to save your legs for the ride and run. It's going to take practice to learn how to kick again without tiring myself out too much and without using so much energy in the cold water that my breathing gets worse. Good thing we've got all the (scummy) swims at Shadow Cliffs for practice.

After our timed swims we practiced mass starts. Although it would have been much more beneficial doing this before we got used to the cold water, I guess you get what you ask for! They shoved us all together and had us run together to the water, dive in, swim to a buoy and return. I lined up at the back the first time and didn't have too much problem, mostly because I was expecting the water to be freezing. The second time they shoved us together tighter and I wasn't as far back as before. That time I got shoved, run over, bumped into (and kicked Claudia in the throat - I'm sorry!) and tried to keep pace with the other swimmers. That was a mistake; by the time I reached the buoy my heart rate was outrageous and my breathing was ragged. I slowed down a little on the return and that helped. Until I tried to stand up and walk out of the water; I was tilting and stumbling like I had consumed 6 martinis.So I'll have to watch that in the real race (no, not the 6 martinis!) (well, that too). I can't keep up with most of the others, just like in cycling and running. I have to go my own pace from the start or I'll blow the whole shebang. I didn't freak out with people so close, and was able to swim even while I was being shoved around. That's a plus!

After the swim our group was scheduled for a 60 minute run. For me that meant a 60 minute walk. Yawn! Boring! Yes, you can check out more of the scenery when you walk. But good grief, it just goes on and on and on and on and I really had to hold myself back from running any of it. I decided I'd walk to where I knew was 2 miles, figuring I should be able to walk about 4 miles in about an hour. Maybe I shouldn't have gone so far.

Despite the boredom I felt good while walking. My back wasn't hurting too much, the weather was fabulous, the views of the Golden Gate Bridge were spectacular. It wasn't until I got to the downhill close to the finish that my back started aching. A lot. Ruh roh, overdoing it again. I was glad to finish, get in the car and head for home. And my ice pack.

Because this morning was an on-your-own bike ride, Claudia, Rocky and I met up to ride the same route we've been doing. We started off at 8:00 am along with one of our teammates who had the same idea. Again, the weather was pretty nice, the fog burning off while we rode along. The guys kept getting ahead of the girls but that was ok, they were faster and that way they wouldn't have to poke along with us.

When we got to Blackhawk we decided to continue along Camino Tassajara all the way to Highland, then turn around. We knew that coming back would be a slight incline into a strong headwind, but the outward bound ride was great. I haven't been along that stretch of road in years but I remembered the long stretch without any bike lane and cars zooming along at 50 mph. Or faster.

After the turnaround Claudia and I slowed down considerably (incline and wind, remember?) but the guys powered ahead and were soon out of sight. We enjoyed our pokey pace, pushing ourselves but not knocking ourselves out. We were just getting to the area where the wind shifts to a tailwind and the incline becomes a decline, my favorite stretch to power along, when BANG! Clank-clank-clank-clank-clank! I had run over something (well, duh!). I was able to brake and stop and got off my bike. I checked the front tire and it was ok. Of course, it would have to be the back one. Flat as a pancake. Sigh.

Claudia and I pulled off the road and luckily there was a wide sidewalk there. I started getting everything ready to change the tire (yuck), got out my tube, gas cannister, levers, blah blah, then took a good look at the tire. I saw this:
Holy crap! Would you like a closer look?
Right through my tire, 2-1/2 inches of pointy ruin-my-day nail. In one side of the tire, out the other side. With 2 big gaping holes in the tire.

Game over. No way to fix that; a little patch kit wouldn't have covered the holes and would have just wasted a tube (and my patience). In my head I swore very loudly, repeatedly. Claudia tried to call Rocky but he didn't answer. We decided that she'd ride back to the cars (another hour, at least) and I'd walk my bike over to the closest Starbucks to sit in comfort while I waited. Sigh.

I started hiking along in my cleated clacking shoes, rolling my flatted bike alongside of me. It was at least a good half mile to the Starbucks (since I got lost in the shopping center) and as I walked up one of the employees came outside and asked if I was Amy. Yuh. Claudia had just called. She got a flat. Sigh.

Like the dummy that I am, I didn't have my cell phone with me. Why, I thought, would I need it when I was riding with other people who had phones. Dummy. I sat there outside of Starbucks for 14 hours. Ok, maybe it was closer to 2 hours. No way to get an update, no way of knowing what was going on. Just sitting there counting the Mercedes, BMWs, Hummers, Lexus' and other incredibly expensive vehicles disgorging caffeine lovers. And I didn't get anything to drink because my stomach was upset so I sat there. Lalalalalala. Sigh.

Finally Claudia and Rocky came to my rescue (thankyouthankyouthankyou!) and we were able (to my great surprise) to fit not only my bike, but me into the car that already had 2 bikes and 2 people. Back to my car, back to the start, only 18 miles ridden. Sigh.

I was fed up, tired, pissed off, cranky. So what did I do? I went over to my mom's house since she'd been expecting me for the past hour. "Why were you late??" I spent a couple of hours there and headed to a local bike shop to get a new tire.

I admit it, I was lazy as can be and paid the shop to pull the tire off, put on the new tire (and new tube) and put the wheel back on the bike. Yes, I know how to do it. Yes, I could have done it myself. But it would have taken at least a half hour and more likely an hour and I just didn't have the desire or energy left to do it.

Stupid nail.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Swimming and not running

Tomorrow is another team swim at Aquatic Park. I definitely need a lot more experience in crowded, cold, open water swims. Since my body (not to mention my brain) freaks out in those circumstances, only repetition will help me either get used to it, or get over it.

We were surprised to look on our schedules and see that this is the last team open water swim; the only other team swims are in pools. To help this the coaches are going to be leading Tuesday and/or Thursday swims at the local lakes/reservoirs. Yes indeedy, that means back to Shadow Cliffs. Back to swimmer's itch. Back to being able to swim for longer distances without having to turn around every 25 feet, without being able to rest on the pool floor. We should be able to get more wetsuit practice too, although if the heat returns it would probably be too warm.

When I join Claudia and Rocky for our on-your-own bike ride on Sunday morning I'll have to keep focused. Otherwise I'll be horribly sad that I'm not in San Francisco, running the SF Marathon Half. My streak has ended. Since 2002 I've run either the half or the full every year. It isn't the greatest race, but I like it, like the course and the scenery and seeing the City from that vantage point. It doesn't have cheering crowds like Nike, certainly doesn't have the Tiffany's necklace like Nike. It also doesn't have the claustrophobia inducing hordes of people at the start, the hour plus wait for a bus at the finish or walkers toiling up the hills and blocking the entire road for the whole race. Bummer. Hopefully I'll be running again soon and I'll start a new streak at that time.