Sunday, December 28, 2008

At least the days are getting longer now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it spring yet?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cold ride, short run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

why yes, it was hilly

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A conversation

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

Me: "Uh huh."

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Maybe it's the holidays

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

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

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

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

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

Back to business

It's amazing how soon the vacation glow disappears.

Monday, December 15, 2008

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Regaining some structure

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Perchance to dream

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Three bears are not better than one

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I finally warmed up too!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Glove season

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

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

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

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

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

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