Friday, January 30, 2009

Sunkist Naturals: a product review

A couple of months ago I received an email from a company asking me to try, and then review on my blog, their new smoothie product. My first thought was "huh?" followed closely by "huh?" so I checked out their website to see what I was being asked to try.

I'm not a big smoothie drinker, I normally prefer to chew my calories rather than drink them. In theory I carefully watch each and every thing I consume, especially when I'm training for something (which is all the time). Since my stomach problems of last summer I haven't been eating a lot of fruit; the acidity is still troublesome so avoidance has been my practice. Apples are ok, pears less so (I don't get it either), bananas are fine but I don't seem to get the calorie bang-for-the-buck I'm looking for, eating any citrus makes me feel like I'm drinking battery acid, blueberries ok, melons are out of season. I tend not to eat strawberries except when I know they're freshly picked because I detest that plastic taste of the unripe fruit, so I avoid them just so I don't bite into an unripe one. But ripe strawberries, ripe raspberries, ripe -- oh, ripe mostly any fruit -- I'm all in favor of eating at any time. In the small quantities my stomach allows these days.

During the summer when I was training my guts out for the triathlon I usually finished my weekday workouts long after a decent time to eat and digest dinner. I ended up either skipping dinner, eating some ice cream (way healthy, I know), or going to bed too late because I wanted to eat something and needed to digest it before sleeping. When I was asked to try Sunkist Naturals I thought they might be a good replacement for a late post-workout dinner. And probably much better for me than ice cream.

I replied back that I'd like to try either their strawberry dream, glorious greens, or the orange cream. To my surprise they said they'd send me all of them. So I waited, and waited, and totally forgot about the whole thing until the delivery of a big box. Since the smoothies are natural (hence the name), they need refrigeration. They were shipped in a cold box with cooling packs to keep them fresh.

So here I was, middle of freaking cold winter, in the 30's outside and the mid-60's inside, and I needed to try these chilly concoctions. I don't tend to drink cold things when I'm chilled. Then I came down with the cold from hell and didn't want to eat. Didn't want to drink. Didn't want to do anything except lie around and whine. Perfect time to try a vitamin-packed, hopefully tasty, fluid smoothie. I looked over the ingredients and the strawberry dream was loaded with vitamin C, just what I needed for the cold. I shook it up, poured about half the bottle into a glass, and took a sip. Holy schmoley, it really did taste like fresh strawberries. Like fresh ripe strawberries. With a banana/orange undertaste, but mostly strawberries. I sucked it right down and poured a little more into the glass, trying to be conservative since I didn't know what the 100% fruit drink would do to my stomach. Wow, I really liked it. And it ended up being very easy on my stomach. I liked it enough that I rationed out the remainder of the bottle for a sip here and there when I craved something fruity.

I wanted to try the orange cream because it contains protein; 11 grams per 8 ounce serving. I figured this could be a substitute for eating something after a long workout. There's that 30 minute window (which is also called a 20 minute window or a 40 minute window depending on who you talk with) (I mean, with whom you talk) where you need to replenish protein after hard exercise. It's something I always have a problem with since I have no desire for food immediately after a workout (only time ever that I have no desire for food). One day after cycling I poured some into a glass and gave it a try. It tasted almost exactly like a creamsicle with a faint aftertaste of -- something I couldn't figure out. It wasn't a bad aftertaste, but it was there. It didn't thrill me like the strawberry but I could definitely see drinking this intead of forcing myself to eat solid food after a long run or ride. I rationed out the remainder of this bottle too; a couple of ounces here and there when I didn't think eating ice cream was a good idea.

My luck ran out with the glorious greens. I was expecting a flavor like mixed apple, kiwi, pineapple but what I got was more grassy. More wheatgerm-ish. Less fruit, more natural health-food hippy green good-for-you tasting. I know several people who would adore this drink (and dislike the fruitier smoothies) but it wasn't for me. The color wasn't appetizing to me either; green and grainy. On second, third, fourth and fifth tries I liked it maybe just a little better (or I was getting used to it) but it definitely isn't my style.

Because of the lack of preservatives or other unnatural things there is an expiration date on these, just like with any other fresh juice, but the ones I got didn't expire for more than a month after I received them. And although they say they'll keep for 7-10 days in the fridge after opening, I found the taste lasted for the 2 weeks I had the strawberry and orange ones open. Possibly the vitamins weren't as good, but it didn't hurt me that I could tell.

Will I buy them? If either of my local Whole Foods stores is carrying them I will. At this point it seems that Whole Foods is the only place in my area that currently carries the Sunkist Naturals, and they may not carry the entire line. I will buy the strawberry dream in a heartbeat, and will buy the orange cream this summer for after hot runs or swims. I also want to try the berry cherry bountiful and the berry blue bountiful. I will not buy the greens (or finish the bottle) and I don't think I'll bother to try the mango or carrot since mangos aren't at the top of my fruit list and I think carrots should only be eaten as carrots or as cake.

I'm still a bigger fan of chewing my fresh fruit than I am of drinking smoothies, but these will make a nice change and a nice substitute if fruit isn't available or if my stomach is still having issues. If you try them, let me know what you think of them. Especially the green one!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I'll start tomorrow instead

I love my friends, but they all insist on getting older, which involves birthdays, which involves cake. Obviously, to be a good friend I have to share in said cake. I do my best to not disappoint friends by not partaking in their celebrations.

Last night we gathered to celebrate Anita's birthday at Luka's in Oakland. I had been looking forward to eating their mussels (and I just typed "muscles" and ew) all week, and looking forward to drinking a martini all day (don't ask). It turned out to be a gala celebration and I managed to stick to my guns and only have one drink. Staying away from that molten chocolate cake was much harder.

I had a great (although short) run on Tuesday night, and didn't manage to exercise anything except for my brain yesterday. My goal was to get up early this morning and spin on the cycle on the trainer for an hour. As we all know well, those early morning goals haven't been met for ages. Mostly because I've been awaking (awakening?) at 4:30 am almost every day, then not getting back to sleep, but being too tired to get up and do anything except go to work. My alarm went off and instead of resetting it I hit the snooze. Several minutes later when it sounded again I decided to get out of bed and do something active.

Since I had pumped up the tires on the old bike, and checked the trainer (since I haven't really managed to use it yet except for testing), I thought spinning was a great idea. I put on my cycle shorts and shoes and hopped on the bike and after about one whole minute I realized my sit bones were still so sore from last Saturday that it was agony to sit on the seat. Damn. So I hopped off, changed my shoes and did part of one of my lower body workout tapes. I didn't want to do the whole tape since I hadn't done it in a while and didn't want to my hamstrings to be aching for our ride on Saturday. Hopefully I'll be able to sit on the (new) bike seat then.

I made a very strong effort to avoid bringing a cake to the office for Jeanette's birthday. So in the grand tradition of my workplace, she got her own. And forced me to eat a piece.

I think I'll have to go home and run on the treadmill tonight to make up for it.

Happy Birthday Jeanette!

To a very good friend and the Best! Administrative Assistant! Ever!! Have a very happy birthday and many more. Sorry you have to work today! :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Is that how it works?

I stepped on the scale this morning and had an astounding revelation. Apparently you can't exercise 3 times during the week (even if one of those times takes all day), eat what you ate when you were exercising 6 times during the week, and not gain weight. It doesn't matter if your lungs feel like they've been worked over with a fine sandpaper, nor does it matter if your sit bones are bruised or your back is sore. It seems the old equation of the remainder of calories in, less calories burned equals a fat body. I'd like some new math but it's not happening.

So I either have to quit eating the wrong foods in the wrong quantities or start doing the workouts I'm scheduled to do. Knitting doesn't burn enough calories. Darn.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ride from Point Reyes

I made it past 50 miles! After missing the mark the past 2 weeks, I finally rode right on past yesterday. My total was 54 miles and each one was hard earned. It was beautiful and hilly. And hilly. Did I mention the hills?

The team had staggered starts so that we could all meet afterward for lunch. Bree and I carpooled over to Marin; I left my house just after 6:00 am and we got to our meeting point at Point Reyes National Seashore just before 8:00. Long ride and we hadn't even gotten on our bikes.

This was Cole's Ride, named after a little boy who didn't make it through his struggle with Leukemia. Before the ride we heard about Cole's short life, his joy and fighting spirit. It is for Cole, and others like him, that we fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We're riding for a cure, as the slogan goes, one mile at a time. Please, if you haven't given any money to the LLS, consider making a tax deductible donation now. Either through the link over on the right, or directly on their website; it all goes to the same place.

Our group got on the road at 8:45 am, a little later than scheduled. The hills started when we did. We went through Point Reyes Station and at about 15 miles had our first rest stop at the Cheese Factory. We left there and got to what was called the first hill of the day. Apparently those things we had been riding up and down weren't considered hills by our coaches. I disagreed, but nobody asked me. This so-called first hill had it's own name, never a good sign. This was a hill because of the grade; I'm pretty certain that it was completely vertical. Very tough to climb. Equally scary to descend.

Up, down, along Chileno Valley, toward Tomales, along Tomales Bay, up and down the rollers on Highway 1, past the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, up Stupid Hill (I don't know who named it, but it was appropriate), finally back to our starting point. Two weeks ago when we rode out there we saw the slightest bit of greening; yesterday the hills were deep emerald green and lovely. It was spring come early. We rode past a spectacular valley completely covered with bright yellow mustard plants. We saw a hawk sitting a few feet away from us on a fence post. A horse in a field decided to race us along the fence line. As we rode down a hill, a deer leaped across the road between 2 of our riders. It was beautiful, it was surreal.

And it was bone deep tiring. Almost exactly after I passed the 50 mile mark I hit the wall. Bonk city and it was territory I hadn't been in for a long time. I knew we had a few miles left and I didn't know how I'd make it, but I pushed on (it's that "never quit" thing). Everything ached, I had no strength in my legs or arms, I was wheezing and the on verge of tears. Coach Lorraine stayed right behind me, making sure I got back. Although I was deeply in the bite-me-zone, I was too tired to express any of it. I just needed to get off of the bike.

Once I stopped, stretched, drank and ate I felt much better. It was a very quick recovery and showed me that I didn't eat or drink enough while I was riding. Just like when I run, I find it hard to eat any solid food. Between my digestion and lack of appetite when I'm moving, I don't want food (the only time ever that I don't want food). But a million gels won't be enough for 100 miles so I'll have to work at it. I think I'll have a good chance next weekend since Coach Cyd told us we'd be back there again for our next ride. Oy.

Bree and I decided that we were way too tired to hang around and join the team at lunch. Dinner. Afternoon snack. Cocktail hour. Whatever you want to call it. We got back in her car and headed on home. I finally walked back in my door at 5:00 pm. Long day. I managed a shower and a frozen diet pizza and some hummus and pretzels and sat on my couch, again staring the tv like a zombie. It's becoming a habit.

We had arranged to run this morning so Anita, Bree and I met at the trail. We didn't have high hopes of a good run and after running for about 2 minutes I was wheezing and Bree's knee was swelling. We started walking, chatting, schmoozing, talking, headed along the trail. We ended up with 5 miles and a good walk. I think most of our Sunday runs after long Saturday rides will become walks; we just don't have the energy for more. But we promised Anita that after Solvang there'd be no more centuries, no more tri's. Back to running, knees and backs willing. We all miss the long miles.

I'm going to make an effort this week to get some cycling in, on the trainer. After spending the money and the time to set it up, I need to use it. I also need to clean my bike; the roads were wet and there's mud splatter all over my pretty shiny ride. Cycling, cleaning, running, eating and drinking, working. My week is full!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wet weekend, wet ride?

My paranoia factor for riding is high. Throw in some wet pavement, pouring rain, rookie riders and the lightweight bike and that factor increases by leaps and bounds. Even if the experienced riders on the team hadn't been kissing the ground on a regular basis, I'd worry about all of us newbies.

We're scheduled for a 65-ish mile ride tomorrow and I'm hoping that we get to complete it. I'm hoping that we get to start it! It's another Mill Valley ride but I won't get lost this time; I'm carpooling with Bree. The drive over will take about 2 hours from my house (including transferring my bike to her car) and that's not even thinking about the drive back when there will be traffic. I hope that it's not too hazy because it should be very pretty once we get over there.

I know we need the rain (I'm tired of washing my face with cold water and my brownish lawn would like water). But can't it just rain on Sunday through Friday? I'm experienced with running in the rain but cycling? Cross your fingers for drier weather!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why I will not be cycling or running near Boulder

In what would be one of my worst nightmares come to life (and confirms all my fears about running at Inspiration Point), this was reported:
A cow charged a woman on the South Boulder Creek Trail on Monday afternoon, knocking her down, officials said.

The woman was riding her bike on the trail when she encountered the cow, and she stopped to let the animal pass, said Pete Taylor, a ranger for Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks. The cow knocked the woman over and walked on her legs, he said.

He said the woman -- whose name wasn't released -- wasn’t seriously injured, and she refused medical treatment.

She didn’t appear to do anything to provoke the animal, which witnesses said appeared to have an injured leg, he said. The cow had left the scene by the time rangers arrived, but hikers coming down the trail were warning others about the rogue bovine.

Marshall Mesa open space is leased by livestock owners and used as grazing land. Taylor said the cow’s owner was notified.

In 2003, a woman was rammed three times and her pelvis fractured by a grazing mama cow when she accidentally ran between the animal and her calf on the South Boulder Creek Trail.

Jason Vogel, vice president of the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance, called Monday's attack "odd, rare and random" and said he hasn’t heard of any other cows going after cyclists. It’s not even common to come across cows on the trails, he said, though they often can be seen nearby.

"It’s not something people should be concerned about," he said.

Not be concerned?!?!?! I don't even live there and I'm concerned!

Stop laughing at me right now.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Riding and running and cleaning, oh my!

Can I go to work please? This weekend has just been too tiring.

Saturday morning was a team buddy ride, meeting in Pleasanton, scheduled for about 50 miles. I was terrified that we would again be riding Palomares, but on a 50 miler this time. Oh silly me! That would have been the easy ride. Instead, we rode the Altamont. If there was a soundtrack to this blog there would be music of doom here.

The Altamont is the Pass between the coast and the central valley. To be precise, a mountain pass between the Livermore Valley and the San Joaquin Valley. We started in the Livermore Valley and went up, then down, the mountain. The Altamont Pass is home to wind farms - places with gigantic windmills (or turbines as these fancy modern monsters are called). This would be because it's so windy there; I believe it's because of the temperature differential between the cool coast and the hot valley. Very windy. Very very windy. And hilly.

I could tell how windy it was when we were riding downhill, pedaling as hard as we could in our granny gear, and still going less than 6 mph. Windy. Suffice it to say that it was a very hard ride and after 20 miles I was questioning my sanity. After 30 miles I was questioning my sanity and my body. After 40 miles -- actually, after 40 miles I got a second wind and was glad to be almost done.I ended up with about 49 miles, not quite the 50 barrier I had hoped to break. Yes, I could have continued for that extra mile and turned around and what, am I crazy? Whether 49 or 50 I was glad to be done and headed toward beer and fries a healthy lunch.

I love my cycling team. This past summer I never really got into the tri team, partially because I was having other issues. But the cycling team seems friendlier, warmer, more accepting of rookies. The coaches (those remaining uninjured, and what's up with that anyway??), the captains (ditto uninjured and healthy) and mentors (again, ditto) are all wonderful. The ones currently unable to ride still show up and support the team, especially our head coach (who is the only coach on any team I've been on who always shows up at the buddy trainings). I'll point out the coaches of our little group of not-quite-the-slowest-riders, Beth and Lorraine, for special mention. They are making this experience so much richer by their presence - thanks ladies! And almost without exception I'm enjoying my teammates who are all gaining experience and skills along with me. Now if only my sit bones would stop hurting so much ...

Saturday night I was just a teeny step above zombie-ism. I lounged on my sofa staring blankly at the television screen, unable to move, unable to sleep, not hungry or thirsty and just about as pooped as I've every been, including after running marathons. My hands were too sore to knit (deathgrip on the brakes coming down a couple of those hills) and I didn't have the energy to follow a pattern anyway. I couldn't concentrate on a book so I just watched episode after episode of NCIS; even changing the channel was too much of an effort. Finally about midnight I crawled into bed and stared at the inside of my eyelids for a couple of hours until I fell into a restless sleep. I'm just a smidge worried that I only went half as far and a fraction of the elevation gain that we'll be riding in Solvang.

Sunday I was tempted to call in sick to our run but Sandy was in town and I wasn't going to miss that! I met Sandy and Bree in Alameda and whined my way through our planned 6 mile run. Or 6 mile run/walk, as it turned out. I wasn't sore from the ride but I was very fatigued. It was a beautiful day, even if it wasn't clear enough to see across the bay, and I'm lucky that my knee and back were feeling well enough to carry me along out there.

Sunday afternoon was filled with normal weekend Mom stuff; no rest there.

Today I had promised myself I'd clean my house. It had gotten to the point where every time I'd walk in I'd shudder. I got up, started cleaning and laundry and more cleaning and managed to clean an entire 3 rooms (and cleaned them to sparkling!). Then I decided that I needed to do yardwork almost as much as I needed to clean the house, so I should do that while it was still light out. I figured one, maybe two hours would get the worst of the outside mess cleaned up.

Today felt more like summer than winter. Sorry to those on the east coast and the middle of the country, but it was sunny, clear, warm. Little or no wind, clean air, lovely day. I wanted to trim back my jasmine; I have 3 lattices that are overgrown with jasmine since I've been ignoring my yard since last spring. New growth is much prettier and blooms better than the old so I was just going to trim. I started trimming one along my fence. It was so overgrown that it was pulling down the lattice and growing through the fence. I trimmed a little, a little more, more, more and uh oh. I ended up cutting those suckers right down to the ground. It's 3 plants and now it's 3 -- um -- stumps. Oh, they'll grow back (probably). It's not like I didn't pay for it, my arms are all scratched up and bruised. After that I carefully trimmed the plants on the lattice by my slider - it's my favorite when it blooms and the smell wafts inside so I didn't want to take the chance of destroying it.

My planned one or two hour garden jaunt turned out to be four hours. Looks like the rest of my house is just going to have to wait until another time to get cleaned.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

DIY Tri Teddy

Longtime readers know my -- um -- distinctive way of displaying all my marathon medals: around the neck of a teddy bear. Not just any old bear will do, it has to be an appropriate bear. It could be a Maui medal bear with a surfboard, the New York bear dressed as the Statue of Liberty, an Irish dancer bear for the Shamrock Marathon medal, etc. Sometimes it's been as simple as a cute bear wearing a shirt representing the locale. In a very few instances I've substituted another animal; the Flying Pig medal is on a flying pig, Disney on Mickey, Leading Ladies on a black footed ferret. When I was training for the triathlon this summer I had decided that bears are for marathon medals only, not for tri medals. I had to draw the line somewhere.

When I finished the tri so well, after so much hard work, I decided that indeed, I needed a bear to proudly display that medal. The day after the tri I scoured Pacific Grove and Monterey for a bear. It seemed that bear stuffies weren't allowed on the Monterey Peninsula; otters abounded. There were big otters, little otters, mommy with baby otters, otters otters otters. Not a bear to be found. I couldn't even find a tiny Pacific Grove tee shirt to stick on a bear. So I ended up buying a little otter instead.

Over time I really got to dislike that otter. It looked like a big fuzzy rat with a medal. So I started shopping for a triathlon bear. Of course I first visited the website of my favorite bear merchant, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company. Imagine my surprise when they not only didn't have a triathlon bear (go figure!) (they don't have a knitting bear either), they didn't even have a cycling bear or a competitive swimming bear. They have 26 bears under the sport category and a couple of hidden bears for a couple of specific marathons; no basic running bear, no triathlon bear. So I started looking elsewhere. Sorry VTB, I'm a loyal shopper but I have needs!

I looked everywhere for a bear that could fit as my Triathlon at Pacific Grove medal holder, with no luck. I decided I'd just have to make my own. No, not knit or sew or stuff my own. I mean dress my own. I had a very distinct vision of what this bear should look like to incorporate all three sports of a triathlon. At a different bear shop I discovered a tiny bicycle helmet. Good start! I bought a pair of baby's swim goggles. I found a pair of black teddy tights that I could cut off the feet and they'd look just like spandex tri shorts. With those in hand I headed back to VTB and ordered a Classic Bear, and added running shoes, a white tee shirt and some embroidery. Finally everything arrived, and it worked! Check out her paws ...

Throw in the TnT purple TEAM bracelet and a bear-sized water bottle with hand holder, and I've got the perfect Tri Teddy!

I don't know when I should

Although I like nothing better than to run (or these days, cycle), getting myself out there in the first place still remains a challenge. My whiny lazy butt wants only to stay nice and warm (or cool, in the summer) and sedentary with a book or some knitting and a glass of wine. Putting on running (or cycling) (or cross training) clothes and starting up is something I'm not sure I'll ever want to do, even though I know the results are always worth it. So when I'm not feeling well I never know if I should force myself to exercise like I always force myself, or if I should take a break.

Last night I decided to force myself to run. I still have a cold hanging on, still have a bit of a cough, but mostly I'm feeling normal. I thought that if I didn't join Olivia's buddy run after work that I wouldn't run after work all week and once again I'd hit the weekend feeling like a slug. So I stayed late at the office and then headed over to Heather Farm to join the group.

And then wondered if I had missed a memo somewhere canceling the run; nobody was there. I decided that even if I ended up being alone I'd go out and run. By myself, in the dark. Finally I saw a few people gathering and walked over to join them. Apparently lots of people are sick, including Ms. O (feel better Olivia!) so there were less than 10 people there (including 3 of us who aren't even on that team). When we ran over to the stretching area I was far behind everyone else and figured that I'd end up running alone. I didn't mind since I knew there were other people out there, people who would miss me if I never returned, people who'd come to look for my body in the canal. Yeah, I had a vivid fantasy of that.

We stretched and the first group of 5 sped off - really sped off, they were out of sight almost immediately. I found one woman who was about my speed and we ran together. She was slowing down for me I'm sure, and I was running just a titch over my comfort level, but I was still able to talk. When we got to the turnaround another woman who had fallen off the back of the first group joined us for the way back - she found it too creepy to run alone.

I was being very very careful of my knee and my back, not to mention my breathing. While I needed to know how my knee would feel I didn't need to trip on the very broken and uneven pavement of the trail. I spent almost the entire run looking down and luckily my head lamp was bright enough to show me most of the worst spots. We finished 4.6 miles with an average of 12 minute miles, a consistent pace for the entire route. We took a very short walk at the turnaround and stopped at a couple of red lights, but otherwise ran the whole time. I was very tired the last mile or so but I didn't want to fall too far behind so I kept up.

On the walk back to the car I started coughing; it had cooled down considerably from the 70 degrees it had been earlier in the day and the cold air on my soggy body wasn't doing me any favors. My knee felt ok, my back felt sore, my sinuses felt amazingly fine. After I warmed up, got home, cleaned up and dried off my cough got a little better. I had that wonderful after-run feeling though and it made the slight body aches and left-over cold much easier to live with.

This morning I'm coughing a bit, still stuffed up, my knee is no worse than yesterday, ditto my back. I don't think I caused any harm by running but I also am not any better. So do I exercise tonight or take another (yet another) day off to rest? My natural inclination is, of course, to do nothing but I need to remember that I'm actually training for an event. I'd like to get on the trainer that I spent all that money for and which is gathering dust. I guess I have to see how I'm feeling after work and make the decision then.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

That fine line between stubborn and stupid

Determined and dumb. Relentless and ridiculous. Committed and should be committed. Getting the picture here? This all refers to my ride on Saturday.

I started off my morning just like I do whenever I've had training in Marin County: I got lost. My lost percentage is still a sparkling 100%, I've never arrived where I should on the first try. Again, thanks to my iPhone, I pulled up directions and figured out where I had gone wrong and found where I should have been in the first place. After much internal eye rolling at my absolute inability to follow directions when the signage isn't clear, I pulled into the lot.

It was chilly in the morning, but nowhere near as bad as it's been the past several weeks. Funny how warm 40 degrees can feel after spending so much time in the 20s. We left the staging area in a couple of large groups, headed out from a College of Marin parking lot. Our start was late due to a great talk by a local sports psychologist, but that made it warmer. The sun was shining, the air was clear, it was a great day to be outside doing something we enjoy.

Unfortunately my cold wasn't gone, my cough wasn't gone and on top of that, my allergies were active. I decided to take it mile by mile and after the first couple I thought I'd be lucky to make it to our first water stop at mile 17. My dry hacking cough wasn't impressed with the cold clear air. I was actually enjoying the uphills more than the downhills, because the air wasn't shooting into my lungs. Although the scenery was beautiful, my eyes were running and most things were blurry.

When I got to the first SAG I was attending a lovely pity party, thrown by and attended only by myself. I was even in tears, wondering how in the world I was going to ride another 30 miles. I decided to gut it through, decided that I was going to complete the ride no matter what. I didn't care about consequences, I mentally needed to ride the scheduled 50 miles. I headed off, deciding to delay any decision until the next SAG at about mile 36. This decision kept me just barely on the side of stubborn, determined, relentless and committed.

Things got worse as the route got more scenic. We were riding in an area where I had never been, on roads I had never seen. There were many cyclists out on this gorgeous day, lots of drivers careening along the roads at high speeds, some runners, lot of people out and about. Bree and I were riding together, she was concerned about me and was wonderfully protective and took the lead for the most part. We'd catch up with some teammates and be passed by others. There were long smooth uphills, short twisty uphills, relatively flat parts, straight long downhills; all the variety you could hope for. But my cough got worse and my attitude was plunging. I finally pulled into the second stop at Nicasio and there was only one big question:

Where the hell is Nicasio? Well, that was the immediate big question. I had no idea, in the general scheme of things, where I was. Sure, I had a little copy of a portion of a map of Marin County, but beyond that I was totally lost. We all know I have no sense of direction and I didn't even know where the cardinal points were. I could have been in any valley in any dry part of the country.

The other question was whether to continue on. I wanted, in the worst possible way, to ride 50 miles (although I knew at that point it would be more like 52 or 54 miles, and it turned out to be about 56 miles). I wanted to cross that half century barrier, wanted to ride with my team, wanted to be a good sport. It was the best riding day we'd had, but I couldn't breathe. Not only was I coughing up a storm, but I realized when I went to talk it over with the coaches and Claudia that I had lost my voice. I wandered to and fro, thinking furiously, stepping lightly back to my pity party, and realized it was no choice at all. I had to stop or make myself so sick that I'd miss another couple of weeks of training.

So I never crossed over the line but if you think that made me happy, think again. Grumpy, cranky and sad! I hate making the sensible decision when it goes against my desires. We put my bike in the car, waited for the last couple of riders to stop by, and then took the ride of shame back to the parking lot. My first DNF. Yes, I know it wasn't a race so it technically wasn't a DNF but it felt that way. And yes, I know there was no shame in quitting but it felt that way. When it only took my throat and chest a short while to clear up, for my voice to return, I questioned everything I had done. Because I'm like that. I think I made the right decision. Maybe.

During the long miles Bree and I had a heart-to-heart and decided that we were sadly mistaken when we thought we could train for a marathon while we trained for the century. Neither of us could imagine running 8 miles, let alone 13 miles, after a long ride. Buh-bye thoughts of running Vermont this May, hello enjoyable short mileage. Seriously, how over-achieving were we trying to be? Neither of us has ridden this length before (although we've both done metric centuries on minimal training) and neither of us remembered how fatigued our legs would be after 50 miles. Talk about a bummer and a downer and that just added to my unhappiness at stopping.

So the score is 40 miles on the bike, a cold that probably won't be gone for days, a knee that's still sore from last Sunday and the notion that I really need to listen to my body more. I repeat, I hate being sensible when it contradicts my hopes and desires. But I know I'm lucky to just get out there, lucky I can manage any miles at all on my feet and my wheels, lucky to only have a cold instead of something dire, lucky to live in such a scenic, gorgeous area. I'm going to attempt to focus on that!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Achoo be gone

I'm attempting that whole visualization thing in preparation for the weekend. I'm hoping that if I visualize being healthy I won't be sneezing, coughing and wheezing during our 50 mile (!!!) bike ride tomorrow morning. I think this cold has been around long enough that I should be healthy. "I feel fine" "I feel healthy" "I feel great" and so on.

No matter the weather, or how I'm feeling, I will be completing that ride. I haven't managed any cross-training (or any direct training, for that matter) since the weekend because I didn't feel well enough. But this will be a real ride, a real team training event, and I intend to be there. I've proven in the past that my stubbornness is stronger than my instinct for self-preservation so I know I'll be finishing every mile that I'm supposed to ride, however I'm feeling toward the end.

I'm hoping for warmer than freezing weather, light or no wind, easy hills. I'm very much afraid that none of those will be at the ride tomorrow. Too bad because 50 miler here I come!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Winter cold, cold winter

I go to work and hear the lovely sounds of sniffling, coughing, sneezing. Not all of it originates from my office, I think most of my coworkers either have, or have had, a cold (or, will be getting one soon). I stayed home a couple of days ago because I was coughing so much I couldn't talk (and even managed to pull something in my back from coughing too hard) but I have too much work to call in sick all week. And c'mon, it's a cold, right? Not fatal, just annoying. Can't wear contacts because my eyes are too icky, my nose is itchy and runny and stuffed and my lungs are feeling full.

My rule for exercise is if the cold is above my neck, I keep on with my regularly scheduled workouts. If the symptoms are below my neck I rest. Heck, I'm used to exercising with my mouth open since my allergies usually stuff up my sinuses. But I discovered that walking up 2 flights of stairs at work winded me. And most exertion makes me cough. So that all means that just when our training intensifies I'm taking time off to whine get better.

And what's up with this cold weather anyway? It's not that I have a perfect memory or anything, but I can't remember any winter since I started running (which is 9 years now) that has consistently been so cold. Or dry. I got used to running in rainy 40-50 degrees, but dry 20-30 degrees is very unusual. I know it's a drought year (I just have to look at my brown lawn) but dry and cold don't need to go together. A hundred years ago when I moved to California it was a drought year and it was in the 60's and 70's all winter. In fact, that's why I moved here; it was snowing in Michigan and I never wanted another cold winter. Hmmph. Stupid global warming.

Now we see exactly why I haven't been posting as much lately. Wow, I sure am cranky! Sorry ...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rides getting longer, runs getting shorter

With the holidays over, done with, finished, gone (and not a minute too soon) our team was scheduled for our longest training ride yet. Saturday was another freezing cold morning, probably upper 30s at the start and maybe up to 50 by the time we finished several hours later. It was a much better attended ride than the past two weeks and our group of advanced beginners or lower intermediates was also bigger than it's been. We were told that for this ride we should try to find our own pace and not to worry if we got split up, we'd meet at the mid-way point. Okey dokey. I know the route and wasn't afraid of getting lost so I didn't mind if I got separated from the group.

Bree and I started out riding mostly the same pace. There were some piddly uphills and a long incline for the first part, then a strenuous climb, a screaming downhill and the rest stop at 20 miles. I felt pretty good at the turn around except for one major thing: my sit bones were aching. No, not the girly bits, not abrasion or chafing, but feeling like the flesh over the bones was bruised. Sitting on the bike seat was a challenge, to put it lightly. I didn't know how I'd make it another 20 miles. Since quitting is never an option, I started out again, squirmier than before.

Because it was so cold I was wearing full fingered, bulky gloves. My fingers were much warmer than they've been but it was difficult to get my water bottles out and impossible to get to any food. I had little granola-like bites, a couple of energy bars, gel and sport beans but I just couldn't get them out of the box. I couldn't even get anything out of my pockets, my fingers were just too clumsy. Since I had a bite to eat at the water stop and managed to drink, I wasn't too worried yet.

Midway through the ride the wind picked up. I truly detest trying to do anything with the wind in my face. It's a breathing issue, mostly, but I'd rather climb Mt. Diablo on a calm day than ride a flat road into a headwind. So much effort for so little reward. Our return route detoured through the Livermore backroads and since there were few cars and no stoplights it was a pleasure having uninterrupted riding. I managed a longer ride with no stops whatsoever on this part, I think a stretch of 13 miles. That's the longest straight riding I've done during this training; in a city you always need to stop at lights, or stop signs, or whatever but this time I managed to flow through.

Although "flow" wasn't quite correct. Once again my pace fell between the faster and slower riders so I was on my own. Don't get me wrong, I like riding alone because I can go exactly my own pace, don't have to pass or be passed, don't have to point out obstacles or worry about anyone else but me. Also, with the wind I can't hear anyone talking anyway and I end up shouting "what?" "huh?" "excuse me?" so much that socializing is out of the question. But on a windy day it's nice to have a paceline, someone to help you along, some encouragement. Heck, that's why we're on a team, right? But although I would occasionally see other people I rode on my own.

Finally, about 8 miles from the finish, I pulled over to the side and ripped off my right glove. I knew I was very close to a bonk and knew I'd have to start eating. I thought I was out of gels (I wasn't, as I discovered later) and opened my package of sport beans for instant sugar. For the rest of the ride I chewed on them constantly and they helped get me back to the parking lot. I wasn't too far behind the first part of our group, and wasn't too far in front of the rest of them. I was exhausted when I finished, chilled and damp from the exertion, and good grief my bottom hurt like the blazes. Standing was no problem, but even sitting down to change my shoes hurt. I have got to find a remedy for this; I can't even imagine going 60 additional miles feeling this way. Despite how I felt physically, I was thrilled to have ridden 40 miles. This was the longest ride I've done since I started running.

After the ride Bree and I went out to lunch again, returning to Chow in Danville. I had a beer and soup and fries and it was delicious and filing. But the beer just totally wiped me out. I got home, showered and crashed on the sofa for several hours. I'm going to have to rethink my whole refueling strategy. It tastes great but I think I'll have to skip the alcohol if I intend to be even slightly productive. Bummer.

Sunday morning we were scheduled to run 8 miles. We've been running regularly in Lafayette and decided on a change. Bree, Anita and I met at the Alameda Ferry parking lot and once again it was freezing. Literally. It was low 30s when we started and not much warmer when we finished. Wet patches on the pavement were icy and we could see a layer of ice on top of puddles. Eight miles? I don't think so. We managed 4, with twice the walk breaks we usually take, and I was pooped. When we got back to the parking lot I think I could have done another mile, maybe two, except that on the last walk break I felt my knee twinge. The type of -- well, not pain actually -- feeling that has preceded the shooting pains I had last year. I decided to not tempt fate and we called it a day.

On Monday I'm feeling mostly good. My shoulders are stiff from the ride but that's the only ache other than when I sit down. On anything, even a soft sofa. When I walk, every once in a while I feel that twinge in my knee. I think it's time to return to the strengthening exercises I did last year. I have my fingers crossed that it was just the icy pavement and cold weather and that everything is fine. My injuries are so 2008. I'm not starting up this stuff again, I don't have time to be injured!

Friday, January 2, 2009

No resolutions

Happy New Year! Wow, I sure finished last year on a downer. I decided to stay home and kick back for the first time in -- uh, not sure -- decades? Since I only had Thursday as a day off I wanted Wednesday night to be mellow and calm. No crowds, no traffic, no police checking my blood alcohol level. I had a couple of dvds, my knitting, a good book or two, some food and a bottle of fancy champagne (hey, just because I was staying home didn't mean I wasn't celebrating).

It went very well until I saw the ants. I've had a few of the sentinel ants skittering around my kitchen lately; I smoosh them and that's it. Wednesday night I got rid of the couple I saw. Then there were a couple more. Then more. Then more and more and more and more and good grief they're all over the place. Since they seemed to be originating from one particular cabinet (where there isn't any open food, just my water bottles and containers of Ultima and a sealed container of jelly bellies) I pulled out every single thing.

And discovered what was making all those ants so jolly. It was a tiny package of caramels from Vermont Teddy Bear. When you used to order a bear they'd include a little bear-head shaped piece of chocolate but then they switched to caramels. Since I don't eat caramels (an incident with a crown leaving my mouth still attached to the candy) I apparently tossed it in the cabinet. It was swarming with ants. Dozens of ants getting their jollies with the sticky caramel. Yuckyuckyuck so I tossed it in the garbage (while ants crawled all over my hands and arms), wiped down the counter and shelves, searched out and destroyed the remaining ants, sprayed the area with toxic ant spray and finally was able to put everything back where it belonged.

Then I had a well-earned glass of champagne. I mean, sparkling wine, it was from California. No, I didn't drink the entire bottle. I was asleep by 11:30 and missed the entire cheering-in-the-new-year thing.

Thursday morning Bree, Anita and I met up for a run. We hadn't set a distance, decided we would go with the flow and see how we felt. It was cool to cold, overcast and humid, air filled with smoke from fireplaces. We ended up with a good 5 mile run through the streets and on the trail and felt great afterward. We followed up with brunch at the new Chow in Danville. I had read some good things about this restaurant and they were correct. We decided that in celebration of the new year we'd have mimosas. These were made with cava and fresh tangerine juice and lemme tell you, I could have had a gallon of them (but only had 1). The food was very good and by the time we left the place was full.

I spent the rest of the first day of the year kicking back; napping, knitting, watching dvds and tv, reading, talking with family and friends on the phone. Restful, relaxing, ready to face whatever the world had in store for me.

This is going to be a good year. Seriously, I'm starting positive and looking forward to a healthy, active, strong new year. A century, a couple of marathons, lots of yarn and books and good friends and what could be better?