Sunday, March 29, 2009

Peace and peanut butter

I had the best Saturday ever. Ok, maybe not EVER ever, but for a very long time. I got up early, drank some coffee while I read the newspaper. Then I found a book and sat on the sofa reading until it warmed up outside. Then I went and sat outside reading. When I got too warm and a little worried about too much sun I went back inside, sat on my comfy chair and continued reading. When I finished that first book I read another. When it got late I went to bed. The end.

Normally the only time I sit and read all day is when I'm sick (and then I don't enjoy it because I'm sick). I just don't have the time to do that otherwise, no matter how much I love to read. I can't justify spending the entire day doing, well, nothing. Yes, I know that reading isn't nothing, but in my society just sitting around all day constitutes sloth. Well, for one lovely day I was slothful. A slight nagging guilt hovered over me all day but I ignored it.

Of course nothing that I had to do just went away because I wished it would (I guess the lantern, the first star bright and the wishbone were off their feed). Sunday was chock full of things to do.

I got up early to meet Bree and Anita for a run. We planned on an easy 4 miles, thinking that sooner or later 4 miles will be easy again. It wasn't easy, wasn't pretty, but we got it done. It was a lovely day with a surprising headwind on our return journey. We were all bothered by the pollen in the air. I don't want to complain about it since it was truly lovely outside. The sun was out, it was cool enough for a good run but warm enough not to be cold, the sky was a brilliant clear blue, the air smelled good, the grass (and weeds) were that bright spring green, the tree were in flower and wow, just perfect. We ran, we walked, we talked a lot and it was over too soon. I think one reason I like long runs is that it's an excuse to spend more time blabbing with buddies.

After that it was mom time, doing the usual. I came home and faced lots of laundry, bills, house straightening and for once, my taxes. Yep, finally got them ready to send off. Then I sat down and browsed around trying to decide on a new computer before this once plotzes permanently and irrevocably. I think I know what I'm getting and I'll decide tomorrow after checking with some of the guys at work.

Oh, the peanut butter? Lately there has been no food that has sounded particularly good to me, nothing really tempting. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I haven't eaten anything, it's just that nothing has tasted good. I've eaten the frozen crap dinners that I have, or stuffed some chicken and veggies in a tortilla, or just had popcorn and ice cream (healthy!). I don't eat a lot of peanut butter since the calories and my body aren't happy with each other. But tonight that's what sounded good. I had bought some cherry preserves for when my sis and bro-in-law come to visit since I had to throw out the jar that was in my fridge (it was blue -- blue strawberry jam -- and fuzzy -- ew). I pulled some slightly freezer-burned bread from the freezer, toasted it, spread on some crunchy pb and cherry j and yum, best food in several days. Liked it so much I went back for seconds, which would be worse if the bread hadn't been the tiny end pieces left of the loaf. Tasty, and now I don't need peanut butter again for a long time.

Great. Now I'll have to eat real food.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Slow down, I tell me

Last night I went for my second run of the week, hoping for better results than I had during my first run of the week (and the month) (and last month). It was just as nice outside as Tuesday; low 70's (really! and it's still March!), clear air, a bit of a headwind on the return. The only thing detracting from the lovely evening was someone grilling lighter fluid. Seriously, I smelled no food at all, just pervasive chemical lighter fluid smell for about a half mile. Ick.

I started out, intending not to look at Mr. Garmin so that I wouldn't have a hissy about how slow I was running. Again, the plan was for 9:1 run:walk. By the second block I was horrified at how tired I was, how heavy my legs were, how bad my breathing was. I interrupted the song in my brain to sternly instruct my legs to go slower. Huh? You don't have songs in your brain while you run? I swear, my mind is my own personal iPod and I don't really need an external source of music. The only thing I can't do with it is turn down the volume. But that's a story for another time.

So I waddled along, speeding up when I didn't pay attention, slowing down when I focused. I turned around at 1.5 miles (yeah, I looked. Sue me) and realized I was now running into the wind. That canceled out any benefit from the down grade that direction. It also enforced the slowing down part because of that whole wind-in-my-face-can't-breath-well thing I have. My legs were still trying for a faster turnover than my lungs appreciated, but by the end of the second mile I seemed to be getting it under better control.

I finished my run with my usual sprint and walked about another half mile to cool off and breathe well. I was overheated since I hadn't expected the high temp, and I also seem to have forgotten how to dress while running. I'm used to overdressing for the bike since I get so cold and didn't remember that to me, 55 degrees is a warm day for running. I was wearing capri's and a short sleeve top and I should have worn shorts and possibly a sleeveless top. I'll remember next week. Maybe.

I felt better after this run than Tuesday but c'mon, it was still only a measly 3 miles! Good gravy, what's going to happen when I attempt real mileage? I didn't even mention how painful my lower quads and hip flexors were after Tuesday's run, and where did that come from? I know I hit the muscles differently than when I cycle, but my legs felt like I'd run 20 miles or more. It's going to be a long comeback, I can tell now.

A sad/strange thing happened when I returned to my car. I was in a little 3 car lot by the trail, parked in the middle. As I walked up a big ol' SUV, a really big one, pulled in alongside of my little SUV. A man and a woman got out and opened their hatch, which around there means they're either pulling out a stroller or a dog. I glanced over as I was opening my own car and saw they had 2 Great Danes in the back. No wonder they needed the big vehicle! One of the dogs glanced over at me and then I turned away, stretching and wiping off the sweat and such, and heard a loud "thunk" and then some horrible crying. The male GD had fallen out of the car. Fallen the 3 feet or so from the back to the ground. He was wailing something horrible and it just broke my heart. The owner was (obviously) concerned, but kept telling the dog not to be a big baby and get up. The dog just lay there in a heap, crying.

He was finally soothed and quieted, and stood up, but he was favoring one leg. The owners looked at each other and figured they'd probably have to go to the vet instead of taking the walk. The female GD just looked on as if to say "Baby!" and pulled at her leash. They put the dogs in the car, sat and talked, got out again, and as I drove out it looked as if they were going to go for their walk after all. Since they were apparently good people I think if the big baby (heh) was really hurt they'd take him to the vet. I hope he's ok. I'm sure for the rest of the week the female GD is going to be laughing at him for his clumsiness!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is it broken or not?

After work on Tuesday I went for a run. I was shocked and amazed at how hard it was! Although it's been weeks (and weeks) since I last ran it isn't like I've been sitting on my couch eating bonbons all day; I rode that little century and did all the training for it. But running not only uses different muscles it also is completely weight bearing.

I felt as if I had gained 30 pounds since I last ran, which for once I haven't. In fact, I was darn near the exact weight as the last time I got out there. But my legs were like iron and I felt like I was dragging around the Biggest Loser, pre Bob or Jillian. It was hard. I was determined to run, and determined to run at least 2 miles. Or 3 miles, since it wasn't worth getting clothes dirty for just 2.

Because my breathing was so awful I decided to do a 9:1 run:walk. At least it gave me a goal, a little piece to look forward to. I was running on the Iron Horse Trail in Danville and it was a beautiful day. The air was clear, the sky blue, the sun shining low in the sky. It was warm too, somewhere in the low 60s, with just a light breeze. Perfect conditions for a great run. So I continued trying to have a great run.

I ended up running 3 miles, with a slow average of about 12:15, and then I walked another quarter mile back to my car while trying to catch my breath. I felt much better after the run than during, but it was hard (I think I might have mentioned it was hard). My legs are sore from running so I intend to keep this up until it's easy again. In fact, I'll be running again after work today.

After my lovely run I went home and turned on my computer to upload the stats from Mr. Garmin. To my horror, instead of starting up I got a black screen with a little message at the top: "Primary hard disk drive not found. No bootable devices." I tried bunches of things, or rather bunches of things that someone who knows nada about computers would try, and it appeared that my disk drive was a goner. Dead. Kaput. I was horrified and depressed but hopeful that the backup I had done over the weekend contained everything I would need. I resigned myself to the fact that my 4 year old PC had passed its expiration date and it was time to get a new one. But I needed one immediately so I could do my taxes (procrastination anyone?)

I'd known for some time that the computer was on its last legs but was resisting getting a new one until Microsoft came out with the new operating system. Hah. I was pretty certain I didn't want to go Mac since I didn't like using my mom's, I didn't want to have to go through the learning process for a new system and I didn't want to have to get all new Mac software for the programs I use. But I really didn't want to go Vista since my current computer is all crapped up with useless stuff and I didn't want another one stuffed full again. But it looked like that time had come and I'd have to do something.

I took my computer to work yesterday just in case someone could fix it. It seemed that every time I'd have problems with my work computer our Sys Admin (who isn't the Sys Admin any longer but still knows his stuff) would just walk in my office, do things similar to what I had done already, and magically the computer would work again. It was worth a try and what do you know. He did a few things, reiterated his feelings toward Microsoft and their products, did a couple of other things and magically it started working. Huh? It wasn't as if he changed anything, added anything or removed anything. All he did was go looking there, open this, close that, start stop start stop on and off and there you go!

Despite that, I figured I still needed another computer stat. I took home my newly fixed computer, crossed my fingers and turned it on. Black screen, "primary hard disk not found" etc. Huh? I did manage to start it up in safe mode where it slowly but competently performed for the rest of the night. I did the few things I need to do and turned it off.

Yeah, I think I need a new computer, but where to start? I know I don't want a desk top. I want something very small and portable, but want something with a screen big enough to comfortably see. That pretty much leaves laptops instead of notebooks. I want the newest technology, both hardware and software (except Vista thankyouverymuch) at a reasonable price. I want it fast and with a few hundred gigs of storage. It needs Office and Quicken and iTunes and I want Firefox and Thunderbird for my browsers and mail. I need odd little things like uploading pix from my crappy camera and uploading data from Mr. Garmin. I want to be able to watch movies and listen to music and look at my gazillion pictures (and edit those pictures). I want to be able to play games. I want to be able to take advantage of the next new thing that comes along that I don't know about yet. Most of all, I want it to be reliable since we've already established I'm technologically deficient. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Running again

That sounds like I actually went for a run. Nuh-uh. Not yet. But I'm planning to run after work today. My biggest obstacle in going for a run is, well, me. If I'm not committed to joining someone else my lazy sedentary brain walks in my door after work and convinces my body to sit on the couch and veg. So I brought my running clothes to work, I'll change here, and I'll either run directly on the trail that's only a block from the office, or I'll drive to a part of the trail that I like better. Either way, I won't walk in my door tonight until I've gone at least 3 miles.

That sounds so short, doesn't it? But I haven't run for a couple of months and I don't want to push it. It would really annoy the bejeebers out of me if I (re-)wrecked my knee on what's essentially the first run of the year. So short, slow(er than usual) and easy is the way to do it. I'm hoping to make this a new habit, unless I can find some other slow person who can run with me during the week.

But first I have to run tonight.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy noniversary to me

With one more day like yesterday I think I would be entirely caught up. Unfortunately by the time I get another one, there will be more things that need to be done so catching up is not going to happen right now.

Although Saturday was forecast to be cold and rainy and windy, it turned out to be a pretty nice day. My hoped for 15 minutes of gardening turned into 3 hours. Yes indeedy, that most certainly is a trend with me. Once I get outside on a nice day I find more and more that needs to be done. Since the early afternoon was clear I threw on a long sleeved shirt and went to wrestle with my jasmine and my lemon tree. It was not only intermittently sunny, it was warm. Wonderful day to be outside.

I clipped and pulled and weeded and cursed my so called gardeners and delighted in the spring weather. Then I headed toward the lemon tree. Despite long sleeves, gloves and long pants, I got scratched and poked and mauled by that little overgrown thing. I picked a couple dozen lemons, some so indescribably nasty that I gagged, thinned it out a bit and then called it a day.

What does one do with a couple dozen lemons? Keep in mind that (1) I don't cook and (2) I don't bake. What I do is drink, so I made ice cubes! I squeezed about a dozen lemons and poured some into the only ice cube tray I have in the house. I used to have many ice cube trays but darned if I could come up with them anywhere. The only other thing I had convenient was the top of the little thing that holds eggs that came with the fridge. Odd, but hey, it worked. Many hours later I discovered that I probably should have watered them down a bit before trying to freeze them, since even now they're not hard solid. I tossed one in a glass of soda, and other than reminding me exactly why I'm staying away from citrus fruits, it was a great idea. The rest of the lemons I'll attempt to give to my coworkers. Maybe hide them in their desks when they're not looking.

My house is clean, for the first time in -- well, I'm embarrassed to say how long it's been. It wasn't a true spring cleaning; I didn't touch the baseboards, the windows, the cabinets, etc. But it's dusted and vacuumed and the bathrooms cleaned. Much nicer to be in now.

I didn't get much chance to be in my house today, it's momday. Several hours helping with her paperwork and taking her to lunch so I didn't get done the one thing I've been putting off. I did take my tax stuff out of the filing cabinet and spread it all over my table, so it's a start. Baby steps, right?

While I was writing check after check for my mom I realized that today's date was familiar to me because 19 years ago on this date I was busy marrying my future ex-husband. For the first time. Don't ask me the date of our second marriage. Or either divorce. It's funny how some dates, some numbers will stick in your brain forever and some won't stay there for more than a minute. I remember my ex's social security number but it took me 4 or 5 years to learn my cell phone number. I know the very long i.d. number for my company's payroll but can't remember my brother-in-law's birthday without looking it up (and he's been my bro-in-law for over 30 years). I remember my very first telephone number (Vermont6-9219 -- I'm sure most of you young whippersnappers won't remember that phone numbers started with the first 2 letters of a word. And we didn't have no steenkin' area codes either. But I digress. Again) but can't remember my current license plate. And passwords? Yikes. Good thing most places give you 3 tries before shutting down.

Moving right along ... or not. I took a few days off my exercise routine to give my body a bit of a break after the century. Those few days have now stretched into a week and my body is getting very displeased. The gardening and house cleaning felt like a workout. Tomorrow I intend to arise early, since I won't be asleep anyway, and start the week with some cross-training. Let's see how that works, shall we?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Solvang Century ride report

DISCLOSURE: My memories of the ride itself are a little confused. I can't remember exactly what happened exactly when. Please forgive me if I refer to someplace at the wrong time, or some time at the incorrect distance, or if I just scramble the whole thing up. What I remember is here, in whatever order I seem to remember. I suppose I could browse through other ride reports and get it straightened out, but I want this to be what I went through, not what someone else experienced.

I took Thursday and Friday as vacation days. Although I travel to lots of races, none of them have required cycling gear except the triathlon. I was nervous about forgetting -- oh -- anything, and wanted Thursday to pack in peace. By the time I hopped into bed Thursday night my car was packed up and ready to go.

Bree met me at my house Friday morning and we transferred her bike and gear to my car. Although she accused me of being Count Pakula there was still a bit of room for her to load up a couple of things. We stopped to pick up coffee and hit the road at 8:40 am.

Long drive. We stopped once to find a bathroom (all that hydrating) and once for lunch. As we drove we pointed out hills that we hoped we wouldn't be climbing during the century (and it turned out that one we only jokingly included as a probable due to its very large size was in fact one of the larger hills we climbed). We arrived in Solvang, Buellton actually, in very good time and went into the hotel to see if we could check in early.

Bree was able to get her room. The hotel had no record of me. As I steamed and fumed the ("I'm in training") clerk repeatedly tried my name and found nothing. I called our team manager and discovered that although she was in the hotel, she was involved in a staff meeting. While I knew that I wouldn't have to sleep in my car no matter what, I didn't need the extra worry and stress.

When the meeting was over our manager pointed out to the hotel manager that my name was indeed on the list that TnT had sent. It was at the top of a page in what looked to be only a header row so their missing it wasn't terribly surprising, but it was there nonetheless. The hotel manager got me a room, apologising repeatedly and asked me if she could send a few sodas or something to my room. I said a bottle of white wine would be nice and she said she'd have it sent along.

I had enough time to unload my car and change into cycling gear before we were supposed to meet for a tune-up ride. Because not everyone arrived at the same time, we set out in groups. It was a short ride, just down the road to Easy Street. I'm not making that up. We turned around and were able to try out all our gears, the brakes, everything on the bike. When I got back I looked at my tires since we had ridden through a patch of broken glass. I pulled a couple of tiny slivers out of my front tire and was sure I'd have a flat tire in the morning. Luckily this isn't foreshadowing. My tire was fine through the whole ride.

The pasta dinner was the usual TnT affair; pasta, salad, chicken, bread, speeches, the video (a new one that didn't leave me in the slightest bit weepy), more talks, Go Team! In addition to our San Francisco Chapter, there were the Los Angeles and Northern Texas Chapters attending. It was a large, boisterous crowd like most TnT pasta parties. The biggest difference at this party (to me) was they announced my name as one of the two Triple Crown earners. After that people started congratulating me and I told them to cut it out, they were jinxing me. Ride first, Triple Crown after.

We met up afterward for final instructions and arrangements and talks from Coach Cyd and Coaches Beth and Lorraine. Our little group were all given pieces of purple boa and pipe cleaners to attach to our helmets. I thought it was a little overboard and precious, but it turned out to be a great idea.

Bree and I drove over to the ride expo since we had picked up our bibs at the TnT table in the hotel. The race branded gear wasn't exciting. An expensive jersey out of odd mesh-like fabric, a jacket, a white tee shirt, a twill hat. There were several booths selling cycling gear and nutrition. We wandered around and decided we didn't need to buy a thing.

Although it was advertised that registration included a tube of Chamois Butt'r, a Clif Shot and a Mojo Bar we only received the tube of road rash remedy. It looked like the registration table at the expo didn't have any either, so maybe there was a foul-up somewhere. We also received a Solvang Century magnet with the logo.

Back to the hotel and what seemed both like 15 minutes and 15 hours in bed trying to sleep. I didn't get less sleep than normal before a race but that's not saying anything. I was up before the alarm, turned on the coffee pot and ... turned on the coffee pot and ... turned on the coffee pot ... realized the coffee pot wasn't working. I took a quick shower, threw on half of my clothes and went down to the lobby and bought a cup of coffee. Wait. That sounds like I went down to the lobby half naked and I didn't. I should have said that I threw on the bottom layer of clothes. Back to my room and finished getting ready and was in the lobby with my bike by 6:45 am, our designated meeting time.

I wasn't too hopeful that we'd start at our 7:00 am planned time since we hadn't yet started on time all season. There was a lot of hustle and bustle and scurrying and hurrying and pictures and waiting for it to be 7:00 at which time we actually rolled out. Whoohoo! Let's do the damn thing!

We started off, boas flying in the breeze, in a tight paceline. At least I think it was a tight paceline; I was toward the front. It was still dawn, not fully light out but it got brighter as we rode on. My new cycle computer was working very well proving that simple and inexpensive isn't a bad thing. Mr. Garmin, however, decided to go signal-less for about 3 miles before I realized it wasn't recording. D'oh! I fiddled with it while trying to maintain my place in line and finally got it working. No big deal, but my geeky side was a little disappointed I wouldn't have full stats for the ride.

The little gap in the red route is where Mr. Garmin was taking a nap

For the first part of the ride Coach Beth rode in front, keeping our speed low enough on the flats that we mostly stayed in a group. The couple of early hills were enough to spread us out along the route. We all met up at the first SAG stop at about 23 miles. In what would be repeated throughout the day, I was ready and willing to continue on much sooner than the rest of the group. Also in what would be repeated, before we left our group had a "mission moment." We would talk about either one of our group honorees, or someone's personal honoree, have a moment of silence and then shout out "go team!" before rolling on. Each and every one of those moments got me teary, thinking about my dad, thinking about all those we were riding for, thinking how important was the cause.

In the beginning of the next section I sat right on Coach Beth's wheel, getting sucked along in her wake. As we continued on though, I found myself slipping back in the group. I'd speed up to catch onto somebody's wheel to block the wind, then I'd fade back again. I fell farther and farther back into our group with only the very slowest hill climbers behind me (which included Bree with her injured knee).

The second SAG stop was at mile 39, after a lengthy uphill section. I started feeling my energy flagging and realized that a lot of it was due to trying to keep up with the group. I decided to go my own pace from there. I was consuming my pop tarts and gu on a regular basis and drinking maybe not quite enough of my Ultima. The third SAG was at mile 60 after a bitch of an uphill. I think that was where I announced I was feeling craptastic. More riding, more ups and downs, more introspection, more chatting and silent time. I was on my own for long periods but always caught back up with the group at the next SAG. From about mile 65 on I started feeling sad and on the verge of tears. I wasn't hurting more than normal, wasn't tired more than normal, I was just worn out.

SAG 4 was at mile 73 and was the start of a long long long uphill section. I rode this alone and attempted to ignore anyone who tried to talk with me, including my coach and teammates. I didn't have the energy to chat, didn't have the inclination or the mood to be friendly. This section was very strange to me. I knew there was supposed to be this 15 mile or so uphill and from the map expected it to be horrible. But I felt as if I was just riding up a grade. Granted, we had a tailwind at that point. But I was able to comfortably, if slowly continue riding. Where's the hill? Where's the hill? Where's the hill? We had been told we'd stop and regroup before the hill and I kept waiting and waiting and getting more impatient and worried. I stopped momentarily a couple of times, once to pull off one arm warmer and once to eat a gel. I passed part of my group who were changing a tire and caught up to the rest of the group who had stopped just before the hill. The real hill.

That hill was a stinking bitch. A horrific steep climb with blind corners so you'd never know when it was going to end. Thinking that this was the long hill I tortured myself with visions that it was going to last for 10 miles and felt awful. I stopped twice on this particular hill to catch my breath, crested the top much sooner than I had anticipated and realized that this was the end of the big hill. At the top I considered stopping but decided to just zip up my jersey and jacket and continue along. I overheard some random guy tell his buddy not to worry, there were only 2 more climbs like that. Good thing for him he was faster than me; I would have ridden over and knocked him upside the head.

A steep downhill (and we know how much I like twisty downhills on rutted roads) and then the second stinking bitch of a hill. That one I had to stop 3 times to catch my breath, the effort seemed to be cumulative. At the SAG stop where I caught up with most of the team I assured them that the ride had sunk to new depths of suckitude which amused the heck out of some of them. After our last mission moment where I really thought I would lose it, we took off in smaller groups (or alone) and were told we'd meet up before the finish and all ride in together. I've actually blanked out whether that last SAG came after the first hill or the second, I was that zoned out. Or in the zone, whichever applied.

The road surface continued to be crap on the downhills, making any speed risky and highly uncomfortable. I attempted to put all my weight on my feet instead of my hands or my increasingly sore sit bones, but to do that I'd have to stop pedaling or braking.

And then came the "last" hill. Wide open road, up up and then up some more. While I was tempted, highly tempted to walk it, my stubbornness just let me make a couple of breathing stops. I finally got to the top and started crying. I was so thrilled that I had done the last hill, thrilled that I had gone more than 10 miles past the farthest I'd ever gone, saddened over so many personal issues and the tears poured down my cheeks. For only a few moments though. Just like when I run marathons I told myself to suck it up, shut up, take a breath and get on with it. I knew I didn't have the energy to completely melt down and had to refocus on the rest of the ride.

The rest of the ride had more rutted roads and a couple more hills. Hey, where'd they come from? Although the majority of it was downhill or downgrade, the roads until about mile 100 were awful. Then we arrived back in town and road conditions improved. I looked for the team and finally came around a corner and there they were, my group, with helmet boas flowing. Everyone was a little giddy while we awaited the arrival of our final members. I was too tired to be giddy and was just grumpily pleased that I was almost done.

The scenery on the ride varied from lovely green hills and valleys sprouting with wildflowers to ugly freeways to residential/commercial areas to vineyards. The Napafication of the area was frankly scary, knowing the habitat and landscape destruction of the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Sadly, a burgeoning wine industry is likely to cause hills to be topped, slopes to be denuded, waters to be fouled and the natural beauty of the area changed beyond recognition. Because most of the day was gray and overcast it wasn't quite as scenic as it could have been. Also, after several hours on a bike everything starts to look similar.

The weather, as I mentioned, was ok but not great. It started off cool and overcast with a wind and it ended cool and overcast with a wind. I believe it was low 50's the entire day with a steady 10 mph wind that gusted much higher. I didn't take off my glove liners until about 60 miles and never removed my ear covers. I also never removed my jacket and only unzipped on the sweaty uphills.

The purple feather boa decorations on our helmets turned out to be a genius idea. We were able to see our group members, know if someone was part of our group or not. Other riders frequently commented, mostly with teasing and humor. The boa didn't bounce or drag or blow in the wind and I really didn't even know it was there. It was funny when I rode behind the group to see purple feathers drifting along the road.

Our last stragglers arrived and we headed off in the same big group we had started in, ohsoverymany hours earlier. Of course, then we got split up at a couple of stop lights so we ended up not rolling in together after all. Whoops. In fact, the last few of us to arrive at the meeting place were among the first of the group to finish. Or should I say "finish" since we still had to ride back to the hotel.

still boa'd after all those miles and hours

There was an actual finish line and as we rode across we received our finishing goodie bag (which contained our patch, a mini-Clif bar and a pile of papers for other rides).

We walked over to the team tent and received our "100" pins and our medals. Yep, TnT realizes that we do these things for the bling and made up medals specially for us. Very nice, very appreciated. And as a special bonus I received my coveted Triple Crown pin showing that I'd completed (and fundraised for) TnT marathon, triathlon and century events. I thought that Triple Crown was just a title, didn't know I'd get an extra pin.

oooooh, shiny!

Then, although we wanted to wait for the rest of the team to arrive, a half dozen or so of us realized that we were so pooped we'd better head back to the hotel while we could. Good thing too. We had a horrible headwind in that direction and those 3 or so miles felt like 10 more. Finally, 11 hours after we started, 9 hours riding time and 103+ miles I was done.

I got back to my room, texted and tweeted and called all my friends and relatives and then took the longest hot shower I had taken since my drought water restrictions went into effect. I think I intended to drain the hotel's entire water supply but finally had to get out because I was too tired to stand any longer. I managed to dress and get myself on my feet and headed to the victory party.

Although I wasn't particularly hungry I realized I hadn't eaten enough during the day and hadn't had anything to drink after the ride except a glass of wine. None of the food looked too terribly appetizing except for the mashed potatoes but I forced myself to take some nutritious food too. And some wine since I was dehydrated. Some water too, for balance. During the ride I only drank about 4 bottles of Ultima, ate less than 6 pop tarts and slurped about 10 gels.

It was a fun party with food and drink and dancing and wonderful people. Verging on maudlin I thanked all the people who had specially helped me through the season. My mentor Amy was the best mentor I've had in all my seasons with TnT. Our head coach Cyd was always there. Always. I was astounded to see her week after week, even during her injured time off the bike. She was warm, friendly, informative and a great coach. Coach Susie and Captain Grace blew my mind by riding the entire century, despite their own injuries. Such tough, strong women. Lynn and Bob got my vote for best couple; Lynn for her fun attitude and Bob for his great SAG talents. Julie was always there with a smile and a friendly word, always helping someone along, waiting for us slowpokes despite being able to go ahead.

I don't even know what to say about Coach Beth and Coach Lorraine, the leaders of our little group. Very different in their approaches but so similar in execution. They both knew when to encourage me, when to talk with me, when to ignore me, when to get close and when to leave me along. They knew, without a doubt, that I would finish this ride. They had faith in my ability and determination and let me know that. They knew when I needed a hug, when I needed help dislodging my chain, when I entered deeply into the bite-me zone and needed the world to go away. During the century Beth pulled the front of the team along while Lorraine encouraged those of us trailing alone. I had more fun with the two of them, with this entire team, than I've had for so long.

My companion for the entire season was Bree. Until her knee acted up she was always just a bit ahead of me, always waiting, always there. Together we carpooled, we grilled cheesed, we beered and caked and gossiped about everyone else around us. We supported each other the entire season. This would have been a lonely training season without her training along with me. We rode together, drove together, laughed together and bitched together. Thank you Bree!

I'm very glad I did this even though my body has made it very clear that I never have to do it again. I'm not made for cycling over 5 hours, week after week. I'll continue with the bike since I've rediscovered how much I enjoy it. I think I'll enjoy it even more when I'm finally able to stop with the long pants, jacket and ear warmers.

I don't know what my next adventure will be. I guarantee it will be easier than this century!

Long winded report

It's taking me as long to write my ride report as it took me to do the ride. I'm very fuzzy about so many of the details and I keep going back to edit and re-edit and post pictures and add more. I think it'll probably take you as long to read it too.

I'm hoping tonight it'll be finished. Or maybe some time Friday. Or Saturday. Soon!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yes you could

When I tell people I've just completed a century ride (or a marathon) (or a triathlon) (or any athletic endeavor that took longer than a hour), most people offer their congratulations which I always happily accept. Then some humongous percentage of those people say "oh, I could never ride a century" (or "run a marathon" or "complete a triathlon") and then they say something to the effect of how special I must be.

C'mon people! Look at me. Look closely. I'm so far-the-hell from being physically special that it's scary. I'm almost fifty-freakin-five years old. I'm overweight by 15-20 pounds (and that's being generous). I'm constitutionally lazy and never exercised at all until my 30's, and not seriously until my late 40's. I have no upper body strength, a sore back and a painful knee. I smoked heavily for 23 years and now have exercise induced asthma. I don't sleep, don't eat right and drink too much wine.

Since I can cycle 100 miles or run 26.2 miles or complete an Olympic distance tri, I'm convinced that any vaguely healthy person can too. Don't tell me that you're slow, I wrote the book on that. Don't tell me that you've never run more than 5 miles, neither had I until I started training (for that matter, I hadn't walked that far either). Don't tell me you don't have time, because there are 24 hours each and every day and you can set aside one or two of those to train (you really don't need to spend all that time watching tv or reading or seeing the newest movie). Don't even tell me you're missing a limb because there are endurance athletes using prosthetics.

Be honest with yourself, if not with me. Next time you try to tell me or anyone else that "I could never do [fill in the blank]" just stop yourself, correct yourself, and say "I would never do [that thing]." You have other things in life you'd rather be doing, things that bring you more joy than being active outside. That's ok, not everyone wants to spend hour after hour running or cycling or swimming (or skating or dancing or skiing or whatever), following a schedule and building up endurance. Next time I tell you I did some athletic event that took me the entire day, just congratulate me, shake your head in wonder (or sorrow) and whisper to yourself that you'd never do that. Don't try to convince me that you can't.

Monday, March 16, 2009

One long ride

I did it. This past Saturday I completed the Solvang Century; 103 miles of ... of ... of ... well, of cycling. It took me 9 hours of riding, about 10-1/2 hours out with the Team. It was hard, but I expected that. In fact, it was close to how I had imagined it would be (I have a very vivid imagination). I'll do a ride report soon but for now I don't think I've entirely processed the fact that I've gone so far. It was undoubtedly the hardest physical effort I've ever undertaken.

Now it's time to get back my life. The past year has been a blur, with my family situation, the triathlon training and then the century training. I need to re-center, re-focus my life. I have to learn again what normal is, or at least what my normal is. I need to clean my house, need to tend to my garden, need to pay my bills and oh yeah, prepare my taxes. I need to get back to a training schedule that won't knock me out, need to eat to enjoy it instead of to train. I need exercise that will reduce stress instead of increasing it. I need to stop whining and wine-ing since neither are doing too much for my sanity.

I want to knit and rummage through my stash to find what treasures I have. I want to stay up late to read a good book or come home and have nothing to do. I'd like to spend more time with friends and catch up with those I've neglected. I'd like to see a movie while it's still in the theaters. I want to travel and see new places. I want to walk if I want to, want to run when it feels right, want to swim if it's warm and cycle because I can.

To me, this is New Years Eve. I'm ready for a fresh start.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Go!

I got the group email from our head coach this morning telling us that now is not the time to try anything new or to make up for any lost training. Good news and bad news. I guess we never feel we're adequately trained for how we want to perform. If I had done every little thing in training, I'd be wishing that I had done it harder, or faster, or more. This way at least my expectations are realistic.

Best case scenario: finish the ride in 9 hours. So totally unlikely that we don't have to think about it.

Probable scenario: finish the century in 10-1/2 to 11 hours. Average 10 mph while on the bike and twiddle my thumbs nervously while my team lingers at the rest stops.

Bad scenario: finish the ride in 13 hours and go to the victory party in my cycling clothes.

Worst case scenario: walk and push the bike the last 15 miles in the dark (remember, it's now daylight savings time and it's light until about 7:45 pm).

You'll notice that nowhere is it even suggested or thought of that I won't finish. If I'm conscious I will finish that ride. I might not be friendly, might not be happy for a 40 mile stretch, might be sore and cranky and tired and nauseous but I will finish the century. Every mile, every inch. I will see gorgeous spring scenery, I will have fun crowd watching, I will have challenging uphills and downhills and easier flat areas. I will be with my teammates who are all there for the same underlying reason: cancer sucks. Every dollar we raised (close to $120,000 for the team) will help that. I'm strong, committed and ready to go.

Is it Saturday yet?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

No more training rides

This is it, it's crunch time. I have 5 days of "rest" and then it's the biggie, the long ride, the century, Solvang! We had our last team training ride, our taper ride, on Saturday and there's only one more ride together as a group. The big one. The long ride. The century. Holy crap, it's almost time to ride 104 miles at Solvang.

Saturday dawned much cooler than expected. The forecasters all blew it. It was supposed to be cool in the morning and warming with the sun. Sun? Not so much until after we were done with our entire ride. It was foggy and cloudy but at least there was very little wind. What a difference that makes. Like almost every ride this season I started with a jacket, ear warmers, glove liners and my toes were numb within 10 minutes.

We met in Danville and headed out toward Livermore for our "flat" "easy" ride. It's funny how the hills were so much easier than they had been several weeks ago. That's easier, not easy. I wasn't having a good stomach day so I was able to either eat and drink and feel like I was about to puke, or go without food and hydrating and hit the wall. I tried to do most of my eating at the couple of rest stops but that really wasn't enough and sure enough, in the middle of the ride (my nemesis) I wanted to throw my hands up and quit. I didn't, but man, I was tempted. I kept telling myself to just ride another 5 miles and I could jump in the sag, then another 5, then another. I was on the verge of tears for about 20 miles.
I went a good ways through Livermore at the front of our paceline right behind Coach Beth. She's one of the few people that I trust enough to draft off of closely enough for it to do some good. Her dragging me along was a big reason that long stretch went so well. Also, the scenery was spectacular. Green fields and hills, mustard, lupine, birds and baby barnyard animals. We saw the cutest, teensiest newborn lambs. I wanted to gawk but if I had slowed I would have knocked over our entire paceline so I just got a short glimpse.

Toward the end of the Livermore portion of the ride I started feeling low again and waved people ahead of me. I didn't feel that I could keep up with the line and wanted to go my own pace, even if that meant I'd have nobody ahead of me to ease the way. We had a short stop at our last waterstop and headed out for the final stretch, about 14 miles to go.

Once again my chain popped off and jammed when I shifted into my granny. Beth stopped and helped me to unjam it. The annoyance factor and struggle to free the chain gave me a big boost of adrenaline that helped me back out to the main road. Then I wore out again. I knew the rest of the route very well and knew it was easy, not a single uphill stretch. I fell back and took it easy until we hit town. Then I got my final jot of energy and flew back to the parking lot. I passed everyone in my group; I was on a mission to finish.

I'm hoping the stomach issues and the I'm-getting-a-cold feelings will work themselves out in the next few days. Obviously hitting the wall isn't going to stop me in Solvang, it'll just make it a miserable experience. As I intend this to be my one-and-only full century (ever), I'd like to have it be a good experience. My brain is ready. My body better be too.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Runner girl still knits, but can't prove it

I have fallen deeply into dislike with my camera. In the old days (um, that would be "old" as in "last year") I would knit something, struggle with connections to my computer, attempt various times to upload pictures I had taken and after several tries get to view my completed or in-progress knitting projects. I finally got fed up with it not working smoothly, got fed up with the stitch details being blurred, got fed up with colors being on some other spectrum than reality. One of these days I'll do a little research and find a camera that is (inexpensive and) easy to use and that takes good pictures of close-up details.

Except for the long bike ride days, my knitting has continued unabated all winter. After a long ride my hands are too sore or stiff to knit; I've ended up making more mistakes than progress. These past months I've completed several pairs of fingerless mitts, a pair of gauntlets, many hats, a few shawls and several scarves. Right now I'm knitting up a scarf/shawl (a "scawl"? or a "sharf"?) with yarn from Stitches. I didn't make it to the show but I put in an order with a friend who has the best eye for color that I know. Over the fall and winter I knit a shawl with yarn from Stitches 2008. It was the pink/gray hunk of superwash merino from Tess' Designer Yarns and it was a pleasure to work with and it's a joy to wear (and very pretty to boot). I asked my friend to pick up more of that yarn for me, and specified a couple of colors or a range of colors. She brought me the English Sheepdog (and a red to be knit later) and I hurried home the night I received it and wound it right into a huge cake.
I cast on for the Opera Scarf, a pattern I've done before. I wanted something simple but beyond garter and not a plain rib. It doesn't get much easier than a 3 stitch repeat on a 1 row pattern. I thought the yarn would be perfect for the pattern; just enough body to hang right and soft enough to drape. After several rows I decided that it needed a bigger needle size so I frogged it. I re-cast on and after several rows decided I wanted it wider. Re-frogging and again re-casting and now I've got several inches on the needles. I'm still not sure it's wide enough. I'll let it go another couple of inches and decide then. It's such an easy pattern that I don't mind redoing. Over and over. Of course, at my speed it should be done in time for next winter's chill.

Now I have to just work on that whole "runner girl" thing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Salmon Run

I forgot to ask why our ride Saturday was named the Salmon Run. I didn't see any salmon running.It was the hardest physical activity of my life (or at least the hardest my memory recalls, since I tend to forget how hard something is after the next hard something comes along). We rode 81.8 miles (or 83, or 80.2, or somewhere in the middle, depending on whose computer you believe) with about 5000 feet (or maybe almost 6000 feet according to our coach) elevation gain. My longest ride ever, my longest time on a bike ever, my longest time doing some continuous athletic activity ever. It took us nine and a half hours from start to finish, with just over 8 being our riding time. None of my stops were long but they were numerous, most to catch my breath.

It was a beautiful, windy day in Marin County, overcast but with crystal clear visibility, and windy. Very very very windy, especially along the coast. Windy. Have I ever mentioned that I dislike wind even more than hills? Well, it was windy.

It was hilly too, but the hills would have been much easier without the wind either pushing us backwards or sideways. In addition to being scary (the crosswinds were pushing me into traffic) the wind was hell on my asthma and allergies and I wheezed and gasped and dripped along almost the entire route. I think without the wind it would have been my favorite ride yet, but I had a terrible time and got quite cranky about halfway through. I think the coaches expected me to bail but I refused. Hey, breathing is overrated, right?

Bree and I carpooled to the start again and met up with the team. We started (late, of course) at McInnis Park and headed out along Lucas Valley Road. We climbed up to Big Rock and then headed down through Nicasio again. I think this was our third time through Nicasio and it just gets prettier as it gets greener. We then went on Pt. Reyes/Petaluma Road, over the top of Cheese Factory Hill, along Hicks Valley Road to Marshall/Petaluma Road. Then we climbed up Marshall Wall which was just as bad as the name would suggest. But scenic, absolutely gorgeous. Yes, it's nice to ride uphill at about 3-4 mph because you really get to take in the scenery. In depth.

After a steep, twisty descent on scary rutted roads we turned onto Highway 1 for a trip to Tomales Bay, then back again. This part was "rollers" (or "hills" as I like to call them) and my wheezy lungs were not having a great time. On the return trip traffic got heavy and man, some of those drivers get very impatient and mean when they have to slow down from a gazillion mph to something approaching the speed limit. We went through Pt. Reyes Station and Olema and then turned away from the coast to go up Olema Hill. It was less windy after that but the winds didn't disappear unless we were in a sheltered spot.

We returned back through Nicasio Valley (the reservoir seems to have much more water in it since the rains), returning to Lucas Valley Road. We got to climb back up to Big Rock, actually easier in that direction. Then a steep downhill, back through town and whoohooo, we were done! For the last few miles one, then another of us would hit 80 miles on our odometer and we cheered each and every time. I think we were all giddy at the thought of being done. The last mile or so all I could think of was "are we done yet? Are we done yet? Are we done yet? Are we done yet" and I think some of that was out loud.

One of the biggest problems I had is that when (1) I'm wheezing and gasping to breathe and (2) the wind is making me white-knuckle the bike to stay upright, I can neither eat nor drink. I barely touched my pop tarts (in total over the long day I only had 3) and I only went through 4-1/2 bottles of drink. I had (I think) 5 gels, but that was hardly enough for 8 hours of hard riding. When the winds calmed I was able to stuff my mouth, but otherwise I think I was skirting close to the edge of a bonk for the middle 40 miles.

Two more big rides are left; our 5o mile taper ride next week and (sound the horns and bells and whistles) Solvang the week after. I have no doubt that I'll be able to do 100 miles, as I have no doubt I'll feel like crap afterward. I'm astounded how much harder riding those long distances is than running a marathon, even a hard marathon (... or maybe it's just been too long and I've forgotten ...). I enjoy this team and all (or almost all) of my teammates and coaches and staff and I can't say how much I've loved seeing all the new areas. But my exhaustion levels are incredible. I got up this morning and felt like I had the world's worst hangover without the benefit of having had any alcohol first. I think sticking with metric centuries or less will be smartest for me, unless my asthma and allergies go away (and unless somehow I become faster so I can get it over with quicker).

I'm excited and terrified and elated and scared and full of anticipation for the century. I'm ready now, as ready as I'll ever be. Let's do the damn thing!