Thursday, December 3, 2009
i love running on thanksgiving morning, christmas morning and new year's morning. they are quiet, peaceful times when the world, or at least my little slice of it, seems to stand a little more still and smile a little more genuinely. for years i've wished there was a local turkey trot on thanksgiving morning. but no such luck ... just the following saturday. fun, but not what i'm looking for.
so much is my desire for a thanksgiving morning turkey trot, that i've been known to drive myself a couple of hours south the day before thanksgiving, get a hotel room and join in the orange county fun of the dana point turkey trot.
so, how excited was i when this year the topanga turkey trot (typically held the saturday after thanksgiving) moved to thanksgiving day?! the people at generic events put on great races and lots of my friends participate so i was thrilled to sign up!
better even was the fact that my sister is training for the l.a. marathon so she was game to run it with me and j.
the race has three course options 15k with 2285' of elevation, the 10k with 1371' and the 5k with 673'. they are all beautiful and brutal. all start with the same 1.5 mile upupuphill. yes, that's right three ups. it's that steep.
j. and i went and ran a course preview of the 10k a couple of weeks ago. i had planned on running the 15k on thanksgiving, but after running the 10k preview i wasn't sure how i'd make the 15k. my fitness is not all that up to snuff these days and i couldn't imagine adding another 3.1 miles and 900+ feet. but at the same time i had an attachment to doing the 15k.
not sure if it was my ego, my true desire or a little bit of both, but a couple of days before race day i just knew i was in for the 15k. i just had to. between the three of us, we covered each distance.
before the gun went off there was a little course "briefing" of the 15k. my sister told me later that after hearing it, she was genuinely nervous for me. lots of single track, low tree branches, high tree roots, sudden drop offs, and blind hair pin turns. something for everyone is really what that comes down to.
i took the first couple of miles really slowly. heck, i had no choice. a brisk walk up that hill was going to get me up there just as quick as running it was. so i chugged along, made it to the spot where the 15k turned off from the rest of the racers and it was "game on". they weren't kidding about the conditions of the trail and there was absolutely no passing anyone.
at first i was all zen and peaceful thanksgiving-like about it ... but then the guy in front of me listening, on speaker, to the the kinks' "coming dancing" on his iphone started to work my nerves. side note -- has anyone noticed that people listening to music on the iphone without headphones is, in essence, bringing back the transistor radio? why, people ... why!?
trapped behind this fellow i decided to get a little snarky and yell up to a friend of mine 3-4 people ahead "hey, ben! move it along up there ... you've got people back here!" i was kidding, seriously i was. i was just being silly and passing the time, but you know what's coming ...
no sooner did the words leave my mouth than i went launching forward. i felt a searing pain in my right toe joint as my foot folded forward waaay further than it should of and then (miracle of miracles i didn't go down) i landed with all my weight on that same toe joint. i think i broke my bunion! maybe that's a good thing? isn't that what they do when you have bunion surgery?
i was only at mile 4 and the throb, throb, throb of the joint never really let up, but i still enjoyed the heck out of the course. it was gorgeous and challenging. we climbed, descended, twisted, turned, and then climbed, climbed some more. when i got to the aid station at the top of the hill i had to untie and retie my shoes ... there had been so much lateral motion navigating the trail that my laces had loosened up considerably and if you know me, you know i like a tightly tied shoe!
the next few miles were more of the same ... up, up, up ... tell people i just broke a bunion .... up, up, up ... fill my water bottle ... up, up, up ... pee break. all in all i gave up 4.5 minutes to my thirst, bladder and feet. nice killer racing instinct, huh!?
the last mile and a half you absolutely flyyyy downhill. i actually scared myself a few times i was going so fast. but i also had a blast banking myself off of the sides of the trail as it twisted and turned.
my final time was nothing to write home about, but i had a blast and challenged myself.
having j., my sister and all my running/triathlon friends around was so much better than the anonymous turkey trots i've spent down south. i loved being on the trails and being a part of our community here.
a week later and my bunion is still feeling the effects, but i can't wait to do it again next year!
Friday, September 25, 2009
heading out on the first run i didn’t feel as tight as i often do getting off of the bike, then again 30 miles is a bit shorter than i usually ride and i hadn’t pushed too hard on the bike. i let me legs do a bit of settling and started taking in my surroundings.
the first couple of miles are a steady up, then you come to cardiac hill and after that it flattens out a bit, but the trail also narrows and you have a few more rocks and tree roots to navigate.
pretty soon into the run laura came up along side of me. it was fun to run together, but i made sure to tell her not to slow herself down to stay with me. she told me to do the same. we stopped at the first aid station and i had some water and gatorade. i wasn’t all that thirsty yet, but i knew stopping at each and every aid station was going to be critical. i am used to doing long races with a fuel belt and being able to drink whenever i want. at SOS aid stations only come every 2-4 miles and you really can’t take anything (other than a gu that you can stick in your shorts) with you because there is nowhere to dispose of anything and no water to wash it down with. i have had a lot of stomach issues in the past and i was concerned about downing large quantities all at once which meant in order to get enough fluids it was even more important that i stop each time.
as laura and i ran along i saw a guy coming toward us, i joked “he’s going the wrong way!” not realizing that it actually was a competitor. he had already come out of the first swim and was starting out on the second run. on the first run you pass the “swim out” from the first swim. you’re actually running alongside lake awosting and you run down and around the end of it, up the other side and it’s at that point that you cross back over the lake (by swimming) and then swim along the side of the lake for a mile and get out where you had just been running before. got that?
somewhere after about 3 miles i went a bit ahead of laura. i was feeling really good and wanted to negative split the run (that was my plan for all three). running along the side of the lake i could hear and catch glimpses of people swimming. the lake looked so peaceful.
swim #1: 1.1 mile
my first transition to the water was pretty slow, but man oh man was i happy with the swim. the water was cold when i first got in, but it also felt really good after running. as i swam along i thought about all the cramping they had talked about the night before. just before the race started i saw the race director and asked him: “so, what do people do when they get a cramp in the water?” if i was gonna cramp i wanted a plan. he said most people hold on to a kayak and rub it out, but he just focuses on really relaxing the muscles. so as i swam i checked in with my legs. i consciously thought about relaxing the muscles, figured it was a good way to prevent them as well.
as i swam along the side of the lake i really couldn’t tell how far into it i was because there is a bend up ahead, you can’t see around it and i didn’t know how much past it the "swim out” was. but it kind of didn’t matter. i was feeling so strong and good as i swam along. i looked up at the trees each time i took a breath. it was awe inspiring. at one point i got a little chilly. i thought about michelle and what an awesome swimmer she is. i tried to channel her like i had charisa on the bike. i actually made myself laugh because michelle HATES the cold!! as i swam along i noticed someone on my left, i looked over and it was j. we swam together for a few strokes (the water is super clear so we were able to smile at each other in the water just like in the pool) and then he moved ahead just slightly, just enough for me to grab on to his feet. generally holding on to his draft is tough but today i was swimming strong and it was no problem. we exited the water together and got our shoes back on. i noticed a few people sitting off to the side wrapped in mylar blankets. they looked blue and shaken from the water temperature.
run #2: 5.5 miles
as j. and i began to run i knew i had to take it down a notch from what i had been running before the swim. the cold water had cooled my legs off and i could tell that if i pushed an uphill or went too fast my hamstrings would revolt. so i shortened my stride and trusted that they’d warm back up. the first two and half to three miles is pretty much uphill. as i crested the top of a hill where the next aid station was i saw a man ahead yelling out “hey, is that cat coming?” "uhhhh, yeah" (but who the heck was he!?!?) “well you look like you’re doing great and j. says he loves you”. man oh man he’s so good at doing things like that! it totally made me smile and reminded me of all the notes we left each other in our transition and special needs bags during IMLP.
the next few miles wind downhill quite a bit. i tried to let gravity take me and enjoy the break from the hills. i talked briefly with a man in his 50’s who had done ironman lake placid at the end of july, ironman canada a month later and now, just two weeks after that was doing SOS. hijole! he seemed happy to be out there, but also like he was fading a bit as he said “have a good run!” and dropped back.
for the most part i was on my own the rest of the time. i could see a few people ahead of me every now and again and one woman passed me as we were getting close to the second swim. i put my ear plugs in as i was running figuring it was one thing i could do to cut down on the time it took me to get in the water. i was further away from the swim in than i thought and running with the ear plugs in was a strange sensation, it amplified my breathing and cut all the other noise out. it was sort of like what you hear when you are scuba diving. it was meditative. suddenly there was an uphill and it showed me that my lower half was really starting to get tight. i didn’t have quite the push i needed to run it as i’d like. i could hear people shouting and i knew i was close to the next swim.
swim #2: .5 mile (but based on time i'd say .6)
this time i was much faster with my cap donning, shoe removal, etc. i was in the water and off! there is a buoy line that runs across all of lake minnewaska, so as long as i stayed with it on my side i really didn’t need to worry much about sighting.
because we’re all so strung out through the race without a lot of interaction, i felt like i was being kind of aggressive, but then i remembered, it’s a race for chrissake, you do what you need to do (maintaining sportsman like conduct) to get to the finish line first. if this were a mass swim start you wouldn’t think twice about claiming your space.
and so i went. easy peasy i passed them all and kept going. my swimming felt bionic (please note that my swimming and bionic have never been used in the same sentence!). as i neared the end of the second swim i thought about my brother and emily. i knew they were going to be at the swim out and i got all giddy inside. i started wondering if they could see me at that point. i was excited to tell them what a great time i was having.
there was more food and fluid at the swim out and i stopped for a while to fuel up. i knew i had another 8 miles ahead of me and i wanted to be sure i took in enough calories.
other than aid stations you really don’t see anyone out there on the course except the occasional racer or mountain climber, it's actually a beautiful thing, but seeing nick and emily was energizing to say the least!
next up ... run #3, swim #3, run #4 ...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
turns out he ran almost exact 200 meter splits (26 seconds and change) throughout the entire race. he went into the race knowing what he needed to run and he never wavered from that, even when it meant he was behind. just like a car that gets better gas mileage going at a steady rate he was able able to win by remaining steady, and trusting his training, as his competitors accelerated and decelerated.
what a great lesson!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
watching in 2007, i was in awe of j. and laura’s ability to navigate this race – an 8 stage triathlon that begins with a 30 mile bike (with a significant 5 mile climb at the end), a 4.5 mile run with a hill called “cardiac hill”, a 1.1 mile swim in the most gorgeous lake ever, a 5.5 mile run that starts with 2.5 miles of up, up, up to the top of a hill that looks out over all of the hudson valley, another .5 mile swim, then an 8 mile run with another named hill, “godzilla”, another .5 mile swim in mohonk house’s lake and finally a .7 mile (1000’ straight up) run to another overlook of the hudson valley. the SOS finish line at skytop might just be the most memorable finish line out there.
the race only has one transition area; when you first get off the bike. the start line is 30 miles away so you have to have a crew person go to the transition area with your run and swim gear while you are riding. once you get there, they take your bike from you and lead you to your spot so you can get your running shoes, goggles, swim cap, etc. you can pretty much do this race however you want (wetsuit, dry bag for shoes, etc.) just so long as you finish with whatever you start with. so if you want to use a wetsuit on the swims, it means you are also running with it for 18.7 miles. believe it or not, people do it! you also see people with dry bags around their waists that they put their shoes in and then drag behind them on the swim.
when i first decided to do the race i thought i would do what i saw one man do in 2007 which was to have a dry bag, put my shoes in it, add some air and stick it between my legs like a pull buoy. i thought it would be great to have dry shoes and since swimming is my weakness (and i feel like a rock start when i use a pull buoy) it would be a great help.
as training went along i thought about it more and more and decided to forgo the dry bag, for a couple of reasons. the main one being though that i thought in the end i would feel like i hadn’t really “done” the race. it’s totally legit to use one, but i have a nasty little habit of discounting my accomplishments, so i didn’t want to give myself any ammunition. i was going to do this one on the “natch”.
training for the race was interesting. there aren’t many lakes in southern california and no trails that come directly off of the ocean. so training wasn’t going to include a lot of exact race simulation. luckily i had a trip planned to illinois to visit my coach, liz, and while i was there i was able to do a swim/run/swim. j. and i also went out to santa clarita for a day of run/swim/run/swim/run/swim. it was BLAZING hot that day, but a good opportunity to get a sense for how it would go.
i was shocked at how tired my arms felt coming off of the runs and into the swims, so learning that was great mental prep. i also had the chance to try out my gear -- swimming with my shoes stuffed down the back of my one piece tri suit, running with wet shoes, deciding if i would swim with my socks on or off (answer was on, but they had to be thin and tight).
while i was with liz in chicago we made some changes to my swim stroke that i think proved invaluable in the end. thank goodness that trip came when it did. back in los angeles, j. and i did a few more race simulations though they were in the pool and on the roads, for the most part. i did do quite a bit of training in the ocean, but honestly until late in the summer it was pretty cool in the pacific for non-wetsuit swimming and in the weeks before the race we were having some seriously rocky conditions. my training had been going so well i didn’t want to undermine my confidence with some aborted swim attempts or to reignite my open water swimming fears so i chose to use the pool and trust that the training was sufficient for what i’d be doing on race day.
the week before the race i flew back east and spent some time with my brother nick and his girlfriend emily out in montauk. the time i spent out there with them was the perfect way for me to go into a race. i wasn’t even thinking about the fact that i had a race coming up, i was just having so much fun and relaxing. they are both super active people and training for the NY marathon so they completely understood, respected and supported the training that i needed to do while i was there. emily patiently sat on the shore of a rocky bay and watched me while i swam in unfamiliar waters. i was nervous out there alone and she understood and supported me, waving to me each time i’d stop and look around. i swear, for a half an hour the woman never took her eyes off of me! there were lots of other logistics we needed to work with/around while i was there and having them both be so willing to make it work was a huge gift.
while i was there i got to spectate a race they were doing. both nick and emily ran 10k PRs and i was so psyched i could be there. it was a beautiful course on country roads and i'd love to run it sometime!
on wednesday i headed over to new paltz. j. was flying into the city and we were meeting at his sister’s house (she lives 10 minutes from the race start). having so much time to acclimate to the humidity and to get on east coast time was probably the smartest decision i have ever made. i get really nervous before i race and controlling my environment (or at least thinking i do) becomes paramount. i like my pre-race life, the way i like it … clean eating, lots of resting, as few logistics as possible, not a lot of socializing and a complete avoidance of any potential sickness causing germs.
i knew going into the race that i wouldn’t have the level of control that i would if it were just me racing. we were staying at laura’s, there were lots of family members coming in to spectate, not a lot of cars to go around and kids to tend to. they have a wonderful life, but it’s much different from the one i am used to. when we arrived it turned out that her youngest was sick. you’ve never seen me hightail it to the stop-and-shop for a basketful of antibacterial products faster. ha! i love her kids, i really do so of course i felt badly that she was sick, but it also set in motion my worries. i had lots of talks with myself about the things that i can control and the things that i can’t. those conversations usually work for about the length of time that it takes for me to have them.
on top of the little muffin getting sick, j.’s mom, who was going to come to the race and take care of the girls, had gotten sick so stayed at home in florida. this left us with two working parents, one sick child, j. heading off to pennsylvania to visit his grandmother and … yup, me to babysit the sick one. i was happy to spend the time with her and to help out the family, but got a little dizzy from the lack of oxygen due to limiting my breathing around her. i am, of course, laughing at myself. all worrying aside, it all turned out just fine!
the night before the race they have a big pre-race meeting. it’s a tradition for past “survivors” to wear their shirts. there are presentations from the coordinators of each section of the race, there’s a slide show of past years, etc. now mind you only 150 athletes are allowed to participate in this race and all have to qualify through a half or full ironman, but as we sat there i marveled at what seemed like hundreds of very fit athletes striding by. BUT it had a very mellow vibe. sort of a small town, grassroots feel even though the race is a big event to produce.
the days leading up to the race were autumn crisp. i took a walk on part of the course and i was really chilly in a hoodie and a jacket. it was windy and the skies were really dark and then it poured rain. the forecast for sunday was mid-70’s and beautiful, but as my nose ran and i couldn’t get the chill out of my bones it was hard to imagine that was possible.
j. and i biked the first run on mountain bikes -- it's the only way you can preview any of the course. we couldn't really preview any more of it as it would have zapped a lot of energy from our legs to have ridden the whole thing. i had ridden each run leg back in 2007, so i had a pretty decent idea of what the hills were like on the run.
at the pre-race meeting the race director said to laura, “if you’ve got a shortie wetsuit, wear it!” none of us had one. gulp. i couldn’t imagine three lake swims in 67 degree water, shoot sometimes my hands and feet go numb while swimming in an indoor pool!!
we woke up sunday morning, or i should say “got out of bed” as there had been zero sleeping for me and it was humid and a lot warmer than it had been on previous mornings. yeah!!! we had packed everything up overnight yet somehow my race chip had gone missing. i had a moment of feeling sick to my stomach as i dialed my poor brother (it was 5:30am!!) to see if it had somehow gotten into my transition bag. no dice. i tore everything apart and with no luck finally decided that they must deal with situations like this at the race all the time, right? they’ll have another one at the start. as we were leaving jeff’s brother-in-law found the chip on top of the baby jogger in the garage! don’t ask, i still have no idea how it got there.
okay here we go ...
the race starts on the bike. there are age group waves, just like the swim start of a “regular” triathlon and they go off every minute after the starting whoop, whoops. so there we are all lined up and i’m kinda quakin’ in my sidi’s not sure that i’ll be able to clip in and steer my bike straight when my wave goes off.
backing up a few days, i got an email from my friend steven telling me that he had reconnected with an old high school friend on facebook and that, crazy coincidence, she and her husband were doing SOS. what are the chances, he said, that out of 150 people racing he knew 4 of them!! he had sent me an email telling me what she’d be wearing, but honestly i was so preoccupied with making sure that i was breathing on race morning that i completely forgot to look for her.
just before our wave went a woman rolled up next to me, i glanced over (black one piece with green piping) … “andrea?” yup, it was steven’s friend. we chatted for a second, but again it was that awkward “i’m so nervous this is a nice distraction but i’m not paying any attention to what either of us is saying” kind of chit-chat.
when our wave started the six or seven women in front of me immediately blasted off into a tight pack. now mind you even though this race is “different” it is still USAT sanctioned and the same rules apply. meaning, no drafting! at the pre-race meeting they had said that it was hard to enforce that rule within the first 5 miles or so since we all start together, but honestly when i saw the group of women in my age group jump on each others wheels i knew i just couldn’t do it.
i probably lost myself a few places with that decision, but i feel really strongly about sticking to the rules. it's one thing if you really can’t avoid it, and there were a couple of times on some hills where it was a bit tough, but i knew that it was well within my power to not grab a wheel and so i let them go. that really was the first defining act of “racing my own race” and i’m so glad i set that tone right at the start because i think it served me well throughout the entire race. future waves came by later on like they were in a team time trial. i thought that was a damn shame and didn’t mind one bit passing those folks later in the race as we cranked up the 5 mile climb. that climb, by the way, was a little more steep and challenging than i had thought. i kept it in an easy gear and just spun, spun, spun up it.
the bike course was out of this world. it was 7am and there was the most phenomenal golden light blanketing the hudson valley, along with thin layers of fog hugging the farmland. we rode by horses, cows, rows and rows of sunflowers. went through tiny little towns that i feel like i ought to call hamlets just because they were so dang cute. i even passed a huge gnome with a plaque under it that read “World’s Largest Garden Gnome”. i smiled and said out loud “hey, charisa (facebook, triathlete, blogger friend who loves garden gnomes) thanks for coming out” and then i pictured her face (she has the world’s best smile) and thought about how positive and talented she is. i tried to channel her energy and it actually worked! i felt totally inspired and sorta giddy.
from the get-go this race was something different than they usually are for me. i felt a calm and lack of racing “grrrrr”. this wasn’t a bad thing. i was 100% in it, i felt passionate about it, i wanted to do my best, but i also didn’t want to miss a moment of it to the tunnel vision that i can sometimes get due to a singular focus of fast, fast, fast, (don’t drown, don’t crash), finish line, finish line, finish line!!
the bike had some great straightaways and rollers where i was able to hold 23-24mph and just be in a comfortable groove with the perfect gearing. i said "hello" or "good job" or some such thing to everyone i passed. i thanked the volunteers and the cops. i smiled BIG. i loved the bike. j. started in a wave 1 minute after me and at about mile 9.5 he came along side of me and asked “are you okay, honey?” and then he passed by. oops, maybe i was slacking? i hadn’t thought so, but they way he said it sounded like i should have been further along. about a half mile later i passed him back and we didn’t see each other again until toward the end of the 1st swim.
at about mile 28 i passed laura and knew that meant we’d be running together for at least the first leg. as i came around a bend and looked up a little rise i could hear thunderous clapping and cheering. i couldn’t see any people yet, but i knew i was close to the bike hand off.
moments later i was entering transition and being cheered on by my brother, emily and j’s family. nick took my bike and lead me to my transition set up. they had gotten us a rockin’ space and done an amazing job laying everything out just as i had shown them. LOVE that.
i was pretty quick with the switch to running shoes and grabbing goggles and swim cap. took a bite of a banana, a swig of water and was off for the rest of the adventure …
next up, run #1.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
in the meantime, if you can bear the buffering of the video (hint let it fully buffer while it's on pause) you'll get a sneak peek at what i'm in for on sept. 13th.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
soon, i promise.
until then ... pizza time!!!
Friday, August 7, 2009
i'm not really a "letter to the editor" type of gal or at least i haven't been for the first 41 years of my life, but a few weeks ago i sat at my computer searching for a job and in the background michael jackson's memorial service was on the television. as i watched all the grandeur unfold and read reports about the City of Los Angeles footing the bill ... well ... i was angered enough to launch my letter writing career!
yesterday as i was running i thought about the letter and that it was never published and then realized, doh!, i have my very own publishing vehicle. so, here ya go ... my very first "letter to the editor":
I am outraged by the City of Los Angeles’ spending on ’s memorial service. It’s not that I think Mr. Jackson shouldn’t be honored, I do. He made great contributions to us all and I have the fondest memories of boppin’ along to The Jackson 5 with my brothers and sisters throughout the 1970’s. However, as a now grown woman who was recently laid off from her job, I am dancing to a different tune.
For the past six years I have worked for a non-profit agency that relies heavily upon State and Federal contracts for a great portion of its budget. As we sat with an unapproved budget and a State in total financial crisis, we had to look at suspending services to our clients, cutting out programs and reducing our staff.
In an attempt to not leave our city’s most needy without the services they so desperately rely upon, a few of us lost our jobs. My hope is that with our education and skills the set back we experience will be less than what our clients would have faced had they not received the subsidies they need in order to meet their most basic needs.
That being said, I am appalled by the fact that the City of Los Angeles saw fit to spend, what reports are saying is upwards of $4 million, on Mr. Jackson’s memorial. While I am not privy to the Jackson family’s finances, I’d bet what money I do have that they have more than enough to appropriately memorialize him. The fact that Mayor Villaraigosa saw fit to Tweet throughout the day yesterday, appealing to the citizens of Los Angeles to donate to the Michael Jackson Memorial Fund to offset the costs is beyond comprehension to me.
The City has put up a webpage where you can make a donation through PayPal. Have they done that for the families that are at risk of losing their CalWorks benefits? What about for the hard working employees, such as myself, who no longer have jobs so that others can continue to thrive, is there a webpage to donate to that cause?
To me it is downright irresponsible of the City to have gone ahead with the memorial. What about honoring Mr. Jackson with a street in his name (though I am sure that is in the works too)? How about holding candle light vigils a la John Lennon’s passing? What about the City filling in where the State is failing our citizens and making donations, in Mr. Jackson’s name, to our cities neediest?
These are all honorable, responsible, inspiring acts that are much more sensitive to our current economic climate and much more in keeping with a budding young social consciousness that has started to take root with our new Presidential administration.
Writing a letter to the editor is something I have never done before, but I am so pained by our City’s insensitivity, I simply had to say something.Catherine M. Griffin
*later reports indicated that the actual cost to the City was $1.4 million, but still ...
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
a lot has happened since my last blog post, heck it's been since mid-june ... how could it not!? yet at the same time, i've been uninspired to blog. i've guess i've been laying low.
at the end of june i was laid off from my job. i had worked there for the past six years and didn't really see it coming. i suppose in the abstract i did (it's a non-profit with a budget heavily reliant on state contracts) since our state/nation's economy is in the crapper ... but it was still a shock. i was leaving that evening for a trip with j.'s family to lake tahoe so ... we left a little earlier.
the trip was beautiful. i wasn't able to train at the level i would have liked since we were at altitude and as i discovered earlier this year ... me and altitude ... not so much. but we kayaked and took a few wonderful, peaceful, meditative swims in the lake. it was super cold, but so worth it! it was fun to be in the water with j. and his sister (we're all doing s.o.s. together in just a little over a month).
after the trip to tahoe we came home for the 4th and we ran one of our favorite 10k's. it's a super hilly course in a nice small town.
all the neighbors come out and cheer and the whole town is done up in red, white and blue. i went 57 seconds faster than last year and i was psyched because i went into it not feeling all that fit. bonus too was that my sister ran it! she and i trained for and ran the l.a. marathon together 9 years ago and it was fun to know she was out on the course as well.
for the month since i've been trying to find a balance between deciding what i want to be when i grow up, job searching and enjoying a little "down time". the best thing about not working is how much the level of chronic pain i have been living in for the past 8 years has been reduced. the hardest thing for me has always been sitting at a computer all day long. it makes my body feel so beat up that by the end of the day i feel like a pretzel. i still have some of the issues, but WOW, so much less.
speaking of which, i finally had an MRI on my hip and back. i have two compressed vertebrae, one with a bulging disk. the doctor said they weren't awful but he also said that the combination of the bulging disk and some thickening of bones in the same place has left little room for the nerves that run through that section of my back. hmmmm ... that sounds like a culprit! as for the hip, he saw a slight labral tear. based on what he said, that may be a bit of an overstatement ... it's more like the labrum is peeling up a bit (blech!). he prescribed 6 weeks of physical therapy, which due to a glitch in the switch over from regular insurance to COBRA, i haven't been able to start yet, but i am hoping soon!
training has been going well. i wish i was using this time off to do more of it, but liz didn't think that was a good idea. :( she said that i have "durability issues". that's tough for me to hear. i suppose it's true, to some extent, but i also know that now that i am not working i have a lot more time to put toward maintenance and recovery.
on the "racing" front, i swam the pier-to-pier 2 mile ocean swim this past sunday. it's one of those races i've heard about forever, but have feared. the thought of two miles without a wetsuit as a security blanket freaked me out, but this year i wanted to do it. a) s.o.s. is all non-wetsuit swimming and b) it was on my birthday and i love to try to do a race or some physical adventure on my birthday.
i wasn't feeling very well leading up to the race so i was playing it by ear on race day morning (but who was i kidding, barring a MAJOR freak out, i was swimming!) j. and josh and i went together. i wished my friend chris was swimming, but he's been having some physical stuff going on that's keeping him from training right now. chris is an awesome swimmer and has always been really encouraging to me about getting out there.
for the most part the swim was great. i never really felt like i found a rhythm and i certainly wasn't "racing", but i was just fine without the wetsuit. it's amazing how much more of a feel for the water you get without it. i was giddy to be enjoying myself as much as i was. and then it started to get a little old. the people tapping my feet, the swimming waaaay off course, the final pier not getting ANY closer despite the fact that it appeared to be right in front of me. i kept reminding myself that i had been really enjoying it and to just hold on to that, it actually worked for the most part. in the end it turns out there must have been a current as everyone's times were longer than usual (last year the winner swam it in :39, this year :45). it was a good mental boost to know i could do 2 miles straight without a wetsuit, but hysterical to me to see that i swam longer at IMUSA in less time (god bless mirror lake and neoprene).
i haven't decided yet about the shoes i am going to wear for s.o.s. i thought i was going with the teva x-1 racer trail shoe, but after a two hour run a week or so ago i had a mean blister, imagine running longer than that and with wet socks and shoes. i'm not sure they'll work.
i liked them because of the mesh on the sides and the drain holes on the bottom. hopefully i'm going to head out to a lake this weekend where i can actually try swimming with them in my shorts and then running with wet shoes like i will in the race. that'll give me a better sense if they are the right shoe or not. if anyone has any ideas, let me know ... just keep in mind it's 19 miles of trail running and i need some amount of support and cushion.
i'm a bit nervous about the bike for the race. i've been cycling only twice a week and that just never feels like enough to me. twice a week on the bike results in just holding on to my bike fitness, if not losing a little. while the bike portion is only 30 miles, part of it is quite demanding and i'd like to give away as little of my energy on it as possible. the only way i know to do that and still keep a decent pace and remain competitive is time in the saddle and getting used to some hard efforts.
in non-training news ... i am the proud new owner of an iphone! oh lord help me. it's been 3 days now and it's all just a big blur of photos, apps and IMing j. while he's sitting next to me.
f-u-n n-e-w t-o-y!!
okay, i felt like i had to get this one "catch up" post done (sorry it's so dry). i think that's it. now that i've gotten y'all caught up hopefully my intentions of regular blogging on life as it actually happens will pan out.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
i can't help but think back to when i raced IMLP. i was so utterly freaked out ready to shit my pants at any moment scared that i feel like i missed out on a lot. the days leading up to the race are still a bit of a blur.
i wrote a race report after it even though i didn't have a blog back then. i wanted to get all written down because memory fades and i needed to remember. maybe one day i'll post it.
i don't know if i'll ever do another ironman. i think i have a lot of triathlete maturing to do before i attempt it again. i didn't really fall in love with the race distance, but i did fall in love with the training.
almost 3 years later i still love it. i'm out of the rhythm of really long distance days, but i know i would slide right back in. i miss late afternoon drool sessions on the couch after a 6 hour ride. i miss the feeling i got each time the distance was "upped" and i would marvel that i had just done something that at one time seemed downright un-doable.
when i sit and think about all the friends who are racing IMCDA on sunday, my wish for them is that they take it all in. no matter what the days before and the day of bring, it's their journey, their story and they get to keep it forever. they've each worked long and hard for it. everyone of them has made sacrifices and had triumphs along the way. it fills my heart up just thinking about it.
i'm already cheering and sending love, speed and lots of fulfilled dreams your way!!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
as you know, i've been in the ocean more this season. i've been going to a weekly weds. morning "speed circuit" where we swim about 250 meters out to a buoy, come back in, run up the beach a ways, round an orange cone, down the beach about 50 meters, round another cone and back into the water. run, swim, rinse, repeat.
it's been a blast!
on the drive down there each week i don't let myself think about what i am on my way to do. i just drive: "doot, da, doot, da, doot ... here i am in my car at 5:45am ... driving along ... doot, da, doot, da, doot" and just like that i'm in the parking lot, lubing up with body glide, wrestling myself into the kielbasa casing known as my wetsuit and splashing around with 100+ of my closest neoprene-clad friends.
the other week i did a record (for me) 4 loops. SO PROUD!!
yesterday i had an unexplained sinking feeling in my stomach as i doot-da-dooted my way toward the beach. uneasy. queasy.
got to beach and just kept taking one sketchy footstep after the other.
i got into the water and, as beth would say, HOLY CATS!! sure, it looked dark and ominous from up on the sand, but it didn't look ... uh ... quite so wavy or choppy. damn, it's wavy choppy!!!
immediately i lost my breath. it was a little colder than it's been recently. it was rough. i was anxious. all put together = cat can't really breathe so good.
j. was a sweetheart as we both had flashbacks to my untold ocean freak outs where i insisted: "I CAN'T DO THIS!!! DON'T LEAVE ME BY MYSELF!!! WHERE ARE YOU GOING!?!?! I'M GETTING OUT. WAIT, I DON'T WANT TO DO THAT ALONE!?!? HEEEELP!!!"
as usual he said, "try one loop". i decided to try. i stopped every couple of breaths making sure there was no confusion on his part that "i'm not sure i can do this". i didn't want my fear to win, i didn't want to have to navigate getting out alone, i didn't want j. to not get his workout done, i didn't want to get the idea stuck in my head that the ocean was scary and that i take a powder and go for breakfast when it gets rough (which i do, but i wasn't in the mood to prove it to myself).
so i did the loop. it was a rough go, but the extreme freak out i felt at first subsided. until, of course, we had to head in and what were probably mid-sized waves looked to me like building-collapsing tidal waves. i knew it was bad when i screamed to j. that i just wanted the other people swimming near me to get the hell away from me!! what? how will that help? no idea. i was irrational.
okay, i'm writing this so obviously i got back to shore. whew!
j. headed out for another loop and i sat on the sand, totally relieved to be done and totally bummed that i wasn't going back out. i watched people run up the beach and excitedly run back out. our friend josh ran up and looked at me "all done?" he asked. i'm not sure what i replied, but it was something of the "you betcha" variety.
j. came back out and next thing i knew i was at his side saying i wanted to go back out. it didn't look so bad. he looked at me, looked at the ocean and said "yeah? okay ... sure, it doesn't look that bad from here ..."
guess what, it was worse than the first time around! well, the conditions were but i wasn't. i was up and over a big wave, swimming in mid-air. that part was actually kind of fun. the buoy ... well, i couldn't really see it but there were still enough people out there that i was able to keep my bearings.
on the exit i got slightly pummeled, but nothing too bad.
i was as proud of doing that second loop yesterday as i was of having done 4 last week. sure i got a total of something like 17 minutes of swimming in (and that includes a lot of wading, stopping, diving, orienting), BUT i got a ton of confidence and character building in that 17 minutes.
j. went out for yet another loop (stud). i was a wee bit nervous as he and his two friends headed out in the complete opposite direction of the buoy, but they soon realized the conditions had taken them off course and righted themselves.
after the swim i declared we were going for blueberry pancakes. heavenly, hearty, gluten-filled pancakes. that swim was a triumph worthy of my favorite breakfast. shoot, had baskin & robbins been open i might have even gotten myself a scoop of mint chocolate chip on my way to work.
here's to the wavy chop not gettin' you down!
Monday, June 8, 2009
i think i’ve done this race 3 or 4 times and every time j. has been my 'sherpa extraordinaire', but today he was going to be racing as well and i was so excited! we haven’t raced the same (multisport) race since vineman half in 2007. our friends jen, kevin and josh were racing as well. i wasn’t sure if having friends racing would increase my race anxiety or lessen it. for today, it lessened it and i was thrilled.
i didn’t feel anything like the nerves i usually feel pre-race. in fact, throughout the week i kept on saying to myself “wait, what do i have going on this weekend?” because i sensed there was something big i needed to remember and then i’d be like “oh right, i’m racing!!” that is SO not my pre-race attitude. maybe it’s because this race wasn’t on my original schedule. after napa i added it because i wanted to see what i could do with a shorter distance … and NO RAIN (hopefully). ironically, as we drove to san dimas the dark, dark skies were threatening a downpour. luckily, no rain appeared. in fact, it was glorious out there. the sun just started peeking through the clouds as my swim wave went off.
ah, the swim! seems that what happens when you are more confident with your swim and you line up toward the front and don’t fade immediately is … you get a lot more contact. i got punched in the head and my goggles went all askew. the one thing i do not like about bonelli is their lack of a buoy that you can actually sight off of. i looked back over my past race reports and i was giving myself such a bad time in them for having stopped periodically throughout the swim to “locate myself”. i always assumed it was just that i sucked at sighting. having been in open water a bit more, recently, i can say that I do not suck at it. i definitely could get better, but i have the skill needed and what bonelli needs is something larger than what they refer to as “a salmon egg”. HA! i think they call it that because of its shape and color, but they ought to call it that because its size, relative to the body of water we are in, is like that of salmon roe atop a piece of sushi. sight off of that!
anyway, the swim was fine, other than the increased contact. i found myself getting a little “sigh … can this swim end yet?” at one point, but it was all good.
out on the bike course i had to play that balancing act between “this is a short race, go hard” and “save a little for the run”. there are a lot of new folks who do the relay and sprint (the sprint is one loop of the three loop course) and unfortunately what you get with that is a lot of people who do not know the rules about not passing on the right and about dropping back when you’ve been passed and about going back over to the right when you’ve passed someone. i’m a rule follower and a stickler for safety, so it sorta chapped my ass, but i tried to just make sure that people knew where i was and watched out.
i could feel on the bike that the nerve/back/hamstring/whatever issue i’ve been battling was flaring up. i was uncomfortable, to say the least, but not muscle uncomfortable. i’m not sure how to describe it, but i know the difference.
off the bike i was afraid the issues i was having were going to be a factor, but i tried to push the thought out of my head and just trust that things would shake out as i ran. the bonelli run course is an interesting one. i wouldn’t call it flat, flat … but i also would not call it hilly. it’s always been a fairly challenging run for me. it’s usually crazy hot and i suppose my legs always feel those three bike loops. i tried to settle in and not judge my race. i looked at the pretty scenery. i thought about positive things.
funny how recently when i am on the run of a brick or race and i want to think of positive things, one of the things that I’ve been saying is “i am so happy i didn’t crash on the bike!” hahaha. that makes me laugh … it’s sort of a negative positive in its own way. but the reality is that the older i get the more afraid of crashing i become. the other thing i was grateful for was the lack of heat. i wasn’t having any of my bloating issues despite not being able to “do my business” before the race.
i hung in there, but the nag in my hip and hamstring were just not going away. my legs didn’t feel particularly heavy, but i couldn’t push more than i was. when i’d become conscious that i had been “accepting” my pace, i would think about liz and what she had said to me about picking it up for 10 seconds and then holding it there. i tried, jeez … i tried.
it’s sounding like i am unhappy with the race. i’m not. i think i’m just a little frustrated. i was saying to j. on the car ride home that i feel like i am SO dedicated to my training, i work very hard. i rarely, if ever, blow off a workout. i plan for them all, i prepare, i follow instructions, i work hard. i take my recovery and nutrition seriously. but i feel like the end result doesn’t equal the work i put into it. he made the very astute point, of “but what if you didn’t do those things? you would probably be slower.” he’s right, i probably would be and that’s a reality that’s tough for me because it means i sort of have to just accept that i am who i am.
sure i can continue to work hard to maintain and dollars-to-doughnuts i’ll have breakthrough training and racing times, but i won’t suddenly become someone who runs in the 6-7 minute mile range off the bike. i want to be that girl. okay, so if i’m not going to be her, i want to at least feel like busting my ass 6 days a week produces a shift, some growth, some speed. boo hoo, right? i know, i know, but it's all relative and i’ll get over myself soon.
back to the race for a second. as i was running along on a little out and back section i saw j. coming toward me. as we passed i yelled out “come on, come catch me!” i knew he could, but he didn’t look too thrilled about the prospect of trying, but i also KNEW given a few seconds he’d be like “hell yeah, i’m gonna go catch her”.
a while later i heard a couple of footsteps behind me. i just knew they were j’s. funny how you can recognize your partner before you even see them. i turned around and it was him! i had the feeling he was going to hold up and want to run it in to the finish with me, but i really wanted him to press on. he’s got great running legs when he’s not injured and i wanted him to have that experience today, that success.
as he approached i cheered him on and said “come on, go, go, go!!” he did and watching him gazelle off into the distance made me so happy for him. he loves running more than anything and watching the mental anguish that chronic calf and achilles pain causes him is just no fun.
j. has spectated for me at the race so many times that i am used to him being at certain points on the course. when i exited the water, i missed him screaming (to the ear damaging distress of the other spectators) “GO CAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. out on the bike course, i missed feeling like a tour de france rider as i went past him on each loop. before he passed me today, i had the fleeting thought of “dang, j. won’t be at the finish screaming his bloody head off for me”, but as he ran off toward the finish i thought to myself, “yeah, he’ll be there when i cross the line! i sure hope he’s not too tired to scream!!" he may not have screamed, but he sure did look just as proud as all the other times.
okay, racing pity party over. time to talk to my coach and try to figure out what i can and cannot do to try to achieve the milestones i want and then … time to eat pizza!!!
*sorry for the lack of photos. there are only two of me and i look like an oompa loompa in both!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
1. since i last wrote i have swum in the ocean something like 4 or 5 times. each one has been phenomenal. ocean swimming has always been a challenge for me so getting out there this often and having a blast with it each time really makes my year!
2. i picked the wrong time of year to read "swimming to antarctica". on the one hand it inspired the heck out of me, on the other ... it plants thoughts of sharks i never had before! that being said, if you get a chance to pick it up, do it ... lynne cox is amazing!
3. i was so excited to hear, in an interview with frank mccourt (owner of the dodgers and now owner of the l.a. marathon) that they are working on making the l.a. marathon a point-to-point race starting at dodger stadium and ending at the beach. i've always thought that the l.a. marathon ought to be a point-to-point passing through all the iconic los angeles sights. i don't really have a strong desire to run l.a. again, but that certainly would increase the chances.
4. over the past 25 days i've become well skilled at administering sub-cutaneous fluid treatments to a cat. this is not a skill i ever knew existed and really wish i didn't need to learn. fraidycat was diagnosed with kidney disease just before we went up to napa and it's been a heartbreaking few weeks getting used to what that means and how to manage it. the upshot is, there is no cure. we can do things (like the fluid treatment) to prolong his life and to help him feel better and that's a blessing. he's taking it like a champ and i've got to say, it's clear that it's very, very helpful. send him a kitty prayer.
5. i was tagged with the blogger "8 things" that was going around. i thought that would be an easy way to bang out a blog post, but i found myself not wanting to do it. bottom line was that i judged myself for some of my answers and didn't want to post it for fear of judgement by others. interesting blogging phenomenon.
6. ivan basso has gotten LOTS of nice face-time during the giro this year. color me a happy shade of pink. : )
7. a few times recently i've used my run workout as transportation. i LOVE doing that. there is something, for me, that feels really cool about it. it feels like i am running somewhere other than home. i see my city in a new and different way and i experience a freedom in going from point to point that i usually don't get on a regular route from home.
8. i spent 5 hours of yesterday hitting the refresh button on my computer so i could keep up on how michelle was doing at the hawaii 70.3. despite the fact that ironmanlive.com is anything but live (hello, could you please use those inflated race entry fees to improve your technology!!??) i sat here with fraidy being her biggest virtual spectathlete. she won the swim and the bike for her age group and was up in the top six women mixing it up with the pro women. this woman had a baby 7 short months ago and despite a tough run plagued with leg cramps she tore it up. she's one of my heroes, not just because she's smokin' fast but because she's a beautiful, strong, dedicated woman who is finding her way as a new mother and an athlete and she shares her journey honestly.
9. yesterday my brother and his girlfriend ran the brooklyn half marathon. unfortunately my brother had to pull out at mile 3 due to his back going into full spasm. i feel for him and wish i could have been there to support him like he did me during both ironman lake placid and the new york marathon. his girlfriend finished and said that she felt "super good the whole way". after napa i have to say that all time goals aside, really, isn't that the best and the most we can ask for!?!
10. i love roasted artichokes.
11. i've been having intermittent tingling/numbness in my feet and hands. it freaks me out. i've suspected for a while that i've had some nerve impingement issues. i've been to umpteen dr's., chiropractors, massage therapists, woo-woo voo-doo healers, but me thinks it's time to suck it up and get myself into one of them there claustrophobic MRI machines.
12. yesterday i had something like 5 or 6 friends (that i know of) climbing up mt. palomar in san diego. i have yet to do this epic ride, but it is definitely on my list of things to do soon!!
13. why does the whole foods i shop at seem to always be out of the items i use most? seriously, whose buying up all the low fat vanilla almond milk, clover honey, buckwheat cereal and chicken andouille sausages??!! and why won't the whole foods buyer increase their inventory??
14. i watched danilo di luca and denis menchov's entire time trials on the last stage of the giro through parted fingers over my face. palms sweating, stomach tight. you'd think i was watching "texas chainsaw massacre".
15. i need to get back into the habit of using my foam roller everyday, it makes such a huge difference.
16. i cannot wait for july 4th this year.
a) it's one of my most favorite holidays and just makes me want to eat strawberry shortcake
b) it's the day of one of my most favorite 10k's
c) it's the first day of the tour this year
can. not. wait.
17. my friends amy and angel are getting married at the end of june. i am so excited for them!
18. have you tried cinnamon roll larabars? ohmyyummygoodness!! it's a gluten free treat not to be believed!
19. the state of california is so completely eff'ed! same sex couple's cannot marry in our state and our finances are a complete shambles. yesterday i read this article and it just killed me. i know there is nowhere "good" to cut from, but my god ...
20. we went to see the movie "earth". i loved it, because i love all that national geographic, animal planet stuff BUT turns out it's footage from "planet earth" which, as the lover of all things animal, i had already seen. i didn't mind seeing it, but i felt kinda ripped off that they repackaged it and did say so ahead of time. it's like they just swapped out sigourney weaver's voice for james earl jones'.
21. it seems like a whole 'nother wave of friends are suddenly having babies. i'm so excited for all of them.
22. not to go all cycling heavy on my list of 25 random things, BUT it broke my heart hearing people (giro spoiler stop reading if you haven't watched it yet) boo denis menchov. i understand patriotism and all, but come on ... the man was rock solid. he earned that pink jersey and deserves the utmost respect.
23. i collect pig tchotchkes. i luv 'em and if they have angel wings on them i love them even more! over the years a lot of people have given me winged pigs and as i look around my apartment it warms my heart to see them and to think of the people who thought of me when they found them.
24. i'm excited to start mixing and matching workouts in order to train for s.o.s. it's a funky format bike/run/swim/run/swim/run/swim/run. all told it will be 30 miles of biking, almost 19 miles of trail running and 2 miles of swimming. shoes go with you on the swim, goggles and swim cap on the run. i generally fuel my races on all liquid calories, but that's not really an option for this race. i won't be carrying nutrition with me, so that's going to make for some interesting summertime experiments.
25. i thought writing in list format would make writing a blog post faster and more efficient. i was wrong, but it was fun.