Monday, August 26, 2013

Give or Take a Few Miles and One Big (Rock) Hill

Not much to report since I just posted yesterday...LYING!

Ok, so this will be quick but slightly momentous. So there have always been two "scary" hills that I've avoided like certain death. First, Marshall Wall, which I conquered about a year ago with Miguel. The next "scary" hill was the one leading up to Big Rock on Lucas Valley Road. I've ridden down it on my bike (and driven up it in a car) and it seems to go down, down, down forever. Which means riding up it would be up, up, up forever. Yes, scary.

So today I had a 15 mile training ride on the schedule. I went to my gym after work and changed into my bike gear. I finally remembered to bring my bike to work and avoid the after work "Mommy don't go!" pangs of guilt. Anyway, I changed and hit the road, wearing my Camelbak and hoping the sun wouldn't bake me.  I had a loose plan to ride to Lucas Valley Road and then turn around when I got to 7.5 miles. But when I got to 7.5 miles I had already started the incline of the "scary" hill and in fact, was just at the base of the worst part of it. What to do, what to do?

Ride up that darned hill of course! Truthfully I saw no other option. One does not begin to ride up a hill and then turn around. Not this one anyway. Not even with the wind blowing in my face. So I pedaled and pushed, even engaging my glutes at some of the more challenging spots, and pedaled and pushed. My lungs felt good, it was my legs that were burning from time to time. And at one point I came around a corner to what felt like a wall of wind pushing me back. No! But after a mile of riding up, up, up, I turned a corner and there was the Big Rock! I'd made it.

I didn't have my phone with me (note to self, never ride without a phone) but there were people coming back from a hike so I asked them to snap a pic and text it to me.

Yep, I rode from down there to up there.
I had no idea that today was the today I would conquer this hill. It sure felt good. Now I'll be asking around for some other "scary" hills to conquer since I've defeated the two I know of. Oh wait, I know Conzelman Road scares me, maybe that's next. Eek!

I had a bit of apprehension about riding back down, I've been getting anxious going too fast downhill, but I just kept telling myself, "you're ok, you're fine, you're ok" and that seemed to work. I had a couple jolts of fear but I survived. Who would've EVER imagined I'd prefer riding up a huge hill than down?!

Reminds me, this Thursday night I'm taking a women's cycling class. It's lecture (and only $10), not actual riding, and if I like it I might take the riding class too, which is more $$. Anyway, here's the elevation profile of today's ride.

Novato to Big Rock and back.
Other notable things - my top speed was 31.7 mph and my top heart rate was 157 - I could have pushed a little harder! After the ride I hit the gym for chest/triceps/PT exercises. I was so glad it wasn't a legs day.

Dinner was teriyaki chicken breasts and rice and then I got a bit munchy and eventually had two bowls of granola cereal despite not being hungry. I'm blaming tri training. We'll just have to see what the scale thinks about that come Friday.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Santa Cruz Training Day with Neil at TriMore Fitness

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Forgive me, it's been 6 days since my last post. It's just been a bit hectic around here is all. Adding the triathlon training to an already full schedule means something has to give. Writing has taken a bit of a back seat.

I'll start with my training from this past week. Wednesday was a 3-mile run at a 9:28 pace. I haven't been to the gym since my night ride on Monday so that's a bummer. I don't like re-building muscle. Thursday was another run - I didn't have the option to do the bike so running was it. This time I ran for time because I didn't have my Garmin. I ran for about 40 minutes and treated it more as a stress reliever than a training run.

Friday was a rest day in preparation for the big day on Saturday. Not sure if I even mentioned this here but I signed up for a Santa Cruz training day with Neil at TriMore Fitness and it was yesterday. Anyway, I did my morning weigh-in and lo-and-behold, 138.6 pounds. What the what?! I'll take it.

So I stayed up a bit too late on Friday night. My mom and I were overdue on a heart-to-heart and though the timing wasn't great, I'm glad we got to talk. My mom being over meant a bevy of tempting foods - Chinese food, cupcakes, ice cream. I reached out to my FB peeps for some courage in the face of all that junk and tried to stand firm. In the end we ordered pizza and salad for dinner, I decided to call it carb loading for the training day. And I had a few bites of ice cream - maybe four. Avoided the cupcake altogether! And no Chinese food. [Also, when I came home from the training day yesterday one of the first things I did was put the remaining ice cream down the garbage disposal].
So it was getting near midnight so I got a few things together before heading to bed. A couple weeks ago I made swim, bike and run checklists and that's made it a lot easier to pack. I was up at 5am getting the rest of my things together. Hit the road at 6am for the two-hour drive to Santa Cruz.

I arrived about 15 minutes before the 8am start time.

I organized my gear and then met up with Neil and the group at the beach. I saw a few familiar faces, which was nice.

Neil gave us a rundown of the water, current, race-day details, etc. The swim is a beach start, about 30 yards back from the water, and then run into it. That will be a first for me! All my tris have been water starts. Fun, fun!!! Neil had us do three practice starts, grouping us up and then having us run into the water and swim for a few minutes, to get used to that type of start. The water was about 58 degrees and the few degrees cooler than Aquatic Park in SF were quite noticeable. But I adjusted really quickly and never really felt cold once we got moving. The third entry was "real" and we swam to the end of the pier (on the left in the picture above) and back, about a mile in total I think. All I remember for sure is that we planned to be in the water about 40 minutes.

When I reached the end of the pier Neil was there in a kayak as a sight and to be sure we turned around. I popped up to see him with his cell phone. I thought he was taking pictures but instead he was taking a video!

When Neil asked, "How's it going" I was in the middle of another runner's high while swimming. I can't explain it, I just get so friggin' happy I feel like I'm on top of the world! So he asked, and I answered, "Fucking awesome Neil, I love this shit!". Yep, I sometimes have a potty mouth. Like I said, I didn't know he was taking video!

I was supposed to sight on some palm trees but they were hard to see out on the water. So I sighted on a bit white building that seemed close enough. Nope, that got me a shout from Neil, "Hey Michelle, you're about 50 yards off course." He told me to sight more but I knew that wasn't the problem, so I picked a new spot to sight. That's the kind of experience you can't get unless you train on the course. Wouldn't want to make that mistake come race day!

Can you spot the palm trees? Not so easy, eh?
Here's a view looking back. See that taller white building? That's what I sighted on. Oops. Did I mention how beautiful the conditions were? Look at that water and the clear sky. If race day is even half as nice I'll be happy.

Oh, and a word on the seals. First, they are loud. You can hear them barking in the video of me. Second, one swam under me on my way out and my heart about jumped out of my chest. But once I reminded myself what it is, and told myself the seal was out there, like me, for a leisurely swim, I relaxed. When was the last time you heard of a swimmer being attacked by a seal. Don't answer that.
So the difference is, on race day we'll start on the other side of the pier and swim around it. Another swimmer who did the race before warned me that at the end of the pier are tons of seals in the water so don't be too startled. Check. I got out of the water and for the first time ever I wasn't the last one. I don't think it's that I've gotten faster, just that this is a group with some brand new swimmers. No matter, I'll take it.

So back to the car to change for the bike ride and eat a kids Clif Bar. We had 30 minutes, ha ha! On race day you're trying to do this in 3 minutes. I decided to change into real bike shorts to spare my butt bones.

Post swim, pre-bike.

We met up and got a route briefing from Neil.

Neil telling us that downhills are not for resting.

Neil humors me :)

Taking the opportunity for a photo op. I wish I had more time to train with Neil, I know I'd get better. Maybe if the Olympic-distance feels manageable I'll focus on a half-Ironman and work with him.

So the bike route took us through town and then on to Highway 1, right along the ocean. Neil led us out through town, driving slow enough that we could all keep up. Do I need to tell you how beautiful it was? At first I was freezing and worried I'd be shivering the whole time but once we got out of town the sun warmed me up and I was fine. Note to wear short sleeves and carry long ones on race day, depending on the forecast. I was also trying out a new Camelbak - the Hydrobak model - for the bike and run.

When we reached the spot to turn back, around mile 12, I was feeling great! Neil and crew were there with water and fuel but I was doing fine. I couldn't believe we were already halfway done. I even remember thinking at some point, "I can totally do a half-Ironman!". I was going easy on the energy gels and had 3 shot bloks on the bike ride, only when my stomach growled.

We had a tailwind riding back, which was lovely. Though by the time I got back to Santa Cruz my butt bones were hurting so bad I was super happy to not have another 25 miles to go! My legs were fine though. The route was mostly relatively flat with some rolling hills thrown in, which added interest and a nice challenge. Flat can get boring.

Santa Cruz Triathlon training bike route
Santa Cruz Triathlon training bike elevation profile

Full Garmin stats here
I averaged 13.6 mph on the bike. Not sure to what I can compare that but it sounds great to me! And I was super happy to get my butt off that seat! I changed into my run gear and by now the sun was blazing. The Camelbak had caused the tiniest bit of chafing at the crook of my arms so I put on a little body glide to help and that was fine for the rest of the day. Another reason to wear short sleeves come race day. I threw on more sunscreen and hit the road.

The run route started with a small hill, ugh. My legs felt a bit jello-y but they worked. I just ran at a comfortable pace. Initially I planned to run 3 miles, figuring I haven't been running much further than that during training so far. The route was another beauty-fest, running on a footpath along the ocean. This race should be on every "most beautiful race" list because it's gorgeous!

So I'm running and it's hard! But I try to keep my brain under control and just run. People watching and navigating around tourists kept my mind busy. Not to mention the ocean. It sure was nice having water anytime I wanted it. I think the Camelbak will be going on my long runs from now on. Just before reaching the 1.5 mile mark I decided I had enough energy in the tank to go for 4 miles so I had a couple Shot Bloks and ran another 1/2 mile before turning around.

No pictures from the run but here's my Garmin stats.

Santa Cruz training day run route

I really had to push that middle mile to hit the 10:00:08 pace. During the return run the wind was at my back most of the time, which was like a gift from the heavens. I huffed a bit that last half-mile and was SO HAPPY to stop running when I reached the wharf. Whew! I did it, all but two miles of the race and with 5 weeks of training left. I got this. Barring accident or injury, I got this!

After all that work we had to eat!

Cool tri peeps!
I had a mahi-mahi sandwich and fries with iced tea. Food never tasted so good. The lunchtime conversation was almost all tri-talk, which kept me plenty entertained. What a cool group of people, it's too bad the group training schedule was too much for me. I chatted with a guy that lives in SF and said he's having a hard time keeping up, imagine adding a 40 minute drive to that each way.

Post swim/bike/run. Grateful and happy
During the 2-hour drive home I got sleepy and stopped for a latte. That pepped me up. Good thing too, because Miguel and I had plans to go to a wine-party at a friend's house. Home, shower, change and back out the door. Hardly saw the kids :(

Me, Jackie and Monique.
I had a Chipotle kid's quesadilla on the way to the party and then munched on apps and had a few glasses of wine during the event. Nearing midnight and I started to crash hard and fast. Home and to bed and I was probably asleep before my head hit the pillow. What a day!

Well, that's a wrap. Today is a rest day and tomorrow will be a 15-mile bike ride and an overdue trip to the gym. I'm so glad I did this training day, nothing else can give you the confidence that comes from a route preview. And doing this on my own would have been a logistical bummer - going with Neil and crew was worth its weight in gold. I'm ready!

I am a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice offering Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for weight loss and maintenance. I have an office in Marin County, CA and I'm also available to see people via Skype. To learn more please visit my professional website at