Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's April! And racing season! And other odds and ends...

Happy tax day (tomorrow - and how is 'happy' a part of it, even if you do get a tax return?!).

Starting soon, I think that I need to have some sort of a 'regular' blog session, just so that I can post about my oh-so-exciting life.  I realize that many people in the digital age have moved on to Instagram and/or Twitter, but I'm not there yet.  In my defense, I still remember when I didn't even use email 20 years ago.

But, to at least give a monthly update...  Last year, I remember that February was such a challenging month, and this year, March certainly filled February's shoes, and more.  Now that April is upon us, and we have some certainty/clarity about life as we move forward, I feel lighter and much less stressed.  As I look back at March, I can't believe how much we weathered - figuring out job stuff for the short-term, dealing with a slight physical malaise (my back), and coming to terms with a death in the family.  It always amazes me, when I'm in the midst of a stressful situation, I tend to put blinders on and just push through, but once I have some distance, I can see how hard it was.  So, yes, March was a difficult month.

April, training-wise, has felt more focused, and I am looking forward to my first 2015 race this weekend!  TriEvents #2 is a local event in which I've participated without great success and, recently, I've come to know the race better as a volunteer.  This Sunday, however, I'll be donning my wetsuit for the first time since last summer and will force myself to remember how to transition.  I don't have high expectations - this race falls two weeks before St. George 70.3, which IS a 'big deal'.  Instead of racing, a part of me would rather have a big training weekend as a last-ditch effort to boost my strength/speed/endurance, but maybe this will boost my race confidence?  After all, I'm not sure how much "hay in the barn" I'd actually harvest at this point.  I do find it ironic that the more I train, the less I seem to race these days...

I don't have high hopes for TriEvents, but I'd love to put down a solid performance for me, swimming, biking (ha!) and running.  This is a tougher course than people give it credit, especially the bike, but I'd love to push HARD on the bike and see what that leaves me for the run.  I'm still not fast on the bike, even with the Bat, but I've felt so good transitioning bike-to-run, that I'm interested in seeing what my run will be.

And, despite my typical lackluster bike performance, I've had some good rides recently.  Well, some that left me scratching my head, like when I flatted BOTH tires at once.  It was the very end of a hilly ride and I just wasn't paying attention.  Fortunately, I was about 2 houses down from our house, so I just walked the bike home.  On the positive side, this past weekend, I rode what I remember from last year as a killer ride - GMR (Glendora Mountain Road loop), and while it was difficult, I enjoyed the ride SO MUCH!  I've been nervous about the St. George bike course, especially on the tri bike, but this gave me a sense that "Sí se puede".

(If I were a better blogger, I would actually have some photos, but I don't.  It was a gorgeous day to be out biking though and it's a great road to ride!)

Now, to end on a 'down' note.  While my back woes are definitely on the mend, to my immense relief, I feel that injury is something of a hydra for me.  Once I deal with a specific issue, another one (or two) raises its head.  I'm currently dealing with a bit of plantar fasciitis in my left foot/calf.  Ah, my old foe from 2012/13!  What is even more frustrating is that in other ways I feel that my running game is pretty strong right now, so I'd love to ignore this little niggle, but I know that I can't/shouldn't.  Last week, I pushed hard on the bike and then transitioned to a really fast run (this was probably the workout that tipped the scale to a full-blown flare-up of PF).  I'd love to see what I can do this weekend on the run, but I also don't want to sabotage St. George or, especially, Boulder.

There are a lot of 'lasts' that we are facing over the next two months.  Moving still feels a bit abstract, but I also know that this is the last local CA race that I'll do.  So, I want to have fun, enjoy the camaraderie on the course, and appreciate the overall experience.  It's also great to have a season 'launch' - to feel that I've built a solid base, worked towards this moment, and now I can take it in and see how I do.  Hopefully I'll have a bit of luck working in my favor too!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Break 2015 - A move/train-cation!

I'm not complaining about my spring break, but I think that I need a vacation now that it's over!  Productive?  Check!  Fun?  Check!  Relaxing?  NO!
But, we made major progress on the imminent move to Boulder - by taking a truckload of stuff to Boulder at the beginning of the week and then flying back home.  

 Just getting started!

Taking a break - somewhere in the Mojave


The drive to Boulder was fairly uneventful - we didn't have weather issues, which was fortunate in the lovely U-Haul.  And, we spent the night in Winslow, AZ, which I wouldn't recommend to anyone, despite the Eagles' song that made it famous (or somewhat famous?). 

Boulder was a lot of unpacking and thinking about our next steps, but I mixed in some training while I was there, on the bike and running.  It was a bit of a challenge to motivate a few days thanks to the weather:

We arrived on Monday (a beautiful day, but after 12 hours or so in the car, I was more than ready for a stiff drink), and then Tuesday, I set out for a windy bike ride.  During said ride, I think my HR was at about 90% for 90% of the ride - I was white-knuckling it, just hoping that I didn't get blown over OR blown into traffic.  Wednesday, I was supposed to fit in a brick, but as you can see, it was going to be 46 degrees as a high, plus rain.  So, I set out for an early morning run, during which it rained, snowed and hailed on me.  Good times!  Finally, I squeezed in the brick Thursday before we flew back to CA.  Also, please note the weather on Friday and then Saturday!  It was strange to leave my Trek road bike, Sunshine, in Boulder - it's now just me and the Bat!

For the end of the break, I drove down to Oceanside, CA on Saturday to spectate Oceanside 70.3.  It's always tempting to sign up for this race, but when it rolls around, I'm usually SO relieved that I didn't.  But...  Maybe one day?!  It was a gorgeous day to be out spectating - a little bit warm, but not too crazy.  I missed the men's finish but saw Heather Jackson cross the finish line.  Wow, she is so amazing!  She raced and won Wildflower last year, and I saw her exit the water but didn't see the finish (obviously - I was somewhere on the bike course).  It was also great to see and cheer for a lot of people that I know. 

Saturday afternoon, I spent working on my swim technique - Beth Gerdes, my coach (I always feel like a fraud when I use that term, but what else should I call her?), was very kind enough to offer a session in their endless pool.  I was SUPER nervous about swimming in front of people and it was kind of weird to be on a 'swim treadmill', but I did get some great feedback and I know what I need to work on.  Then, Sunday morning, Beth and another one of her athletes (who lives in Pasadena and with whom I should train!) and I set out on a ride.  I have major bike riding route envy now - it was SUCH a nice ride.  Lots of rolling hills, rather than crazy steep ascents and descents, and very biker friendly.  Also, it was a wonderful day to ride, a bit foggy early on but then it burned off.  Finally, I was super nervous about riding with other people, especially a pro(!), but this other woman and I were really well matched.  I obviously need to just get over my anxiety about how terrible I am on the bike and develop some confidence once and for all!  Anyway, it was so generous of Beth to spend time Saturday and Sunday with us.  Not only is she an amazing athlete (recently 5th at IM Asia-Pacific!) but a really great coach too.

Anyway, I was really excited about getting in 4 bike rides last week - some of them weren't very fun and none was very fast, but I do feel better about St. George and about heading into the next few weeks (although thank goodness this is a recovery week! and thank goodness I have Friday off!).  

Also, we have made progress on the move to Colorado (I keep saying Boulder, but, really, we could be anywhere).  We will be putting our house up for sale within the next few weeks which seems totally crazy to me.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Marching along

I had to check through my old archives to see if I had used that title before - apparently I hadn't?  At any rate, it's cliché but apt, so who cares?!

After my previous, rather sturm und drang, post, things have improved.  Well, they've been a bit wonky in our household, and the past few weeks have been something of an emotional ride, but I'm feeling better about moving to Boulder, about job stuff and, amazing, that has me feeling better about St. George 70.3 which is looming.  Yikes!

It also probably helps that my back is on the mend.  I'm not at 100% by a long shot, but I tried a new pain specialist (seriously, that's what her card said) on Monday afternoon, and she rocked.  I definitely feel as though I was cheating on Dr. Choy, who has helped me through plenty of aches, pains and woes, but the back situation was different enough for me that I wanted to go with another option.  The good news, to my thinking, is that the issue has nothing to do with my back.  Her diagnosis, as she was poking around at me?  I have a tight ass.  Strangely enough, cycling and running don't aggravate the pain, but swimming does - however, I'm sure that cycling and running are actually part of the problem (or they contribute to the problem).  But, I'm on a stretching regimen that has helped tremendously - who knew that stretching would make such a difference?  Ha ha! And feeling much better as a consequence.

There have been a few recent hiccups - we missed the Solvang Century last weekend, which was a major bummer, but there wasn't anything that we could do about it.  Again, this was definitely a 'life' decision/issue - Michael was out of town unexpectedly and returned late Thursday, so the idea of leaving on Friday for a fun-filled weekend was more than a little bit silly.  We were, however, disappointed to not get up to the Central Coast one last time.  And, maybe we can get up that way again before we leave, but hopefully we'll return to CA for the Solvang ride one of these days.

Despite missing that ride, I feel that I'm a bit more focused on riding, and both last Sunday and today I hit the Lower Big Tujunga loop which makes me feel better about St. George 70.3.  I've had moments of SERIOUS doubt and don't feel super confident at this point, BUT (sorry for all of the all caps), I think that I can get in some solid training and be ready for a May race.  Lower Big Tujunga is a great little sufferfest, and I usually complete it once a season to see where I am.  Riding it last weekend and then again this weekend (and less than a week apart), kind of sucked, especially today - when I did not want to get up and ride.  But, it was definitely worth it - and I had some visitors before starting my descent down Angeles Crest Highway:
Well, that's me - but there is Gus!  He obviously didn't ride with me, but it was nice to see him before starting the long descent.  Also, I'm wearing my new Vanderkitten kit - mostly covered up with my vest, but the shorts are so cute!

The other positive - I still feel a bit slow climbing with the Bat, but I feel stronger too, so I'll get there.  Also, the saddle is getting more and more comfortable - I think I'm just getting used to the bike, overall.

Finally, did I mention that it's officially Spring Break 2015?
And March Madness?  This is the first time I've actually filled out a bracket, and it's looking pretty rough at this point!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ironman Take 2 - Just a few bumps along the training road

Had I written this update a week ago, I think that it would have been vastly different from the "report" that I'll make tonight.  It's not that SO much in my life has changed in the course of a week, rather a few things have shifted, but the shift has made quite a difference.

I'll back up, however, and say that up until last week, I had a solid 'base' training cycle.  Despite feeling a bit ambivalent about training (yes, I want this, no, I just want to stay in bed), the vast majority of my Training Peaks boxes were green for January and February - success!  I was completing my workouts with more consistency than last year, and, even better, I felt that the workouts were high quality, especially in the pool and running.

I will admit that the bike has been something of an issue this year, despite the Bat (who HAS been getting plenty of love, but a lot of it on the trainer).  Last year, I really prioritized getting in solid, long rides, and woke up early every Saturday, committing myself to some good saddle time.  This year, I'll be honest and recognize that I have not dedicated enough time to biking as I really need.  While I love the Cervelo - it is a wonderful ride, I still don't feel as confident on it as I do on the Trek, probably because I still think that it's TOO nice a bike for me and I get nervous on it.  Or something idiotic like that.  The other issue, before I blame it on a complicated love/hate relationship with my bike, is that, as we make these major life changes, triathlon/training is not first priority.  I want to spend time and connect with friends, something that I could sacrifice a bit last year but am very reluctant to do so this at this point.  While running and swimming seem more forgiving in terms of a time-commitment, biking is less so, and that has been an issue this year.  Because of that, I made my peace with a few long "rides" on the trainer which were good and painful!  Last weekend, I finally got in a great ride along PCH and felt pretty strong, especially in my new Vanderkitten kit (of which I have zero photos - sad face; I'm the worst so-called "ambassador" ever).  The extra bonus on the ride - we saw whales swimming south!  It was so fun to look for their spouts - and to spy them.

As I said, cycling aside, running and swimming had felt good.  While I had plenty of swims and runs that felt slow, overall, I saw gains from last year (in the pool) and enjoyed being healthy for my runs.  The only issue was niggling back pain while swimming, which probably started in January or at the beginning of February, but didn't really slow me down elsewhere.  Well, last weekend, after a long swim and a long trainer ride on Saturday and a long run on Sunday, the pain wasn't severe but I had to admit that it was more than just a minor issue that I could ignore.  So, at this point, I am trying to figure out what is going on with my back, not just scouring the Google, but also seeing a pain specialist and going from there.  What's interesting about the back pain is that running and cycling don't seem to be an issue, and I suspect that it is related to tight hips/glutes and other imbalances rather than something more major (or that's my hope!).  However, I'd rather err on the side of caution rather than try to push through the pain.  What is a challenge is that I've never had back pain before (unlike the array of leg/foot maladies that have plagued me), so I don't know how serious it is.  The optimist in me is confident that it's a strain that just needs time to fully heal, but I have concerns that it is more serious.  Either way, it's frustrating to not know, and I hope to have answers soon!

Obviously, I hope that this won't sideline me for the next few months, especially, my plans for Boulder IM.  I have questioned the decision to commit to another Ironman with everything else going on in our lives, but I also know that it wasn't a flighty decision. It's a goal that I'll continue to work towards, despite some challenges that life and my body have decided to present along the way.  But, training for this second IM has been harder.  Again, I recognize that there are a lot of life things going on that I have to prioritize, and maybe some of the excitement that comes from the new and unknown has worn off.  I do have hopes, goals, expectations for this second race, but I'm also more stressed about moving, finding a job, saying good-bye, and figuring out my life.  Small details, I know!

So, a bit of a rough go at this point, but I'm trying to trust the fact that I *do* have a good base to work from.  Also, I've (knock on wood) stayed healthy in other ways and am grateful for that.  I really hope to have answers to the back issue soon, and get back to some solid training!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hello, midlife crisis!

It's cliché but...

I've officially decided that, yes, I am in the midst of a midlife crisis (and I started this post, somehow published it without finishing it, so maybe that's enough said, enough proof, do I really need to add other thoughts and/or examples?).

But, I think that this is where I am "at" in my life.  Mid-40s, lots of transitions right now, a healthy dose of uncertainty, and, yes, I'll take that crisis.

To be honest, I probably felt this coming on last year, but triathlon proved to be a fantastic diversion for most of the year, and then the fall is always a busy time with the return to school.  So, right about now - the February doldrums - the stars should align for that crisis moment.

Much of this is provoked by major changes that we are planning - good changes but stressful.  I've alluded to this before, so I should put it out there, although I kind of hate to make a life announcement in the same breath that I'm talking about a crisis.  Oh well, not much to do about that.   Yes, the major change - we finally decided to bite the bullet and move to Colorado this summer!  

Not a bad place to be...  But, at the moment, I don't have a job yet and am kind of/really freaking out, even though it IS still premature.  However, with so many people in my life asking me about said job, it doesn't exactly calm me down.  And there are plenty of other "known unknowns" along with those "unknown unknowns" a la Rumsfeld.  

Before I focus too much on the anxiety that this change is provoking (or is a part of?), I have to say that the move to Colorado is NOT a midlife crisis decision.  It's actually something that we've wanted to do...  probably ever since we married.  Year after year, we return to Colorado at least twice to visit friends and family and to enjoy skiing, biking, hiking, you name it.  We definitely love the opportunities to pursue an active lifestyle there, but that isn't the only motivating factor - after all, we live in CA and there are plenty of opportunities here too!  Being closer to family and friends (we have several friends who have migrated to the Boulder/Denver area over the past few years) is a major factor, and, we feel that long-term, this is where we want to be.  Rather than continuing to delay the plan ("Maybe next year, maybe in five years..."), we decided that we needed to just do it, as Nike recommends.  

All of these changes are unfolding, and I am trying, without much success, to wrap my mind around the complex equation of finishing out my school year in an active and engaged manner, looking for a job (without taking rejection too hard), training for triathlon, and, the big one, picking up and moving - leaving friends, relationships, patterns that have all developed over 10 years.  It's a bit much to handle at times, but I'm trying!  

And to return to the midlife crisis moment - I can't totally separate it from all of the other changes happening in our lives.  It does provoke me, in a good way, to think about what's next and to think about what I want to do, how do I want to live.  These are questions that sprawl, once you pose them to yourself, and once they take up residency, they REALLY take up real estate in your brain.  Or they have for me.  Most days, I enjoy teaching, and on a good day, I *love* teaching, and Ican definitely see myself in the classroom until I retire, whenever that is.  On the other hand, I also think that I would be okay with stepping away from the classroom, or taking some sort of a break and doing something different.  But what that "different" is, I'm not sure.  Not knowing is kind of scary, and leaving a job that has been so rewarding in many ways while also secure does unsettle me quite a bit.  I think that it's a good moment in my life to be unsettled, but it's not easy.  I'm sure that there are about two dozen, if not more, quotes about things that aren't easy being well worth the challenge.  And I agree with that in theory, but living that experience is different.  

However, as much as I'm a bit afraid of the unknown, I'd also like to embrace it.  I used to pick up my life on a more regular basis, but I haven't in a while.  So, maybe I need to get used to the unknown again.  And, maybe I need to do the same for this little crisis -  embrace it, ride through the storm and see where I end up on the other side.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekend with the padres - wining, dining and hiking, oh my!

In January, my parents decided to make one last visit to see us in the LA area (more on that 'last visit' soon!), and the only weekend that really worked out was President's Day, so we all quickly made arrangements for their visit this past weekend.  It was a bit of a whirlwind of a trip for them since they arrived Friday afternoon (4:30 - just in time for traffic!) and left early this morning.  We packed in quite a few activities and tried to ensure that they enjoyed this visit as much as possible.  

On Saturday, we drove up to Santa Barbara wine country.  It's a bit of a haul for a one-day visit, but we had a willing driver and a beautiful day to explore the countryside, so we took advantage of those factors.  We started out in the quaint little town of Los Olivos.  The first time we went wine tasting in the Santa Barbara area with my parents was probably 7 years ago, and at that time, it seemed that if you blinked, you'd miss Los Olivos.  That isn't the case anymore, and especially not on Valentine's day (we had sort of forgotten about that detail, but, apparently, wine tasting is a very popular activity on said "holiday").  Fortunately, we were early enough that when we stopped at our first tasting room, Byron, it was still low-key.  That was a fabulous first stop, and, since it wasn't too crowded, we were really able to take our time and enjoy the wine - which was excellent!  Byron specializes in Pinots, like a lot of Santa Barbara wineries, and they were all fantastic.  

Starting out our day

Making decisions - what to drink now?

Perhaps the best thing about Byron, after the wine, was the recommendation to eat lunch in Buellton at Industrial Eats.  It's super casual but the food is fantastic - and we definitely needed something to eat after the visit to Byron.  It's also conveniently located, right next to Alma Rosa, our next stop.  We had visited Alma Rosa with my parents a few years ago when it was in an old farmhouse, which I still prefer, and Michael and I (and Gus - it's a dog-friendly tasting room!) visited Alma Rosa back in October.  So, it's a bit of an old favorite for us, I suppose, and their wine is awfully good!

Some full belly happiness

After all of the eating and drinking and driving on Saturday, we opted for a more active day on Sunday - and set out for Mt. Lowe in the Angeles National Forest.  In the end, we did not summit Mt. Lowe but we did hike San Gabriel Peak!

Looking east

The start of the trail was through a wooded area which was nice and shaded, with lots of manzanita all around!  And then we hit a fire road which led us to this area that was once part of the Nike Ajax Missile Defense Plan (according to modernhiker.com).  Kind of crazy?!  Hikes in the western part of the Angeles are always so interesting - you feel like you are 'away from it all', and then you are suddenly reminded of the fact that Los Angeles is really right there.  

Fromt his platform, we then headed up to San Gabriel peak.  The final push wasn't technical, but it was steep.  

Ah, success!

We finished off the weekend at Angelini Osteria, another favorite from a previous visit, and we shared some excellent Italian food there.  It's always hard to choose because there are so many option, but I opted for a pasta with black truffles - and then they shaved more truffles on top.  It was kind of ridiculous!



It was a fun-filled weekend with my parents, no doubt, and even though I'm an adult, they still spoil me.  I also feel lucky that we can still do things together, like go on a moderately strenuous hike, which is a wonderful way to spend time with them. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The most expensive bike ride

Sadly, I'm not talking about a fun ride, like a cool century ride or some sponsored event.  No, my expensive ride on Sunday looked like this:

Oh, Baños, Ecuador, what a fun visit we had; Michael snapped this photo of the guardia lecturing this little girl for riding her bike through the plaza rather than around it.  How would I know, 8 years later that I'd totally feel her pain?

Anyway, substitute me in my Smashfest Fly kit and the Bat for the girl and a Sheriff for the guardia and then you would have a more accurate picture.   Yep, I got ticketed on Sunday for not stopping at a stop sign.  I was totally guilty - I didn't stop, and I know that this makes me an irresponsible cyclist.  I could defend myself and say that it's not an intersection where cyclists need to stop unless they are turning left (which is true, but anyway).  What really frustrates me about the ticket is that I knew that the sheriff was there - I passed by him on one street and took note, but then when I cruised down the hill, I just totally forgot that he was there.  I didn't even think about it until I heard him signal me.  And then I was so pissed, I really wanted to tell him to go fuck off, which is irrational because, as I said, I ran through the stop sign, no doubt about it.

Meanwhile, as he gave me my ticket, all of these other bikers totally cruised by us - and I would bet that half of them ran that stop sign too!  They should have at least thanked me!

Anyway, it's not the end of the world, no one was hurt, and, fortunately, the ticket doesn't go on my car insurance.  But, still, it was a total killjoy moment and somewhat humiliating too!