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  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!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January - It's a wrap (almost!)

Yes - January, despite my sense of lackluster motivation and a slow start, ended up being a good month and has concluded on a positive note.  Returning to work after the holidays is always a bit brutal, but the Jan. schedule at the school where I teach is pretty awesome and allows for much socializing.  Add to that my birthday and some solid training weeks, and the month rounded out quite nicely!

Yes, my birthday - another year older but not necessarily wiser.  I used to hate having a January birthday (mainly when I was a kid because I wanted a pool party which was never possible, not even in South Texas), but I've obviously gotten over that and now embrace getting older.  I think that, once I'm closer to the big 5-0, I might enjoy celebrating it a bit less, but for now, I'll continue to raise a glass to my health and happiness.

Drinking a home-made margarita by the resident mixologist and sporting a great little Smartwool pullover that my parents got me - total win!

With my birthday, I didn't move up an age group, sadly, but hopefully it will be a good year for me in the 40-44 group!  My actual birthday was filled with some star power - I attended a CalTri season kick-off meeting and met the very inspiring Hillary Biscay who talked to the group.  I admit that I didn't know who she was until I got my first Smashfestqueen kit, but then I started reading about her and wow, she's pretty amazing.  And I really do love the kits that her company makes - the designs are awesome and the kits are comfortable.  Anyway, I wavered - to introduce myself as a fan girl or not?  I finally decided that it would be kind of silly to not say anything to her, so I ended up talking about how great the kits are, showing her a picture of me wearing the Fly kit, and then we blabbed about triathlon. I was a little starstruck, I must admit, and she was very nice.

Hillary with Maik Twelsiek - the following photos are courtesy of CalTri (and Harrison Shao)

No pictures with Hillary but Harrison snapped one of me with Maik - he only came in 11th at Kona this year!  He was swiping my credit card so that I could make the following purchase:

I know, I know!  Another kit. But so cute and I love the fish scales on it!  And Maik also talked with me about the St. George course - and the hills!

My "real" birthday celebration followed - Michael and I spent an afternoon hanging out at LA's Grand Central Market , visiting the Hudson River School exhibit at LACMA and eating and drinking quite well.  To be honest, there might have been a bit too much over-indulgence over the course of the month, but how can I complain about *having* to spend time at some of my favorite places - Amigos, the York, Golden Road Brewery and POV (this last place has forever ruined pizza elsewhere for us) with friends.  Also, I had my first ramen experience - since the days of Top Ramen - at Tsujita.  The LA Weekly claims that you can find better ramen, but you have to get on a plane to do so.  I'm not a ramen expert, but I can say that it was one of the most decadent meals I've ever had.

Perhaps my favorite part of the meal (except for the ramen) - Glad that no one died while we were eating the ramen!

I mentioned drink, and I know that serious triathletes and runners eschew alcohol.  Sigh.  Obviously I'm not one of those serious athletes, and I've developed a recent crush on the Old Fashioned and variations of said drink (such as the Claremont).  Also, Golden Road's "Better Weather IPA" is one of the best beers I've had in ages which I would drink on a more regular basis except that it has 9% alcohol or something ridiculous like that.  In other words, it packs a punch.

Despite a month of eating and drinking a bit too much, I would say that the rest of my training regime is on track.  Yes, despite my mid-month groaning and moaning and belly-aching, it's been a solid training period.  I started off the month with a great run in Boulder on New Year's, and I started today with an early morning long, slow distance run.  Many of these have felt like a slog, at least at one moment or another, but I enjoyed every moment of today's run. I feel that some of the training is beginning to click, and I'm looking forward to a more focused month in February.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 - It's happening!

I know, 20 days into the year and I finally decide to embrace it.  Good for me!  It's been somewhat of a low-key start to the year, so maybe that explains my reluctance to exuberantly celebrate the start to the new year.

Or the end to 2014, for that matter, which was a memorable year but wasn't exactly a *fantastic* year.  I think that I declared around this time last year that it would be a 'bold' year which, ultimately, it wasn't.  It's funny, in foresight, I believed that the whole Ironman thing would be an audacious experience, but that wasn't really the case.  As a family friend said to me on this topic, there is something militaristic about training for such an event.  He didn't say that in a negative way but rather matter-of-factly, and he was quite right.  By undertaking IM training, I ended up with a regimented schedule for about 6 months.  Not to say that it was easy - it wasn't - or that it wasn't a fantastic experience - it was -  and I certainly took risks and grew and learned about myself and about the whole swim/bike/running thing.  However, Ironman wasn't THE defining moment of the year, which is okay.  Maybe it's hard to find one moment in any given year, or, if you do, are you reducing all of the other moments that are pretty great?  I can say that 2014 was a year of growth, which came with good times and also harder ones.  Seeing relationships ebb and flow is natural, but it's not always easy, and I experienced some of those growing pains this past year.  Also, I know that it sounds silly to non-pet people, but I still miss Milo, our dog, who passed away last February.

I hope that 2015 is also a year of growth (I suspect that it will be!) and of tackling new challenges.  Despite some of my moaning, groaning and grumbling about lack of fitness, I have committed to another Ironman experience!  My plans in 2015 are Ironman 70.3 St. George and Ironman Boulder!  St. George was a tough choice because it's the same weekend as Wildflower, which will always be near and dear to my heart in terms of triathlon, but after last year's swim, I don't know how the conditions will be better this year (with the continued lack of rain), and Michael, Mr. Sherpa, said that he'd prefer to go to St. George anyway.  The only issue I'm currently experiencing with St. George - mentally at this point - is that it is a harder course than Wildflower.  Gulp.  This means that I need to get in gear, especially on the bike!  The bonus is that it looks like an amazingly beautiful course, so I can't wait for that.

And Ironman Boulder - it was the only 'obvious' choice for different reasons.  Summer plans, for instance, and also for the emotional pull that Boulder has had over the past 9-10 years.  It was my first Ironman experience, at Boulder 70.3 a few years ago, so it will be exciting to tackle the full distance this year.  Plus, we'll be there in June which will give me the chance to train on the course - what a concept!  Even better, I love the idea of seeing friends and family on the day of the event.

My only issue right now, is that... despite working with the same coach as last year (who is awesome) and despite the long off-season that should have reenergized me, I'm feeling...  Oh, a bit 'off'.  I was so excited to begin to train and to focus on 2015 training, and I still am, but I'm also worried that I bit off more than I can chew this year.  Maybe it's just that I'm nervous about the idea of another Ironman and I'm still waiting for things to come into focus.  I was so excited in July, still riding on the post-Ironman high, that I couldn't wait to sign up for another race, but now I feel somewhat intimidated about fully committing to the training program again - but here it is!

In the meantime, I recognize that I have much to look forward to in 2015 and exciting changes are afoot.  But there are also some scary unknowns (the Rumsfeldian "known unknowns" along with the "unknown unknowns").  I hope that I can embrace all of the experiences, good and difficult, and the changes that come my way in 2015.