Monday, April 30, 2012

Just a quick meltdown and then I'll be fine

Welcome to what I thought would be a nice taper week, but it's turned into something quite different.
At least that has been the last 48 hours or so - bouncing between a possible meltdown and total confidence.  And, yes, it's less than a week until Wildflower, which definitely contributes to the wonky state of being.  I've hesitated to call this my priority race, but it really is just that.  While I've certainly invested tons of money in other experiences and events, I would say that this is the one that I'd like to go all out -  guts and glory and all that stuff.

Which is why I panicked on Friday morning after an achey-knee-run on Thursday and called my knee doctor so that I could get a cortisone shot before the race.  I've now reconsidered but have yet to cancel the appointment.
But it is also why, when I woke up yesterday morning and could barely walk, I almost had a major freak out. Instead, I peed (the reason that I got up in the first place), and then I looked up every single configuration of "cramp + recovery" or "calf + cramp+ swimming+ treatment" to see if I could find some kernel of enlightenment about my delicate condition.  Instead, I found a lot of crap on the interweb and discovered that I could possibly have a blood clot!  Doubtful, but good to think about these days. To me, the irony of all of this sudden drama is that I've had a healthy training cycle for the past however-many months.  Then this just bit me in the ass!

After a pretty perfect Saturday, Sunday was a day that could have been filled with anxiety and frustration as I sat around and obsessed over my sore calf.  While there moments of that, especially as my mind kept turning to the final Sunday ride that I canceled, I decided to enjoy the fact that I could fully rest (third rest day of the week - luxury!), have a low-key morning and hang out with some friends at dinner, eating Mexican food and drinking a margarita (or two?).  As the day progressed, I realized that the pain in my calf was very localized - it just hurt like a mother when I did certain exercises or movements, like going downstairs or after sitting for a while and then getting up to walk around.
Today has been more of the same - descending with trepidation the many staircases that I encounter at work, but  feeling great while standing, pacing in class and definitely strong enough to go for a four-mile run.  We'll see where this leaves me for the weekend, but I am fairly but please don't jinx me confident that Sunday's race will go well. "Going well" would be finishing at a certain time that I don't want to voice publicly.  However, I would also like to remind myself on Sunday that two years ago, I was still recovering from knee surgery and a 2-mile run was an awesome accomplishment.  Three years ago, I couldn't even run.  So, I would like to not lose sight of the fact that all of "this" (running, swimming, biking, and having fun!) is a gift that I don't want to take for granted.

And I will try to remind myself of that thought regularly between now and Sunday morning.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A typical Saturday morning...

Getting in an open water swim before next week's triathlon? Check.
Going for a canyon run? Check.
Taking a walk on a beach? Check.

Enjoying views like this:
Double check!

Michael commented that we used to do these sorts of outings more often, although I'd like to know how much we're "not" doing these days, considering all of our trips over the past few weeks to northern and southern counties.  This morning did, however, seem like a special treat, mainly because we only expected to head south for a quick open water swim and then return home.  But how lame would that be?

The morning started earlier than most, even considering my tendency to get up and go.  I had been itching for an open-water swim before next weekend and planned to do an ocean swim.  However, I found a "clinic" of sorts - pay to swim a mile in a reservoir.  Great!  I figured that it would boost my confidence if I could execute the swim without a panic attack.  Having not dedicated as much time, energy and anxiety to swimming over the past few months, I had no idea how the swim would go, but I did feel confident that it would not be a repeat of last year's first open-water swim of the season which consisted mainly of some hyperventilating. 

At any rate, we ended up cutting it a bit a close for my swim - I believe I arrived at 7:55, and the swim began promptly at 8:00.  Someone else did not know exactly when I needed to leave, and obviously I communicated well with him (no, it wasn't our dog Gus).  Yikes, I was the last person to arrive!  Most had arrived early and splashed around, while I put on my wetsuit as fast as I could and tried to look nonchalant about the fact that I was putting on my swim cap and goggles as the 'director' shouted directions at us.  The good thing about the late arrival is that I had zero time to think about how far out the buoy looked.  When they blew the whistle, I jumped in the water (or waded out to it) and started to swim.  As usual, the beginning is kind of a scene as people are trying to get space and figure out their stroke.  It took me a moment to settle into a rhythm, but I finally began to focus on my stroke and breathing and did not think about time or how far I had gone.  The course was extremely simple - just out and back, turning around two buoys.  My sighting was pretty horrible, but I did not wander too far off course.  I felt pretty good, and by the time I knew it, I had turned around the buoys and had headed back to the 'beach' area.  Around the last 100 yards or so, my right calf cramped up horribly (mother-fer!), but I just dealt with it and exited the water.  I glanced down at my watch, thinking that I'd be happy with a 35-minute swim, and it read under 30 minutes.  Holy crap, I guess I have improved since last year!
Once the swim was done, we were more or less out of there.  Michael couldn't resist taking an awesome photo of me (I'm obviously the short pale person to the right):

And then, we headed to the coast - Crystal Cove State Park, to be exact, where we hiked/ran El Moro Canyon and then went down to the beach and enjoyed watching the waves.  It was a gorgeous day to be out, and we couldn't believe that we'd seen and done so much in a morning's time. 
So, taking full advantage of our Saturday, we came home and took a nap!

And my evening should have some of this, just to top off the day:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's rising and converging - crazy dreams

As luck would have it, the two major "events" of my spring happen to fall within a day or two of each other - May 6 and May 8.  I knew this when I signed up for the Wilflower tri, but I decided that I didn't want my students' exam performance to dictate my personal goals.  So, I will be pushing myself on Sunday, and then on Tuesday, I will keep my fingers crossed that my students push themselves and perform well on their exams.  Fun times.  I do work with a motivated and intelligent group of kids, so most of them won't slack off.
Still, if I could have planned it, I would have at least spaced the dates apart by about a week just to give myself some breathing room.  This would be particularly nice as I've started to have weird stress dreams about BOTH!  Last night, for example, I totally had a crazy dream about Wildflower.  I won't go into great detail, but it involved most of my bike and my backpack getting stolen while in what I thought was the transition area.  Seriously - they didn't take the entire bike, just parts of it.  I found the other parts littering the transition area (which wasn't really the Wildflower transition area, but somehow it was to my subconscious).  So, I ended up finding some pieces and thought that I could 'race' but I didn't start until 3:00 pm!  Bizarre, I know.
As for my students' performance, apparently I do have some low-grade (or higher) anxiety there too since I had a dream that several of my best students decided not to take the exam because they were going to try out for American Idol.  Now, this is a show that I have never even watched, but it has embedded itself in my psyche?!
I suppose both of the dates are nearing, and, for both of them, I have dedicated much time and energy.  Ultimately, with both of them, luck plays a large role, so it's a 'wait-and-see' game for a while.  And lots of crazy dreams, it seems!
Speaking of dreams, I'll leave you with this image by Remedios Varo:
Don't be deceived thinking that there is no connection between this painting and my crazy dreams - the title is, after all, "Woman Walking out of the Psychoanalyst".

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The bazillion things that I'd rather do than go to a music festival

In some circles of Southern Ca, people identify the month of April with a little 3-syllable word that rhymes with nothing that I can think of: Coachella (when pronouncing, drop the a, and don't think of the double l as a Spanish -ll-; this, by the way, is one of the reasons that I have issues with pronunciation here in Southern CA - some names and words show off their Spanish origin and others are Native American).  So, anyway, Co-che-la!

Before moving to this area, I had no idea that this sex, drug, music, coolness fest in the desert existed. But, from March until the end of April or so, it's one of those buzz words that permeates the Los Angeles 'cultural' scene so I am now all too familiar with the word and the concepts that swirl around the event, despite my complete first-hand ignorance of the festival.  The familiarity that I have unwillingly developed is mainly thanks to local radio stations that plug the groups playing and, unfortunately, due to the fact that there is a mass exodus of my students whose parents call them in "sick", "family visit", "college visit" while I know full-well that they are soaking in the Coachella coolness (and doing who knows whatever else).

While there are some groups that would totally interest me, the idea of a weekend in the desert with thousands of other people holds zero appeal.  So, I'll sacrifice my hipster-ness and embrace the fact that I have LONG since crossed the I'm-too-old-to-go-to-a-music-festival threshold.  Don't get me wrong, if someone gave me free tickets, an awesome place to stay, and assurance that I wouldn't have to deal with any of the crowds, then sure I'd go see the Black Keyes or the Shins or Snoop Dog or Feed Me (yeah, the last one - maybe a DJ?).  Since that is not happening, there is no way that I'm going with a dozen of my closest friends who then invite a dozen of their closest friends.  Then we all stay in a small condo and spend the entire weekend drinking, smoking, hanging out, not showering, and generally being cool.

Sounds awesome, I know!
While I'm not about to list a bazillion things, I will say that I am so happy that I'm able to spend my "Coachella" weekends in other ways.  For instance:
- Eating good Mexican food (last weekend AND tonight) and not scrounging around for food
- Catching up with old friends (and remembering what we all discussed)
- Sweating for a few hours in the am on the bicycle rather than sweating while being packed in a space with a bunch of people
- Sleeping in a comfortable bed and not on the floor
- Sharing a room only with a significant other and two dogs (so, not listening to anyone else snore, except for Gus)
- Not having to decide what my 'wardrobe' will be as I deal with extreme weather (crazy freak winter storm last weekend and heat this weekend; okay, last weekend, I had my own wardrobe crisis for the duathlon, but we worked it out)
- Unwinding from the week with post-run basil gimlet, an easy dinner and a somewhat disappointing movie ("The Descendants" which reminded me a bit of a Lifetime movie; definitely NOT reminiscent of the dark bite of "Election" or "Sideways")
- Afternoon naps in the comfort of my own home because of a long bike ride, not because I'm actually passed out.
- Going to sleep by 9:00 pm or earlier and waking up refreshed!

Obviously I am old, but there are some really wonderful aspects to the "I'm too old to be cool anymore" philosophy, and one is that I don't have to go music festivals anymore.  Not that I was ever an avid music-fest attendee, but I do remember being an anxious 20-something and feeling that I *should* enjoy these sorts of activities, goddamnit!  There are plenty of other activities in which I no longer have to participate or fein interest, now that I'm past any possible age of coolness, but the musical festival might be at the top of the list!

The irony of all of this is that in exactly two weeks I will be heading to Wildflower which is, in a sense, a bit of a crazy festival that mixes music with extreme athleticism (for some people).  Yes, it is the "Woodstock of triathlons".  I will, however, unleash my inner 60-year-old who is not a hippie, enjoying dinner out in Paso Robles on Saturday night, as I go to bed early, sleep in a somewhat comfortable motel bed, and then, if all goes as planned, do this swim, bike, run thing on Sunday.

Definitely more fun than Coachella.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The duathlon that actually was

So, no "Did I or didn't I" suspense here.  I finished the Camp Pendleton Devil Dog Duathlon this morning AND exceeded my expectations!  So far, it's my favorite race this year.  Okay, it is my only race so far, but despite the threatening rain and all the badasses with crazy gear that intimidate me and my own major doubts, I couldn't have been happier with the morning and the entire experience.

What a contrast to yesterday afternoon, around 1:30 pm when it was thundering and lightening, atypical natural phenomenas that almost never happen in Southern CA.  I definitely took that for an inauspicious sign.  The afternoon did not necessarily improve - we left at 3:05 on the nose, headed east, in the rain, and hit major Friday-afternoon traffic.  I think that we crawled along for the first 45 minutes, averaging around 5 miles an hour in some stretches.  Finally, the traffic opened up and we could zoom a bit more, which was great because we had dinner plans AND had to stop to buy new running shoes at REI for someone who had forgotten his (cough, cough, not I!).  Fortunately we made it down south and were not late meeting up with friends for a great dinner in Dana Point.  They had major news - Pregnant!  With twins!  Needless to say, we had a lot of catching up to do in a short 2-hour time period.

I went to sleep still worried about the weather.  The forecast indicated showers until 9:00 am, which, I decided, would be doable.  After all, I had feared torrential rains, so light showers were definitely preferable to that.  We officially hit the road to Camp Pendleton around 6:30, right after a breakfast and coffee stop that we ate and drank on the drive.  The morning was beautiful - a dramatic mix of clouds and sunshine - and we enjoyed a short but beautiful drive south, often catching glimpses of the Pacific Ocean just to our right.  For the first time all week, I began to feel somewhat optimistic about the event.  Wow, optimism?!  What a concept!  We turned into Camp Pendleton, showing off our race packets and getting the go-ahead to drive onto the base which, I think is privileged to some very nice land - lots of rolling hills and access to the ocean.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare, which gave me the chance to rack my bike, use the bathroom twice, drink plenty of water, decide what to wear (that one was complicated - leg warmers for the run or not? long sleeve shirt or not? full gloves or those that are cut off), and set up my stuff in the transition area.  Then, we waited in the car until it was closer to the start time, so we ran to the start line and put on our race faces.  No photos, but you'll have to trust me.  It seemed like a good idea at that point to think about my race strategy.  I had not articulated it to anyone, but before this past week, I secretly hoped to finish in 2:00 hours, give or take a minute or two.  I knew that the run would be stronger for me than the bike, but I hoped to bike the 18.6 miles in around an hour.  However, I had no idea how I would feel transitioning from run to bike.  So, at 8:29 am, I figured that I would just do my best and see what that meant for me.

The first run was not super fast or slow - it took us about 10 seconds to actually cross the start line, and Michael and I ran somewhat together for the first quarter or half mile.  Then, he encouraged me to go on, so I did!  Not that I sped up too much, but I kept a nice pace.  The 5k was an easy out-and-back course that offered a few nice mud puddles because of the rain.  When I ran into the transition area, my watch read 26-something which was more or less what I hoped.  The transition was probably my fastest by far (that's not saying much), and would have been faster except that I decided to take off my leg warmers for the bike portion and I had to fish my energy stuff out of the vest that I opted not to wear for the ride.  Then, I ran my bike to the mount area and hopped on it!  Okay, more like I tried to climb onto it somewhat gracefully.  It probably took me another 60 seconds to clip in.  I'm so smooth on the bike.

The bike leg actually felt really good which was all that I wanted.  I enjoyed just being able to RIDE and not worry so much about traffic and cars and everything that I have to consider when I'm normally in the saddle.  I also hoped to pass a few people, and I did, even people who had fancier bikes and clipless pedals (usually I'm ONLY passing people with the non-clipless pedals because I'm so slow). While plenty of speedsters zoomed past me, I felt good about my pace and reached the turn around at 59 minutes or so - which put me just under 30 minutes for 9 point whatever miles.  Excellent!  My confidence that I would finish in an hour was bolstered, until the headwind hit me as I headed north.  Holy crap!  The first few miles of the return trip were brutal.  Finally, we turned back east and the wind ended up behind us which was great for the final miles of the bike ride.  Except for the wind, the ride was great - nice easy hills and curves to enjoy and a pretty good road for most of the ride.  No complaints.

So, I ran my bike into transition and, for me, quickly prepped for the second run leg.  The one major fail on the bike was to eat anything, so I grabbed my energy food-things to eat on the run leg.  I also took in plenty of water on the run course.  Once I left the transition, I looked at my watch and saw that it read something like 1:35.  So, a sub-2 hour race was less than likely, but I would be under 2:05 which suited me just fine.  I also saw Michael as I headed out of the run gate, and I waved and he cheered.  Yay!  Starting the run, my legs felt really good.  I was worried that dealing with wind would have trashed my legs, but that didn't seem to be the case.  At this point in the race (yes, it really did seem to be a race for me), I just wanted to have a solid, final 5K and to leave enough 'in the tank' for a strong run to the finish line.  I hit the turn-around and then enjoyed the nice downhill run to the 2 mile marker.  There, my watch clocked 1:52:30.  Hmmm, a 7:30 final mile?  Possible but not necessarily probable.  I normally hate being a 'clock watcher', but I figured "what the hell" - if I wanted to hit that sweet spot, then I'd need to run smart.  So, I pushed myself but did not go all out until 1:58, when someone said "You're almost at the finish line" and then it was a full-on GO GO GO!  And I snuck in at an official time of 1:59:48.  My unofficial time was probably about 10 seconds faster, but I can't say that I really care because the official time brought a huge smile to my face as ran across the finish line.

So, all of those doubts about everything - well, it's not bad to have them, but it is definitely more enjoyable to come out on top!  I was so worried that my lack of racing for several months would have a negative impact, but I do think that it's been good for me to really focus on Wildflower and to not throw in a bunch of 10Ks just to do them.  Not that this race serves as an indicator of my performance, but it did boost my confidence, especially on the bike which is my major weakness.  This morning, my legs felt strong, and I am more than happy with Sunshine!  While the course was easier than what I'll find at Wildflower, the wind presented a good challenge that I managed to meet successfully.  Finally, that final run felt amazing, and I think that I'm in pretty good shape for May 6!

Final thoughts on the Devil Dog Duathlon:
- I would absolutely participate in this event again.  It was fairly small but well-organized, and while there were plenty of badasses out there with crazy gear, I loved that there were plenty of people with mountain bikes on the course, just doing their own thing.
- Being at/on Camp Pendleton was pretty cool, and the volunteers (many of whom were obviously active military) were awesome.
- I hope to never again see a guy's butt crack because there is some see-through material on his bike shorts.  Unfortunately, this was one of those situations where I passed him, then he passed me, then I passed him, then he passed me...  So, I had to see it several times, and it was like an accident on the freeway - you can't help but look.
- One of these days, I'm going to stay around for an awards ceremony to see if I do well enough in my age group.  I figured that I was in the bottom half of my age group, but as it turned out, I was in a pretty slow group and ended up doing fairly well (out of 13 people - ha!).

Once I finished, we were both ready to head home, but we did take a nice detour through San Clemente, one of the many surfing capitols of California.  It was almost noon, and my stomach had made itself known!  So, we found a great little Mexican spot, La Cocina de Ricardo (Ricardo's Kitchen, in case you cared).  I had my doubts when we pulled into the parking lot, but then we walked in and there was a customer speaking to the cashier en espaƱol - always a good sign.  And the food?  It rocked!  I had a burrito with chile colorado served "mojado" (wet - with sauce on top), and Michael had fried tacos.  I was skeptical when the cashier recommended them, but they were fantastic.

So, well-nourished and tired, we returned home.  It was gorgeous day to be on the road - clear skies and snow covered peaks.  A pretty amazing Saturday in Southern California!

(If you make it this far, good for you! That was a lengthy spiel.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Okay, here we go!

These, at least, are the words that I'll be repeating to myself for the next 36 hours or so as I bolster my spirits, nerve, energy, and whatever else I need for my first official 2012 'race'.  I use the term race tentatively because I am unsure about how Saturday morning will unfold for me (or us, since Michael is running a 5K).  Not only am I participating in my first ever duathlon while feeling untrained and unsure about the experience, but the weather in Southern CA has not cooperated with my plans at all!  After weeks of consistently great weather, the gods have conspired against us.  A winter storm system is supposed to hit the area tonight and hang around tomorrow.  Perfect, just perfect.  I really need to run, bike, run on slick roads.  Plus, it's going to be freakin' cold (for Southern CA) at 8:00 am in Camp Pendleton so I'm in a bit of a quandary about what to wear since my usual 'multi-sport outfit' of a skimpy little top and bottom won't work!
*Just a side note - we really, really need the rain, so I'm indulging myself by complaining about rain here.

Let's thrown in the fact that I seriously think that last weekend's activities did a number on my body.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm so not a badass!  For whatever reason, my energy and motivation have dipped this week. Perhaps the two pretty hard weeks on have left me in need of more than one rest day?  Add to that, my knee felt pretty creaky today when I went out on a quick bike/run jaunt.  I'm not sure what's going on, but everything is leaving me with many doubts about Saturday's adventure and, more importantly, about Wildflower in May (less than four weeks away at this point!).

To be overly-dramatic, things seem pretty bleak, and I am definitely focusing on the negative here, but there are some positives.  First of all, I signed up for the same duathlon last year, the Camp Pendleton Devil Dog Duathlon, and ended up not racing, not participating, not doing anything at all because of a foot injury and knee issue.  So, actually showing up on Saturday morning will be an improvement over last year's total no-show.  Also, I decided today, while pushing myself along on the bike (hello, Sunshine! jeez I felt slow today!), that this is not a full-on race but good practice for Wildflower.  This little attitude adjustment has helped me tremendously, and I've decided that I'll be more than happy with a solid run performance and hopefully will enjoy a good ride on the bike.

The other bonus to the experience is that we plan to drive south tomorrow and spend a pleasant evening with friends whom we rarely see.  So, even if the race presents the multitude of problems that I've imagined (I get hypothermia! I crash! We're swept away by a mud slide!), if I can finish it and if I have a good time tomorrow night, sharing laughs and conversation with friends, and make something of the duathlon, then I'll count the weekend as a successful one.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Friday fitting and Sunday ride

So, before being tortured on Friday, I mean before the afternoon run, I squeezed in a productive morning that consisted mostly of a bike fitting at a local bike store, Montrose Bike Shop.  I did feel a few pangs of guilt that I hadn't bought my bike from them, but I also have no doubt that they will be getting plenty of my business from here on out!  Anyway, I had never thought about a bike fitting, but my friend, Rachel, who seems to be my go-to bike person, recommended it.  Since I had made a sizable investment in the bike, I figured that I might as well make sure that it was a good fit for me (and if not, then I'd be screwed!).

I had no idea what to expect, not having done a fitting before, but it definitely exceeded my expectations.  Bill, the bike-fitter-dude, is a mild-mannered guy about 50 years old, and I give him credit because at no point did he make me feel judged or like the total bike moron that I am.  The experience was pretty interesting - he first asked me general questions about who/how I am as a cyclist (What is/are my strength/s?  Climbing; What are my goals for biking? Ride longer, hopefully faster; Any aches and pains? Just the knee on occasion; And so and so forth).  It was rather illuminating for me as I had never really considered these questions myself.  Then he had me go through a series of movements - stretching, bending, he pulled and pushed on my legs on occasion - to see how balanced my body was in terms of cycling.  Another surprise there - with the exception of one little exercise (one-legged knee bends), I apparently don't have major issues.  Who knew?!  He also measured my bike and made a few adjustments, and then it was time to see me on the bike.  I tried to look as professional as possible, and he made a few adjustments to the bike and asked me more questions.  By the end of the two hours, I walked out of the store with what I hoped to be a perfectly fitted bike.  Oh, I also ended up with new insoles for my shoes and a new saddle.  The insoles surprised me, but I kind of expected that I would have to fork over money for a new bike seat since in all of the reviews of the Trek Madone the most common 'upgrade' that people made was the bike seat.

Despite my body still being a bit trashed from Friday's run (my legs are "in a world of pain"), I decided that an Easter Sunday ride would be perfect since it should be a quiet day.  Also, today marks 4 weeks exactly until Wildflower, and I'm doing a duathlon this coming Saturday.  So, no time like the present to get my butt on my bike.  So glad that I spent 2 hours this morning in the saddle - and so glad that I invested in that new saddle!  The bike felt great, even with tired legs, and I was right that it would be a quiet morning.  I am definitely feeling positive about Sunshine and looking forward to many more Sunday rides.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Good Friday run - Mt. Wilson, Take II

Good Friday seemed like the perfect time to hit the trails and do another Mt. Wilson practice run.  Unlike some individuals, I have not been faithfully running the trail on a regular basis.  In fact, this was the first time since February that I felt emboldened enough to tackle it again.  Having signed up to run the race legally this year, I do want to get in a few more runs up the mountain before Memorial Day weekend so that I kind of 'race' it.  We pretty much winged our first run, and found ourselves surprised at reaching the turn-around point for the race and then zooming (sort of) down the mountain.

Yesterday afternoon felt quite different.  First of all, rather than meeting up on a grey, chilly morning, we opted for the afternoon which was sunny and full of light.  I initially worried that it might be a warm trudge up the mountain, but the weather was pretty perfect - not too hot, not too cool.  Just like the Baby Bear's porridge.  However, I did not bring fresh legs to the mountain, and I knew that the run would be demanding.  My partner in crime, Michael, has slacked off on most exercise lately, so the run would most definitely challenge him.

In hindsight, I would not quite describe it as "brutal", but the run up the mountain was definitely tough.  I briefly contemplated the run-5-minutes-walk-1-minute strategy, but soon realized that I couldn't predict that the tough parts that I would naturally walk would fall into the 1-minute time-frame.  So, I squashed that plan and just walked/ran according to what felt right.  There were those moments when I could pick up the pace and really feel my legs taking off, but then the trail would surge upward or I would hit a rocky patch, and it would force me to walk.  Once I hit the upper part of the trail, I then began to enjoy it - I ran through nice shade and the uphill grade evened out a bit.  That was where I met up with our speedy friend who had already reached the turn-around once and then he returned with me.  We headed back down, met Michael who was fairly near the 'top', and went back up with him!  The descent was certainly quicker than the uphill trudge, and it did feel nice to gather some speed.  However, I forget how deceptive the trail is. There is a certain point when I think that I must ALMOST be there, and yet the trail continues down, down, down.  I was surprised at what a great time the afternoon was to run the trail.  As I said, it was not too hot, and the afternoon light touched on all of the trees and plants and lent a lovely gold to the trail.  Also, there were fewer people on the trail than on Saturday morning which made it easier, both going up and coming down.

This run was slower than my first attempt at Mt. Wilson in February which may not be a bad thing as it reminds me of how challenging the trail is and how I should never take it for granted!  I might have quit before the top, but there was a major reward awaiting us at the end: A strong margarita and a veggie burrito at one of our old favorites in Pasadena, Amigo's.  Somehow it wouldn't have seemed right to go and have a drink and a huge platter of food if we hadn't all made it to the turn-around point!  So, tired, stinky and sore, we all revived when we were ensconced in a comfortable booth and a pitcher of margaritas magically appeared at our table.  Bliss!

By 7:30 pm, we had satisfied all of our cravings, and we commented that we'd be home by 8:00 and in bed by 8:30.  It didn't quite work out like that because on the drive home, I decided that watching just a bit of "The Big Lebowski" would be the perfect end to an already perfect day.  I have NO idea why that thought took hold, but it did, so we enjoyed about 30 minutes of that crazy mess of a movie.  And then I went to sleep, dreaming of trails and of "The Dude".

One final note - I felt surprisingly good this morning, bounced out of bed and hit the pool for a very easy swim.  This afternoon, however, my legs are suffering from yesterday's adventure.  I am, as John Goodman's character from "The Big Lebowski" says, "in a world of pain".

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A new relationship (I think it's love!)

I was going to mention this sooner, but then I felt shy about sharing too much too soon.  Last week in San Francisco, I developed a huge crush.  Fell hard and fast and acted impulsively.  And then I started to worry - what if this isn't the real deal?  What if I jumped too soon into a new relationship?  What if it doesn't work out?
However, after today, I think that we'll be okay.  In fact, we'll be more than okay - we're going to have a great time together, for years and years, I hope!  With that vote of confidence, I should introduce the new love of my life:

Yes, ahem, I got a new bike, and it still makes me want to do a very-excited-giddy-happy-dance!  I also kind of start to hyperventilate when I think about how much money I just invested in it, but then I think about how we, this bike and I, are going to share so much together!  
I should also say that I had no intentions of getting a bike in San Francisco.  In fact, I had put the whole "I need/want a new bike" thing on the backburner.  While I was still dropping little hints to Michael about a new bike, I had accepted the fact that it probably wouldn't happen.  Really. Then, we went out to lunch in Marin with my friend, Rachel, who is an avid cyclist, and Michael suggested that we go to the bike store that she frequents, Sunshine Bicycle Center in Fairfax, CA.  I walk into this tiny place full of gear and bikes and announce to the bike guy who approaches us, "I'm just looking.  I'm definitely not getting a bike today!".  And about 90 minutes later, I walked out of that shop, the sheepishly proud and excited owner of a new bike.  Yes, it was an impulse buy in many ways, but it was so great to be there with a friend who went out with me while I tested out 3 different bikes, 2 of them 2-3 times, and would ask me questions about how I was feeling.  She also is far more experienced than I and could look at me and give me a good assessment about the fit.  I was definitely NOT dressed for a test-ride in my jeans and Doc Marten's, but even with such sporty clothes, I could feel how zippy and tight this bike was.  A serious upgrade.  Was I ready for it?  Well, I took the plunge, partly because the price was so much better than anything I had seen in the LA area and partly because I had a huge crush on this bike.  
As soon as we pulled into the driveway at our place on Tuesday afternoon, I grabbed my other bike, my lavender and white floral Fuji*, and took both of them down to the local bike shop where they swapped out the pedal system in about 5 minutes.  And then I took my bike out (yes, it has a name, but we're both shy) for a quick spin around the neighborhood.  I was so nervous!  Definitely like that "first kiss" when things are kind of awkward and don't go quite as you planned.  Not that there was anything "off", but the chain did slip, and on the first few hills I felt a little pain twinge in my left knee.  Still, I wasn't about to give up hope on my bike!
So, I nervously (I know, I'm crazy, who gets nervous going out on a bike ride when it's a sweet new toy?) got back on the new bike today.  The first few miles were still a bit shaky - there was tons of traffic, the wind was picking up, a lot was going on with other cyclists, yikes!  And then I settled down, did a couple of nice climbs, hit some rolling hills and started to feel GOOD on the bike, enjoying how responsive it is, how powerful it feels on the climbs and sharp on the descent.  Oh, boy, this is definitely love!

So, yeah, meet Sunshine.  I know, Sunshine.  The name is kind of cheesy, but it reminds me of the store where I bought it and of Colorado and Sunshine Canyon (where I got married), and it makes me smile, just like a beautiful day.

*Side note about the Fuji.  I do feel that I could have stuck with it for another year, maybe even two.  I definitely acquired it as a "starter" bike, wanting to see if I took to biking or vice versa.  To be frank, I've never just LOVED it like I seem to already love the Trek, and it doesn't entirely have to do with the fact that the Trek is a nicer bike.  To be totally frank, the purple and white color combination plus floral detailing just never rocked my world.  So, yes, I'm pretty psyched about how my new bike feels, but to be honest, I'm just as excited about the colors which feel way more "me".  Thank goodness I didn't invest in a bunch of purple or pink cycling clothing, except the pink socks that I'm rocking in that picture!