Sunday, December 29, 2013

Another Boulder Christmas

With a late Thanksgiving and busy weekends between that holiday and Christmas, it seemed that this break took us totally unawares.  We don't normally decorate extravagantly at home, but we try to hang up ornaments and pull out a nativity scene or two (my favorite is our Andean influenced scene with llamas rather than sheep).  This year, we had NADA out and Michael commented that we were leaning pretty hard to being total atheists.  Even with the 25th rapidly approaching, we prepared minimally for our trip to Boulder, and for Christmas in general.  Fortunately, we had already planned on a low-key Christmas with few presents.  This was a bit less fun than the usual gift exchange, especially since we didn't even give any joke gifts, but it did streamline our preparations (meaning - we had almost zero).

My last week of school put me in a total Scrooge mood and I felt like I was holding on by my fingernails, just making it to Friday without losing my shit completely.  Once 12:30 pm on the 20th rolled around, I was at home, and it finally hit me that we would be leaving for Colorado on Saturday morning - woo hoo!  I felt a mix of relief and major excitement, especially since we started our holiday with margaritas with friends on Friday night.  The perfect way to celebrate a two-week break.

Our Christmas trips the past few years have followed a similar pattern so I can't say that they are exciting road trips - which is fine because "excitement" at Christmas might indicate a bit more stress than I would embrace.  We stick to the southern route via major interstates, but even that is an amazing trip through northern Arizona and New Mexico.  We always break up the trip in Flagstaff, AZ, grabbing a drink at Beaver Street Brewery when we roll into town and leaving bright and early after a morning cup of coffee at Macy's Coffee House (not related to the department store!).  While it's a long drive, we're both happy to truck across the Arizona and New Mexico landscape.  The trip doesn't ever feel long until we hit Colorado Springs and at that point the final two hours or so into Boulder seem to stretch on and on, especially after the previous ten hours or so.

Once in Boulder, we enjoy a bit too much good food and drink.  This time, our very first stop, even before seeing family, was the Southern Sun, to get a drink and fill up our growler.  Not a bad way for Boulder to welcome us - or vice versa!  We've migrated to a few other places this year, stopping by Salt for drinks on Christmas Eve afternoon.  To balance out such indulgences, I've stayed somewhat active, going for a morning or afternoon run several times, an early swim at the North Boulder Rec Center twice (once I packed two swimsuits and a towel, taking up valuable real estate in our packed car, I promised myself that I'd make good use of the gear!), and plenty of short walks with our dogs.  It's been relatively warm and we've regretted, somewhat, that we did not strap our bikes to the car.  But with skis already in tow, it seemed like overkill to bring bikes too.  

Warm temperatures are, of course, relative, and we have enjoyed a bit of snow in Boulder - on our first full day here and also this morning a nice dusting of snow greeted us.  Today, I managed to rouse Michael and we hit Chautauqua Park for an early morning walk with the doggies who were very excited about snow!

Not a great photo of me or the dogs, but the Flatirons are so pretty with the snow!

Meta photo - I'm taking a photo of Michael taking a photo; and Milo is grumpy because he just wants to GO, goddamnit!

These photos definitely do not do much justice to the morning which was gorgeous - but a bit cold!  With temperatures in the teens, I was ready for hot coffee after our walk.

Tomorrow, we plan to ski and then we'll soon pack the car to return to CA and 'real life'.  In the meantime, we have an exciting afternoon of football and I'm going to squeeze in a long, slow run.  While none of this is new to us at this point, the comfort of being here and spending time with friends and family is certainly one of the best presents that we could ever have at this time of the year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Three Things Friday

So much for the alliteration of "three things Thursday" and, yes, I'm totally ripping off the list idea from plenty of other people, but sometimes it's nice to condense thoughts into an easy bullet-pointed list, especially when you just have to think about 3 items.  Three, after all, is the magic number.

But, here goes:

1.  I had a GREAT appointment with my knee doctor on Tuesday.  I almost never use the words "great" and "doctor's appointment" in the same sentence, so this is monumental.  Equally amazing is that I did not get a cortisone shot.  I had been delaying this appointment for several months, thinking that I'd wait it until I needed the shot in order to function actively without pain.  Finally, I decided that I should just go ahead and see the doctor.  He was so excited that I'm doing better 4 years out from my surgery and even had me fill out a survey about my knee, the pain, my activity level.  Who knows, maybe I'll be back in for a shot within the month, but it's been almost a year since my last one which is the longest I've gone in between shots - so exciting!

2.  I left my wedding ring in my office yesterday and woke up in the middle of the night worried about it (also had a terrible dream about one of our doggies that I will not share).  Fortunately, when I went into work today, I found the ring where I had left it - on the floor.  Wife of the year award, I know!  I was quite relieved to find it and hopefully I'll take better care of it in the future.  No, I will!  Definitely!

3.  Running still feels strange using HR but I guess I'm getting used to being sloooooowwwww.  I have thought about caving in and buying headphones to distract myself from the HR numbers, but I don't know if that would help.  Also, while I don't in theory mind that people wear headphones, I am always amazed that people wear them when they are on random trails around twilight.  And then when I run up on them, they practically jump - it's not like I want to startle them on purpose, they just have no idea that I'm there because they can't pay attention to what's going on around them!
That and running skirts are my biggest peeves about other runners.  Am I a total asshole, by the way?  Probably.

It's Friday and I'm so ready for the weekend - and one week until Christmas vacation!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Training with a focus?

Although we are still in 2013, my thoughts have already started to turn to 2014.  It's natural, I think, as a teacher to do this, after all, it is the 2013-2014 school year and so much of what I'm doing now, I hope, will lay the groundwork for students in 2014 - the second semester.  The same can be said for the swim-bike-run thing.  It's still 2013, but I've made plans for 2014!

After Vineman, I planned to relax and not follow any sort of a training plan, and I did just that!  I did not try out new classes or do anything new and different, but I also managed to stay somewhat active, even during the heat of September (which is now a distant memory, especially today, which is grey, rainy and quite cold for southern CA).  I chose, somewhat arbitrarily, November as the "get in gear" month.  Shocking myself, I managed to focus a bit more and put in more yards and miles for the month.  But I wanted to put some pressure on myself so that I wouldn't hit December 1st feeling that I would have to undertake a 180 degree turn regarding my 'training'.  Because I am officially training for 2014!

And WOW is it different!

First of all, I should say that I've always taken a flexible attitude towards training and "racing".  I consider myself fortunate to have finally found something that really clicked.  For a while, Michael would joke with me about finding a hobby, a bit like the character Winston in Avenue Q who was looking for a purpose to his post-college life.  I wasn't in the life after college phase, but I was still trying to find that other piece.  Trying to add the swim and bike to the run challenged me in a different way, and I loved that!  Plus, working towards definitive goals - yes, please!

And I've trained somewhat seriously at times, but I've also taken the view that this really is a hobby, something that adds to my life and I shouldn't be too serious about it.  I still agree with that attitude because, as a middle-aged mid-pack age grouper, I don't foresee any podium wins in my future, unless there's a small field (which does happen at times!).

However, I also decided that I'd like to approach things with a somewhat more serious attitude - and greater focus, just to see.  Out of curiosity, perhaps?  So, I started to attend more group runs and rides and realized that I had a LOT to learn!  Ditto for masters swimming, where I stay in the slowest lane, although I've happily become a wee bit faster and I push myself a bit more each time (okay, almost every time).  The other major decision was to actually work with a coach.  A part of me is still rolling my eyes at myself and I think "What's going on here?!" but then another part of me feels quite excited about this process.  I contacted a few people and ended up connecting with someone who is not local but is in Southern CA and seems like a good fit for me.  To be honest, I've never worked with anyone, so I can't say that I know what I'm doing here.

And we'll see how this process goes.  I'm set up on TrainingPeaks which makes me feel like a "real" athlete as I can track myself and my data with a bit more accuracy than I'm used to - quite a difference from jotting down workouts and tallying totals for the end of the week in a date book (yes, I'm old school and still use a gradebook).  This past week was the first week that she gave me my workouts, and it hasn't been crazy hard or difficult.  After all, I'm just supposed to be building up my base, not doing anything too crazy.

But what HAS challenged me this week with the workouts is the fact that I am not the one choosing what to do for the day.  It's both a positive and negative.  Positive, because I don't have to think about it, I see what the workout is and I try to complete it and usually do.  I shouldn't use the term "negative" when reviewing the first week of working with a coach, but it has been different.  First of all, I feel quite responsible to report to my coach and to try my best at these workouts.  And I suppose that latter point is what I find so challenging.  I don't think that I half-assed my workouts in the past, but I often used the time in the pool, in the saddle, or pounding the pavement or trails as a time to lose myself in thoughts, let my mind wander and to relax.  I now find that I cannot or should not let my thoughts wander.  Today, I ran 10 hill repeats, or so I thought.  I found out that I actually only ran 9 because I didn't keep track!  It's not a huge issue, but it highlights the need for me to focus! Also, running by heart rate rather than running by feel or by garmin is a completely new experience.  I am not opposed to new experiences, but it seems that I am a bit set in my ways and I find it very difficult to be so aware of my body when I run.  Or aware in a different sense - paying attention to a device that tells me what is going on with my body.  It feels so foreign to me!

It's early days yet, but it's already been a new experience, and I feel a bit like an old nag who is being told to run a different way.  I suppose that it's also like eating spinach as a kid - it will be good for me in the long run.  And by that, I don't know if I'll suddenly get faster or develop amazing endurance, but the awareness and the focus challenge me and force me to approach running (and biking, somewhat at this point) with a different view.

Finally, I definitely would NOT have set out for a run this morning without that external motivation.  It was a bit wet and rather cold, and my bed was nice and warm and inviting, but a run was on the schedule, so run I did!  Begrudgingly, at first, but then I found my pace, warmed up, did my hills - or most of them - and felt quite accomplished for the rest of the day.

And if this translates into a faster or better race, then I'll take it!  And even if it doesn't, I think that I will learn from the experience.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Belated gratitude, a bike fitting, and happy December!

With my students' late work, I often try to take the "better late than never"attitude (with some consequences, of course).   I suppose that I'm using this same perspective to frame my belated Thanksgiving thoughts.  And it's still November, for a few more short hours!  (Okay, it was, when I started to put these thoughts together, but that time has passed!)

So, Thanksgiving - it was a wonderful break!  Making it to this point in the academic year is even better because it gives me the sense that I can make it to the end of May, even though I really think that my AP kids are WAAAAAAY behind on the material.  From here, we roll into the Christmas, and then January is quite a nice month for the teachers.  But back to the Thanksgiving break, it was a good mix of work and play.  Work involved house stuff, because we painted our kitchen over the break!  I actually can't include myself in the painting process, but I helped in minor ways, like cleaning, dusting and figuring out our meals while the fridge was off-limits.  Thanksgiving isn't the ideal moment to paint a kitchen, but since we had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner, it didn't matter that we moved everything portable (except major appliances) out of the kitchen, covered the surfaces and the appliances with drop cloth and sealed the area off for a few days.  I also managed to grade, grade, grade!  Not exactly good times, but I feel pretty accomplished as I start the work week tomorrow and begin the month with plenty of items crossed off.

In addition to being thankful for a longer weekend, I've appreciated a few things that did NOT happen. We did not travel, even though we looked into tickets to visit my family and also considered a trip to the desert.  While both of those options would have been great, hunkering down and staying put ended up feeling like quite a gift, especially now that we finally made progress on the kitchen.  We also avoided the Black Friday sales events that apparently did happen, just not in our world.  I can't, however, claim that the weekend was extremely frugal because I ended up getting another bike fit on Friday and also started to actively plan my 2014 races ('actively plan' = registered for one of the races that are on the list).

The bike fit on Friday was pretty interesting.  I've been torturing myself, looking at eye candy for a while:

Imagining/hoping that I'd look something like this:

Okay, I haven't actually been looking at top-of-the-line bikes because that would be silly.  But I have been admiring some considerable cheaper models and looking for deals.  Fortunately, I also kept hearing the voice of reason bouncing around my head, the one that kept telling me that I have a great bike (which I do!) and that the last thing I really need around the house is another bike (very true!).  I also read all sorts of threads on Slowtwitch and other forums about the fact that if you have a good road bike, the tri bike really won't be a HUGE advantage and that for someone who is not super competitive (that would be me), is it worth it spend thousands of dollars to improve by a few minutes.  Additionally, I know that a tri bike can make a big difference on the run, but I've never had issues going from the bike to run.  Knock on wood!   The clincher was when several good friends who are excellent cyclists rolled their eyes about my wish for a new bike.  One of these people just finished her 9th (!!!) Ironman, and she very matter-of-factly informed me that I could get way more bang for my buck in other ways.  

With all of that, I decided to content myself with my little Trek and see if a new fit would make me feel a bit more aerodynamic on the bike.  A member of the tri group was certified over the summer to do fittings, so I went over to his place on Friday afternoon and got a fitting!  My last fitting was about 2 years ago, and I know that I told the bike guy that I wanted to be comfortable on the bike.  Now, I'm okay sacrificing some comfort for speed.  Anyway, this bike fit was great.  I felt very "Bionic man" as he hooked up all these sensors to me.   It was interesting that he didn't have to make MAJOR adjustments nor did he recommend any upgrades for me - he just tweaked a few things here and there which actually made a big difference.  He also did not insult my bike or ask me when I was getting a tri bike in order to really compete, instead he said that he still missed his Trek Madone (he was hit by a car while riding it - yikes!).  As for the 'aerodynamic' and aggressive fit, I do feel faster on the bike, although whether I am or not, remains to be seen!  I'm definitely more forward and he lowered the handlebars a bit, but I really feel the changes in my legs which seem to have more snap.  

So, I'm not getting a new bike this year or next, but I feel like a kid who just got a shiny new toy.   My old bike feels better, and I'm excited to put in some saddle time (as evidenced by a nice easy ride yesterday morning)!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A new concept in my life: Playing with others

While I like to be social and value the friendships and relationships that are a part of my life, I consider myself to be quite an introvert.  I need that "alone time" to recharge, regroup, gather thoughts and then I can be with people.  When I don't get that time to myself, I become extremely cranky!

Which brings me to the swim/bike/run question.  When I first started out in 2011, I was a solitary swimmer, biker and runner.  I did take some swim classes at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center and Michael would occasionally accompany me on the rides and runs, but I was pretty happy tootling along on my own and winging it, for the most part.  Last year, I sporadically attended a group ride or two and quite a few runs with a local tri group and connected in a non-organized way with other people for runs and rides, but I mainly stuck to the solo approach for the majority of my training, even for my first venture into the 70.3 distance.

I still prefer to hit the road on my own, either hoofing it on my feet or coasting along on the bike, and swimming alone is one of the most zen experiences that I know.  BUT, I've also come to realize that group rides, organized runs and swim practices can reap huge benefits.  So, I have pushed myself to overcome my hesitancy to train with others and my preference to enjoy the time to alone that training affords me.  The hesitancy - or maybe it's a lack of confidence - is a huge part of why I prefer to train on my own.  Hello, I have a complex because I just hate being so slow on the swim and the bike.  Actually, I don't care that much about the swim, but I am terribly slow on the bike (still), and I feel pretty self-conscious when I bike in a group.  And running on my own?  I said that swimming alone is a zen experience, which is true, but there is nothing that can compare to being on a trail or a road, feet hitting the dirt or the pavement, mind focused yet also freely wandering - it's my moment to daydream and to think about the "what ifs" in my life while also focusing on pace, breathing, environment.  I always feel so alive, alert and also relaxed when I'm running.  Even on a hard run, when I feel that I'm suffering through it, I can find great moments in the experience.

Despite this tendency and preference to go it alone, I've looked to running and to swim/bike/run as a way to connect to other people through shared experiences and as a way to improve my own level of fitness.  What a concept!  I'm still reluctant to head out on group rides, but I know that they are a. fun and b. great training.  The same can be said for group runs, when I push myself a bit more because I'm trying to keep up, somewhat, with the faster people, who are probably slowing down a bit for the slower people.  Finally, as I mentioned in my last post, I recently joined a master's swim group at the Rose Bowl.  Since this past spring, I've been swimming on occasion with a friend from work.  She is WICKED fast, despite the fact that she considers herself slow because she compares her current times to those of her former self.  We made a pact, joining master's together, and while it is still a bit scary for me, the experience improves as the weeks go by.  And I definitely see improvements in my swimming - not that I'm fast, but I am more comfortable pushing myself more, in terms of speed and distance.  And there are those occasional surprises.  Last Tuesday night, I pulled up in the lane next to someone that I actually knew from the tri group, and we had a great time sharing a lane - it wasn't scary and I didn't berate myself for being so slow (after all, he was in the same lane as I!).

So, I suppose I'm learning that, as much as I'd like to spend all of the hours of training on my own, it won't necessarily push me like training with other people.  Nor is it as much fun - and that has to be a huge part of the "why".  Not that I'm giving up on my solo training - I enjoyed a great run today which made me so happy to be able to lace up my shoes and pound out an easy yet speedy for me 6 miles.

I suppose it's about finding the balance between my introvert nature and the benefits that can come from working and training and being with others.  So, I'm trying to embrace the fact that playing with others is not just an important concept for small children - it can also apply to my own life, and not just in terms of training!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Kind of inspired these days

Usually, I hit November feeling kind of blah about things, but this year seems a bit different.  I dragged a few days after my 10K race, but last Friday, November 1, I felt pretty energized and ready for a new month.  It doesn't hurt that Thanksgiving is right around the corner and, yes, I'm totally looking forward to the break.   But a positive attitude in November?  I'll take it!  

Most articles that come my way via talk about the off-season as if it's starting now.  I think that I had a serious break in August, September and October.  Not that I was a total couch potato, but I didn't try to force too many workouts or stick to a rigid schedule.  So, now that it's November, I feel somewhat ready to recommit to to the whole swimbikerun thing.  In past years, I've sort of fallen off the swim and bike wagon during the fall, but I wanted to keep those skills somewhat sharper this fall so that 2014 doesn't come as a shock to the system.

So, after flirting with the idea of joining the Rose Bowl Master's Swim group and attending a few practices "just to see" in October, I plunked down the cash and joined up.  Not that I'm going all that often, but the workouts are HARD and they push me, in a good way.  I still feel intimidated about the experience, but I actually don't mind that I'm in the slowest lane.  Well, I did the first time I went because one of the other people in the lane was a total ass, but since then, things have been quite fun.  Even better, I think that I've already seen some results.  Amazing how practicing harder and longer reaps rewards.

Also, now that the 10k is out of the way, I'd like to settle back into longer runs and get more miles under my legs.  I enjoyed speedier and shorter runs in September and October, but I have a half-marathon in January that I'd actually like to train for it.  What a concept!  So, this past Sunday, I pounded out 8 miles - my longest run since July.  That piece of information depresses me a bit, but the run felt fantastic, so I'll take that as a positive sign.  I should see double-digits again soon which will be fun!

And, the third skill, biking.  Ah, the weak link, always.  But I'm slightly more dedicated to my saddle at this point than I was last year.  Having the trainer at home does let my legs do more spinning on my bike which should help in the long run.  I realize that there are TONS of videos and resources out there and I can/should probably push myself a bit more on it, but as long as I work up a good sweat and get my heart rate spiked, I'm okay with the sessions at home at this point.  And as long as I can get outside a few times this month on the bike, it will be tons better than last year (when I logged in zero rides in November.  Lame).

So, that is the swim/bike/run off-season for me.  I haven't turned into a total slug, but there is still time, especially with Christmas right around the corner!  But even more exciting this year, my body has stayed relatively healthy (please don't let this jinx me!).  I continue to get the occasion "tune-up" for my calf and foot with ART, but so far I've continued to keep a flare-up of plantar fasciitis at bay.  Also, my knee has cooperated.  I plan to see the knee doc before Christmas just to make sure that all is kosher before I spend a day or two skiing on it, but no cortisone shot since the end of January - this is the longest stretch that I've gone since I started getting them, so I'll call that progress!

Finally, a few "inspirational" thoughts that made me smile recently:

"Paris. New York. Milan. The fashion Meccas of the world don't want to see your muddy plaid anywhere near their glitzy runways. That's okay. You don't want to see their Louis Vuitton stilettos on your trail. Behold, trail-inspired apparel for style-conscious women with active lifestyles."  This was from the - one of my favorite on-line discount websites for gear.  

And last night, as we were drinking margaritas and sharing great company, the waiter said "At Amigos, everything is possible here."

Yes, I definitely like the idea of everything being possible, even in November!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Surf City 10K - now that was fun!

After two years of a static 10K PR, I finally have a new number on record, and while I hate to focus on numbers, numbers, numbers, it feels pretty good to shave over a minute off my old time.  Woo-hoo!  There is also this worry in brain that, at age 41, I will soon lose the ability to set new PRs.  I'm sure the day will come, but it's really nice to know that it is not today!

After my failed attempt at a final triathlon in October, I decided that I should at least end the year's "racing" season with a good 10K.  I first ran the Surf City (aka Huntington Beach) run 3 years ago, as I was coming back to running and when it was a 5 mile run.  Then, two years a go, I managed to hit a new 10K PR.  Not a shocker there since it is a flat and fast course, but I still remember that my overall time totally surprised me.  So, I'd been fairly content to let it sit as my PR until this year when I had a few decent 10K runs but never felt that I really went "all out".  So, that was kind of my goal for this race.

With that in mind, I was actually more nervous than I would be on a typical race day, so when we drove south this early morning and hit fog, I started to freak out just a little.  Fortunately, we arrived with a decent cushion for me - 30 minutes to pick up the packet and take care of other business.  It was a perfect morning to run, temps in the 60's and cloudy but not rainy.  When I picked up my packet, I was much relieved that I had selected a unisex t-shirt because the women's specific was HOT PINK.   I do not wear hot pink.  I realize that the pink ribbon shows support for cancer victims and understand that, but pink is not my thing, and hot pink is definitely not my thing.  I would have given it away immediately.  Instead, I have a really obnoxious yellow shirt - think gatorade yellow on steroids.

Anyway, the race?  Well, I hoped to make one more pit stop before the race, but as 7:30 approached, I nixed that idea and lined up, placing myself quite near the front.  While it's a super fast course, it's not huge and doesn't seem to appeal to tons of super crazy competitive types, so the start is pretty calm and people seem to stand back from the timing mat.  Right around 7:30, they announced "On your mark, get set, go!" and we took off.  I thought that I had started my Garmin but then about half a mile into the race I saw that it was still on 00:00.  Nice.  So, I ended up starting the Garmin at mile 1 so that I would at least know my splits for the next 5 miles.  The race was fairly uneventful - flat, flat, flat and it felt fast.  I held really consistent splits, pretty much at 7:30 the entire way, although according to the Garmin I had a few faster splits.  But it also said that I ran longer than 6.2 (or 5.2, since that was my marker) - so who knows.  I am, however, always amazed at how people must not do hill training - there was one teeny hill and then an incline during the second half of the race, and people definitely slowed down quite a bit.  Why go out fast and not hold your pace?  I will never understand that, but then again, I'm the queen of starting slow and finishing faster.  Whatever works for you, I guess?  I did have enough in the tank to push it at the end - at mile 4.5, I passed one woman, but told myself to not be too greedy and go too hard too soon, although I knew that she wouldn't catch me (based on her breathing, which was way too heavy, she wasn't speeding up).  I thought that I crossed the finish line right around at 47:00 but was looking at the 10 mile start.  So, the official time gave me sub 47 which was my goal going into the race - nice!  Not sure if I gave it absolutely everything I could, but it was great to feel that I'd accomplished something before 9:00 am on a Sunday morning!

Not an awesome race for photos, but that's okay - I like that I appear to be flying in the first one!  Although my shoulders/arms - what am I doing there?  Michael took that photo as he was wrangling the dogs from eating vomit that was on the sidewalk.  Amazing that he got a photo at all.

Oh, and the other weird thing about the race - I swear I smelled pot (the MJ) when I was around mile 4.  If it were Venice Beach, I would expect that, but I was somewhat surprised.  Maybe it was just wishful thinking/smelling?  As for the medal - it's a wooden surf board which is kind of fun and sort of fits in with the pot smell!

The icing on the cake, sort of, is that I ended up 2nd in my age group - which makes me laugh because it was the same as last time, even though I've moved up an age group.  I briefly wanted to stay for the awards ceremony, since I've never received anything at a race, but my impatience got the best of me and we left before they started giving away medals and other prizes.  I figured that I already had my medal and my PR, so what more did I really need?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Finding a ryhthm

I never feel "settled" into an academic year until about 6 weeks into the first semester.  Now that I've crossed that mark and have survived all of the required evening events, I can finally say that I've found my sea legs for the year - at this point, at least.  Some of the adjusting has to do with the summer-to-work transition - not that I'm complaining about my summers, but it is a major shift!  Even though I'm usually ready to return to the classroom, the change of pace can be rough for the first week or two.  This year, heading to Catalina Island for a week made the official opening week feel like a false start.  So it's mid-October, and I am finally connecting with students and have wrapped my head around my daily schedule, which I like in some ways and not in others (one major plus is that I have a long lunch every single day which has never happened before - not that I'm actually eating for an hour, but it's nice to not feel rushed).  I'm also behind in terms of grading, but that's a small detail and is typical.  As one of the English teachers said, "I'm not assigning anything for the rest of the semester!"  That won't happen, but sometimes I wish that I could just ban homework!

In addition to work, the 'training'/extracurricular piece was also a bit afloat for September and the beginning of October.  I had hoped to have one more final triathlon for the season, but since that did not happen, I signed up for a 10K race for the end of October, now promising myself that this will be my last race.  And that it will be damn good, dammnit!  Also, I'm looking to January, when I will try my hand (or feet?) at the half-marathon distance for the first time in two years -at least as a stand-alone half.  So, while I'm still following a pretty free-flowing plan, I am trying to throw in a longer run here or there (nice plan, I know) and get in some speed work.  I would really like to return to running trails on a regular basis - while I usually hit them at some point and am running along the Arroyo once a week or so, it doesn't feel like "true" trail running.

The swim/bike parts are still very unstructured, but compared to previous years, when I stopped swimming altogether and very rarely got on my bike between October - January, I am trying to stay acquainted with the pool and the saddle.  I've actually been pretty dedicated to the swim part and have even contemplated joining up with the masters group at the Rose Bowl.  In fact, I went to a masters workout on Tuesday night to just try it out.  That was an interesting experience!  First of all, I can't remember the last time that I felt so nervous and awkward - being the new kid and all that.  The swimming part was a mixed bag - I was in the slow lane, which I was fine with, but while I wasn't the slowest person in the lane, this one guy would NOT LET ME PASS.  I was so pissed - I mean, we're doing a 500 yd set and I'm swimming up on your ass, can't you let me get by?  As for the workout - it kicked my ass.  I don't think I ever swam that much even when I was training for Vineman in the spring and summer.  Obviously masters would have huge pay-offs for me and I need to get over the fact that I don't feel comfortable.  Just get over it and act like an adult.

Finally, the bike part - well, after years of getting by on spinning classes and biking outside, I got a bike trainer, which I'm managing to ride about once a week.  Not ideal but not I'll take it.  I definitely prefer spinning classes over the trainer in terms of overall experience, mainly because someone else is motivating me and telling me what to do.  And there are always surprises - this morning, for instance, the instructor actually had the coffee shop next door come give everyone a shot of coffee before we started our final big push for the class.  It was a very nice touch!  But, back to the trainer,  I think that I'll appreciate it a lot in January and February, and while I'm not spending hours and hours on it at the moment, at least I'm getting in some time!  

So, that's the status of the fall season or off-season, both for school and otherwise.  I like the "otherwise" part best, but I guess that's why it's called "work"!

Now, if only I could tame my crazy afternoon sugarfest during the weekdays, I think that I'd really feel quite accomplished!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

That end of the season "race" bit?

As I mentioned in my last post, I planned Sunday to be the final hurrah for my 2013 tri season.  I realize that there are still plenty of races and I know plenty of people who are signed up for races, especially the HITS Palm Springs race in December.  As much as that race appeals, I know that my training in the fall completely falls apart and that I have plenty of weekend obligations as it stands.  Adding another one, just didn't seem like a good idea.  Plus, it is somebody else's birthday weekend, and insisting that we head to Palm Springs where I can be a stress case would probably not be the best way to celebrate.

So, about Sunday - I was probably not in the best mental frame of mind as I headed into the race, stressing about other crap that had to do with the race (somehow I was still helping out with volunteers while also planning on racing).  Also, on Saturday, I hoped to go for a ride - I figured that it would be nice to actually ride outside for the first time in a few weeks, and we even drove to Malibu with both bikes strapped to the car, only to discover that while Pasadena was pretty calm weather-wise, Malibu had crazy winds.  Yes, I am still a wimp at times, but biking on Highway 1 with winds coming from the west and blowing at 30 miles an hour down the canyons - no thank you. I'll do it if I'm seriously training, but I just wasn't there on Saturday. So, I decided that it would be a great rest day.  Ha!

Sunday, then, was a wake up and get ready to race morning, but at 7:30 am, I decided that I wasn't going to race, even though I was at the venue and had all of my racing gear.  However, I didn't have anything racked, I hadn't checked in, and, more importantly, I just wasn't mentally 'there' to start racing at 8:05.  I've never thought too much about that mental thing and how I need to be in the right state of mind to race.  To be honest, when it comes to running, I probably don't think about it all - things usually come together, but I still find the PROCESS of doing a tri to be somewhat daunting (as a teacher, I would label myself a "false beginner" - I have experience, but it doesn't really get me where I would like to be).  And I couldn't imagine getting ready to race in 10 minutes.  So, I decided that I wouldn't race.  Fortunately, I could postpone the race entry until spring of 2014, so I didn't feel that I had lost out in a major way.  I took the attitude that it wasn't meant to be.

Then, right around 7:45, 2 people materialized for a relay - a swimmer and a runner.  I happened to have my bike, so I thought, "Well, hell, I guess I'll ride today".  The swim started at 8:05, so we managed to get our shit together in time for the swimmer to be at the beach and I got my bike and arrived in transition around 8:10, after the swim had started!  Talk about a total mess.  The swimmer happened to be wicked fast, so I got on the bike and the realized that everyone was going to pass me on the bike.  Fortunately, on the 2nd and 3rd loop, I managed to hit the slower people and could pass them - yay!

I was sort of hoping that I would be somewhat fast (for myself) on the bike, so it's funny that I was just about as slow as I was last June when I did this race.  And on that bike leg, I swam before and ran afterwards AND my chain fell off twice.  Obviously my bike training has been sucking in recent months!  On top of it, I just saw these pictures posted on facebook (I hate it when that happens) and all I could think was "Jeez, I look really silly!".

(Photos courtesy of CalTri; I'm really not a vain person and I'm posting these silly shots of me, but I really look like a dope here.)

Once I hopped off the bike, our runner took off, and I must admit that I was very thankful that I didn't have to run.  That would have been a sufferfest!  Although, I would have ended up on the podium, as long as I didn't pull a DNF - only because there were a whopping 2 women in my age group.

At the end of the day and of the season, I'm sort of okay with the fact that I did not have the race that I wanted - obviously not as swim/bike/run or even as a bike.  It was a good wake-up call to focus on bike fitness if I really want to get faster.  But, going into this race, I knew that Vineman, back in July, was kind of "it" for me so I focused on that and I had a good race.  But since July, I haven't been very focused, so it doesn't surprise me that the race on Sunday did not materialize.  Yes, it feels like somewhat of a disappointment but not the end of the world.

So, I'm not sure how to categorize Sunday's experience - yes, a DNS for the olympic distance tri which kind of sucks, but a decent effort on the bike, despite the rather pitiful outcome.  And, since I'm SO not a spontaneous person, I'll give myself 2 thumbs up for the impromptu decision to join a relay, even though I did lose the nice lead that our swimmer gave me.

In the meantime, I feel that my thoughts have already turned to 2014 as I start to think about the 'What's next' question.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

End of the season

Wow - happy October!  How in the world did that happen?  I'm not even sure, so I should back up - or something, especially since September seems like a bit of a blur.  As per usual, I totally fell off any sort of "training" regime at the beginning of the school year.  Good thing that I didn't have one!  Seriously, the first two weeks of September were more or less a wash, as I got sick and then went to Catalina for a week.

(Always nice to sport "I'm a triathlete" t-shirts while feeling like a total slob, huffing and puffing up a nice little hill!)

The last two weeks of the month, however, were a bit steadier with enough swim-bike-run to not feel that I totally sucked.  Even last week, when I had 2 evening school commitments and CPR training from 3-6 on another day, I managed to find the time.  

And Sunday was the LA Triathlon, and while I did not race, I did participate in the event in a different capacity: as a volunteer.  One of my personal goals for the year was to be more involved in a 'community'.  As I've become a bit more excited about triathlon, I've also recognized that connecting to other people who swim, bike, run has its benefits, as much as I dislike training with other people (and being around others in general...).  Seriously, I'm a pretty big introvert, and at times doing distance stuff (for me) feeds into that introverted nature.  I love riding and running and swimming alone a good majority of the time.  That said, to improve, I also know that I need to train with other people, and there should be an element of FUN in the training and something social too.  So, I've tried to become more active in one of the local tri groups.  This has pushed me way out of my comfort zone but is also a positive experience.  Anyway, to make a long story short, my participation in this group led me to being in charge of the volunteers for LA Triathlon which led to pre-race stress.  Not the usual thoughts floating through my mind but more along the lines of "what if no one shows up to help out...".  Fortunately, the other volunteers DID show up and were in good spirits and willing to help out with anything.  From a volunteer stand-point, I was not a fan of the LA Triathlon - not to trash the group that put on the event, but they did NOT have their shit together.  However, most of the people who raced seem to enjoy the experience, so what do I know?

The highlights of the day for me were not getting up at 3:50 am in order to make it to the Rose Bowl to meet up with people, nor when I got lost in downtown LA.  But I did find it kind of fun to drive a U-Haul van carrying 10 bikes to Venice Beach and then returning with those same 10 bikes from Downtown LA to the Rose Bowl - it made me feel like a professional bike team driver!  I did think "What if the back doors pop open and these bikes go flying onto the 110?!".  Obviously the carnage (to use a popular word from the Tour de France) wouldn't be as great as if it WERE a professional team, but I was probably transporting around $18,000 of bikes.  Another fun moment was when I heard a voice say "¡SeƱora!".  This is NOT a title that I usually hear when I'm doing the triathlon part of my life, but at this moment, my work life and my extracurricular life collided and I saw a student whom I taught last year with her boyfriend (also a student, but I've never taught him).  He had just picked up his medal for 1st place in the high school division!  I was so impressed and then felt like a total dope as I talked to them.  Ugh - I would have been awarded the awkward teacher of the year, no doubt!  But it was really cool that he won!  

At the end of the day, I was super tired but had enjoyed the experience.  I always appreciate everything that goes into planning a race and the volunteers at races a bit more after I've done my own bit.  

That was not the official end of the season - despite swearing last year that I wouldn't ever do another fall triathlon, I totally broke that promise and signed up for an October race.  It's next week, and then that really will be the end of the season for me. I'm looking forward to the race, and it should be a fun way to end the season.  I might feel a bit disappointed with my overall performance, we shall see, but it's actually been nice to have one more race to look forward to!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The state of September

The beginning of the school year is always such a mix of excitement and anticipation, a bit of dread, and a return to old patterns along with plenty of new stuff.  The very first week of classes was quite a shock to the system.  I realize that I garner no sympathy as I complain about the challenges of returning to work (having a schedule! having to look professional! having to interact with other people!), but it always does feel like a major upheaval.  Week 1 felt particularly difficult this year, either a testament to the fact that I had totally disconnected from school over the summer and really relaxed OR a sign that I was getting sick.

While I felt a bit overwhelmed that first week and developed a nice cold by the weekend, I managed to recuperate enough for the class trip to Catalina Island.  The trip over via boat was a bit rough, especially when two kids threw up on the boat rather than off the side of the boat.  However, the idea of spending 4 days in a beautiful setting, doing things like kayaking, hiking and snorkeling appealed enough to minimize any regrets I might have had on the boat ride over, and the experience ended up being even better than I had expected, which almost never happens when it comes to class trips!  Even though I was still dealing with sinus issues, I really enjoyed the trip - it was a great way to get to know the kids, many of whom I teach, and Catalina was/is just beautiful.  We stayed right in this cove (see the photo) and had amazing views every single day, especially at sunrise.  The water was amazingly clear and I even jumped off the pier several times, once as part of the "polar bear" early morning swim.  It was also pretty great for animal viewing, such as bison and deer (not native to the island, but current inhabitants), and I also saw a bald eagle, plenty of fish, and sea lions, which liked to come out to play and watch us while we were kayaking!

After a few days away from the comforts of home, however, I was okay that we returned when we did - there is nothing like a nice hot shower!  Plus, my stomach needed a break after eating like an adolescent for 4 days straight.  Not that I minded the hotdogs, hamburgers, homemade cinnamon rolls but by the time we had burritos for dinner the last night, I was more than happy to return to a slightly healthier diet.

So, returning to classes this past Monday felt more like the OFFICIAL start, the week that I get to know my students and really start teaching.  I'm beginning to get into a rhythm and to figure out my schedule this year, both in and out of the classroom.  There is enough stability from last year to this year (same class preps as last year) that I don't feel too crazed and I can take on a few new responsibilities, like middle school cross country, which starts next week!  In terms of extracurricular fun, I actually got in a solid training week this past week, even making it to the pool at 5:30 am twice.  At this point, I'm not in major training mode because a) it is September and I fall apart training-wise during the fall and b)  I don't have a MAJOR event in the near future.  Yes, there is an early October race, but I just want to finish it without too much suffering and while I would have been gunning for a PR, it would not have been a very realistic goal.  So, maintaining a decent fitness base in the swim-bike-run realm is my main (only?) objective at the moment.  Good thing, because I would feel pretty sucky if I expected much more of myself!

Finally, home ownership, still quite new to us, seems to be going well.  We just had the exterior painted and that change makes it feel much more ours, for whatever reason.  After stressing about the colors, we're happy with the final result - good thing too!  I still find myself a bit grumpy when we spend time and money on the weekend at the Home Depot (or Despot), but I also begrudgingly recognize that it is worth both.  

(Hello, California bungalow!)

So, that's where things are.  Not too much that I'd call "exciting", but that's okay too.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

All good things must come to an end

Hello to September! And the heat - oh jeez, this is the time of year that I kind of hate living in Southern CA.  As the rest of the US begins to cool down a bit, I always brace myself for hot weather and the Santa Ana winds.  It was a relatively mild summer until the past few weeks - right as I had to start wearing 'professional' clothes.  Nothing like sweat dripping down your back while you mingle with new parents.  Ah, well, these are relatively small problems in the grand scheme of things.

Now that the school year is fairly well underway, August seems a bit of a blur to me.  We returned from Colorado travels and a very lazy schedule and eased back into the swing of things, to a certain degree.  I tried to prepare somewhat for school while still taking advantage of opportunities to take an afternoon nap here and there.  When I wasn't napping, I attended a conference that was south and west of Pasadena, and while it was a bit of work for me, we enjoyed being so close to the water for a few days and taking long walks along Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa Beach.

(I suspect that, if we could live next to the water, we'd never ever contemplate living anywhere else.) 

I also tried to capitalize on the summer schedule by visiting LA places like Watts Towers, my first time to one of those "LA Institutions".  It was unbelievable to find something so fanciful in the midst of the city - it seemed totally out of place, and maybe that made it seem even more wonderful.

I also discovered that LACMA is a fantastic museum to visit with small children - who knew?  That made me appreciate it even more than I usually do.  And on a hot holiday weekend, it is hard to beat a museum!

I also returned to some regular form of exercise in the swim/bike/run mode for much of August.  I hadn't planned on a fall race since I always fall off the training wagon in September/October.  Last year, I managed the Malibu Tri in September after taking more or less the entire month of August off, and then I struggled through the La Jolla Canyon Trail race.  After Vineman, I swore that racing was over for the year, but then a discounted entry got the better of me, so I signed up for a final triathlon in October.  No trail races this year, sadly enough, since the two that I would have enjoyed racing are both canceled.  Still, signing up for the October tri pushed me to get back into the training groove, and August wasn't too bad with multiple trips to the pool and a good handful of rides and runs.  

September, however, has been a real kick in the pants.  The heat, can I complain about it any more?  It has sucked away all of my desire to do anything outside.  Even swimming feels too hot (whine, whine, whine).  Plus, a late summer/early fall cold knocked me on my ass.  I'm recovering, which is good, because I leave for a class trip tomorrow, and the idea of being sick while spending 5 days camping did not appeal.  Hopefully, when I return from the trip, I'll bounce back to a regular training schedule.  

That said, I'm also okay taking a bit of a break from structured training as I focus on the new academic year and get to know the kiddos in my classes.  That, right now, will be more than enough for me to manage.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A near-perfect weekend

Oh, so it's hump day and I'm finally getting around to last weekend.  Ah well, summer mode.  Someone commented to me today that I looked very relaxed.  I've felt relaxed too, even though I spent all of last week at an AP workshop, preparing for the next school year.  Attending the workshop made the weekend even that much better because I felt that I had 'earned' it, if that makes sense.  We didn't start out with major plans, except for Saturday night, but somehow margaritas, a trail run, pancakes, impromptu gatherings with friends all combined for a really lovely August weekend, one that I enjoyed even more knowing that such care-free weekends are numbered!

The one planned event, on our calendar since May, was a concert on Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl: Lyle Lovett opening for Willie Nelson!

Honestly, I couldn't have dreamed of a better line-up.  Okay, maybe last year when Juan Luis Guerra and Juanes played together, a concert that I missed because I was out of town.  And that's the thing - almost every summer I've looked at the Hollywood Bowl concerts and usually those that most appealed to me were when we were traveling.  So, I was a newcomer to the Hollywood Bowl, a quintessential LA summer experience, an embarrassing fact considering that I've lived in this area for 8 years now.  Fortunately, we've now crossed off "See concert at Hollywood Bowl" from our must-do list, but now we would like to return as soon as possible!  But probably won't until next year... 

Back to this concert - we'd seen Lyle Lovett before, at Red Rocks in Colorado and Disney Concert Hall, both of which are amazing venues.  He's a fantastic performer - not only because of his music but also because he brings other talented musicians together in his Large Band and really lets them shine.  I can't claim to be a huge Willie Nelson fan, but how can you not admire the man who is such a great figure in American music?  And, he's 80 years old.  While he still seems to be going pretty strong, I thought that it would be a good opportunity to see him because who knows when we'd have the chance again?

So, for this concert, the music was great, but even better was the Hollywood Bowl "experience".  I now totally GET IT - why people rave about the Hollywood Bowl.  Part of it, of course, has to do with the scenery - an outdoor amphitheatre with a view of the Hollywood sign, but a lot of it is the laid-back approach to letting people bring in their own food and booze.  I kept reading information to confirm that we really could bring a cooler and plenty to eat and drink and just plunk ourselves down and have a picnic.  It seemed just way too laissez-faire for a concert, but that was exactly what happened.  We arrived plenty early, enjoyed eating and drinking as we watched all of the people.  In terms of people-watching, this surpassed the airport.  What a variety of individuals!  We tried to guess who, out of the crowd, had attended the very first Farm Aid concert.  I think that we picked out two people as strong possibilities. Also, totally random - a woman walks by us, and Michael says, "That looks like my cousin.  Hey, I think it is my cousin!"  And it turned out to be his cousin from Oregon, in town for work and the concert.  Small freakin' world.    I'm not sure if every concert attracts such a diverse crowd, or if the Lyle and Willie combination  

Again, we enjoyed the concert - Lyle and Willie were great, of course, playing lots of favorites and the crowd often singing along.  Willie's main set was the 1978 album Stardust, which he played in its entirety, accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl orchestra.  That was all pretty low-key, but then he switched the hat for a bandana and ended with a set of some of his more outlaw songs - "Shotgun Willie", "Whiskey River", "Mama don't let you babies grow up to be cowboys" (of course!), and he concluded with "Roll me up and smoke me when I die" - a fitting end to the evening!  

I know that I said that it was "near-perfect", but I'm not sure what would have improved upon it.  Maybe this really was the ideal summer weekend!  Well, we didn't get to the beach nor did I get on the bike, so I'll stick to the near-perfect.  But that's not a bad place to be!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Active recovery in Colorado

Shew - we returned to CA late last Friday night, driving from Breckenridge to Pasadena in one long day.  It is always strange to cover so many miles and to feel that one's surroundings change so dramatically in what is a relatively short period of time, especially if you think about those settlers who made the trip in the 19th century.  Back in CA, our time in Colorado seems at least a month or two ago, but really just 10 days ago, we were able to take in dramatic, alpine views and huff and puff as we walked up a stair or two!

We spent plenty of time in Boulder glued to the TV, watching the final week of the Tour de France (old news now, I know, but while the race for first place in the GC category was a bit of a snooze fest, things were interesting for 2nd and 3rd!), and hanging out with friends and family, but we also stayed reasonable active.   I recovered somewhat quickly from Vineman, going for a a few runs and rides in Boulder, but a nice long hike appealed to both of us.  For whatever reason, we rarely do a major hike in Boulder - usually we spend time with the dogs as they sniff and explore the Chautauqua trails, but we both wanted a bit more of a challenge and also a change to our typical Boulder routine.  So, consulting our slim yet trusty Boulder hiking guide and weighing the opinion of Michael's brother, we chose Heart Lake as our destination.  Close enough to Boulder, we didn't have to wake up at an ungodly hour and were still able to hit the trail by 8:00 am.  It was a great hike and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a somewhat challenging and beautiful hike.  We started in the woods, following a stream until we hit a lower lake, and then the ascent kicked in at the very end, but the views were more than worth it!

Starting out the hike

Taking a quick break

Close to a lower lake

Breaking for lunch with a view of Rollins Pass

 Looking towards Heart Lake and beyond

After Boulder, we headed to Breckenridge to visit my side of the family - aunt, uncle, parents and even a sibling!  Breckenridge was a bit less on the "active" and more on the "recovery"side, in part because of the weather which hovered around 65 degrees high!  I think that one day it didn't even break 55!  We still managed to walk my aunt and uncle's dog on a regular basis and explored a few local trails with my parents and brother.  Our first hike, to Lower Crystal Lake proved somewhat frustrating because of the guidebook which was fairly inaccurate about the trailhead and mileage and small details such as those and much of it was on a rocky fire road rather than a true trail.  For a while, I wasn't sure if we were on the right trail at all, but we lucked out!  We did have to cross a stream or two which at times challenged our balancing skills.  Just like the Boulder hike, we were in the trees for the first part of the hike, but then the trail opened up and we walked through alpine meadows.  Normally, I don't go ga-ga over wildflowers, but they seemed particularly amazing this year!  We finally made it to Lower Crystal Lake, which was well worth the effort - great views of granite cliffs, dramatic skies, and even some wildlife in the form of a marmot and some pikas.

Stream crossing 

Alpine meadows

Finally at our destination!
Yes, we all gave my mom grief about her hat.  

The view as we returned to the trailhead

The second hike was close to Dillon and quite a different landscape - it felt drier and almost like a trail that we would have close to where we live, except for the mountains in the background.  It was also a shorter and easier trail which came as a bit of a relief, to be honest. 

Lake Dillon in the background

Still plenty of wildflowers!

The last time we were in Breckenridge with my parents, the four of us climbed a 14er.  We discussed it, and Mt. Quandary would have been the logical choice because of its proximity to my aunt and uncle's, but we opted for less rigorous challenges this time around.  As much as I enjoy tackling something like Mt. Lincoln, I've learned that I don't have to constantly push myself.  It's nice, at times, to meander along, even if it means that we don't reach the upper lake or "bag" a peak.*  

It also means that Mt. Quandary is still there for us to tackle next time, along with Upper Crystal Lake!

*A few people would probably roll their eyes if they heard me espousing the "It's about the journey, man" philosophy.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Easy riding in Boulder

No, not that kind of riding, although he is obviously enjoying life, rolling past us somewhere in Utah.

This is more our speed!  As per usual, we've enjoyed the great roads and easy routes that Boulder offers to all sorts and levels of cyclists/bikers.  I wasn't too sure how happy my legs would be post-Vineman and at altitude, but about a day after our arrival, we were heading north of town, enjoying rolling roads and country vistas (lots of cows and barns!), and I was pulling Michael and his brother on the uphills and catching a wheel on the descents.  The weather has been gorgeous, so that has encouraged us to hit the roads on two wheels.  Michael's brother will usually take us on some great loops in the morning that he knows well and with which we are somewhat familiar by this time.  One of the best rides of the visit was an afternoon jaunt which took us south.  It had rained earlier in the afternoon, so we had pretty dramatic views of the Flatirons post-storm.  The last part of the ride took us through 'downtown' Boulder - our guide told us that it was the Tour de Boulder as we rode along the University of Colorado campus, by the Pearl Street Mall and through fun neighborhoods with older houses.  We'll miss these rides, but Breckenridge awaits, as does Vail Pass!  And biking at an even higher altitude! 

Taking a break in Hygiene, CO

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pre- and post-Vineman happenings

When I signed up for Vineman many many months ago now, I think that one of the main draws for me to this race was the timing and the location.  It seemed like the perfect time to visit Sonoma - during the summer, when I have time off and we can really make a road trip out of it?!  Sign me up!  What was nice about rolling the race experience into a family adventure is that 1) it distracted me from the race anxiety the days leading up to the race and 2) it made the trip about more than just this race.  Michael's great about supporting this 'hobby' of mine that has increasingly become more demanding, but it is nice to make these trips about more than just one event.

With that in mind, we planned out quite an ambitious road trip - spending a few days in San Francisco before the race and a day in Sonoma afterwards and then heading east to Colorado for 2 weeks.   It's funny because we used to head north to San Francisco at least twice a year, but slowly many of our friends have started to move away from the city, so we visit it less and less.  Also, we love traveling with Gus and Milo, but that can be somewhat difficult at times. This time, "the boys" were pretty happy that we included them - and so were we!

Ready to hit the road

We have discovered that San Francisco IS a great place to visit with the dogs.  We usually stay in an dog-friendly apartment thanks to VRBO.  I briefly made a reservation in a dog-friendly hotel, but then I remembered that in addition to the dogs, we had two bikes, all of my tri gear, and stuff for Colorado.  We would have looked like gypsies moving into the hotel, so we opted for an apartment.  When we go to the city with our dogs, we all spend lots of time walking around parks so that the mutts are exhausted (a tired dog = a happy dog).  We also allow them certain 'privileges' that they don't enjoy at home, such as being on the bed!
A very happy Milo!

Views of the Bay as we walked around the Ferry Building

Being city dogs

And enjoying the countryside!

After spending Thursday in San Francisco and visiting a friend in Berkeley, we headed to Marin on Friday, hoping for warmer weather (I've now lived in Southern CA too long to remember how cold the summer months in San Francisco are!).  We also took a nice, dog-friendly hike to Kehoe Beach which they really enjoyed (I know, I'm sporting some great-looking footwear here).  They loved the beach but couldn't quite make it into the water - so much for that labrador/water dog part of their mix!

We left the city on Saturday morning and sent the boys to a kennel in Sonoma - they were extremely unhappy about that decision, but it made things easier for us, logistically.  Saturday and Sunday were Vineman-focused (I've blabbed enough about that already), but we gave ourselves Monday to explore Sonoma a bit.  This was our first time in Sonoma, which is kind of crazy since I've lived in CA for over 10 years now.  We really enjoyed the experience and hope to return before too much time passes.  It felt a bit more rural and less "polished" than Napa, whether that is true or not.   We visited two wineries on Monday - enjoyed a private tour thanks to a colleague at Hafner, a very small vineyard, and also had a tasting at Robert Young.  The afternoon called for a big fat nap followed by a quick walk through Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve which was just a few miles from Guerneville.  We would have never made it there, but a friend recommended the visit and it was so worth it as we walked through a grove of redwoods.

We left Sonoma on Tuesday morning, promising to come back to hike, visit the coast and enjoy more of what the area has to offer!  As we headed east, Sonoma felt quite far away, especially crossing into Nevada, where we traversed the state driving Highway 50, dubbed "The Loneliest Road in America".  It was a long day but much of it was a beautiful drive.  We spent the night in Baker, NV at the Silverjack Inn.  

Twilight in Baker - a lonely town along the loneliest road

We discovered yet another place that deserves a longer visit - not so much Baker (this motel is about all that there is!), but Great Basin National Park which is just a few miles away and offers wonderful views, great hikes and varied terrain.  Plus, it's one of the least-visited parks in the US, probably making for some solitary moments. Sadly, this was not the trip to explore the area - we continued our trip east on Wednesday, suffering through sights like these...

Driving through Utah

...before rolling into Boulder, CO where we've enjoyed some 'active' rest days - plenty of biking, eating, drinking and napping!