Sunday, March 31, 2013

End of March notes

Yes, it's the ubiquitous "end of the month" post, but considering what a bear the month has been, I'm happy to celebrate that March is over, even though April is kind of frightening, especially considering the fact that we're back at the grind tomorrow after a lovely week off.  Spring Break, I hardly knew ya!  Seriously, it felt like the fastest week that I've had in a very long time and poof!  It is over!  I spent more time than I had all month in the saddle - cheers to getting out and biking a bit.  I'm still slow as molasses and probably look like a total wreck when I'm on the bike, but I swear my confidence and bike handling skills have improved.  I invested in new shoes at the beginning of the month, and in a month of lots of purchases (like appliances), the shoes made me happy when I bought them and I love riding in them, even though they haven't made me speedier.

In the midst of packing and planning to move, Michael and I went to Chicago for a whirlwind trip to visit some of his relatives.  It was cold to us, coming from SoCal, but we couldn't complain (and I tried not to!).  We spent plenty of time being tourists, took in some culture and ate great food.  We also watched lots of basketball with his cousin and cousin's family, and I enjoyed a nice run on Friday morning along the lake.  It was somewhat chilly but once I got going, I warmed up and enjoyed the views.  I know that we have the ocean, nothing to take lightly at all, but the lake right there, right at the city's edge is so great.  We probably most enjoyed just walking around the city, looking at the brownstones and other buildings and watching the light change, especially in the morning and the late afternoon.

We returned yesterday afternoon, greeted by happy dogs and lots of boxes, some full and others just waiting.  I set out on my last ride (probably) from this front door and felt strangely nostalgic. At the same time, I can't wait to explore new routes.  We aren't moving far, by any means, but I am looking at this as a good opportunity to change up some of the patterns into which I've settled.  This applies to running and biking, but also to a wider array of topics.  I think that our life is about to change!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Finally - A race in 2013!

After a slow start to the year running-wise and then waffling about this race or that race, it seems that I have settled on a schedule, at least until July.  After that, I've bounced around a few ideas in my head, but I'm taking  the "wait and see" approach for now.  I signed up for most of the key races for the year a few months ago, but was waiting to decide about Mt. Wilson.  When registration opened and closed within two hours, and I didn't have second thoughts about not registering or feel the slightest pang of regret, I knew that I had made the right decision.  Instead of Mt. Wilson on Memorial Day Weekend, I'll be running the Ojai-Ventura half-marathon which is a longer race but should be much easier to train for.  It is nice to have a schedule set and be able to focus on it!

Speaking of schedules, I was pretty happy with my training in February, but then March rolled around, and things, as they say, fell apart these past two weeks.  This usually happens in March, but particularly this year.  I've tried to take it in stride and enjoy the training that I've managed.  I was, however, looking forward to my first race of 2013 - the Great Race of Agoura Hills 10K.  This is a huge race, mainly because there are actually 4 different races going on: a trail half-marathon, a road half, a 10K and a 5K. Not to mention the kids' race.  I'd read good things about the race, and it worked out with my schedule - first day of spring break, first race of the season - why not?

My original plan for the race was to try for a PR.  I hadn't run a stand-alone 10K since November of 2011, and it happens to be one of my favorite distances.  Luckily I still had my 2011 race time which allowed me to "qualify" for Wave 1.  I think that they must have limited the number of people who were allowed to qualify, because I'm certainly no major speedster.  Still, I was glad that I ended up in that wave - it was so much smaller and easier to start and to maneuver.  But, back to my race plan.  At some point this week I decided that no way was I going to shoot for a PR.  I looked at the race profile, and it looked fairly hilly. Also, I didn't want to kill my legs and need one or two rest days (yes, I'm old; yes, I need rest days after a hard race).  In addition, Michael and I went out on Friday night and I had what must be the worst pre-race meal/s ever.  We started out with mussels and french fries and white wine, and then we ended the evening with pizza.  So, with all of that in mind, I woke up this morning taking the attitude that this would be a good way to push myself at a strong pace, but I didn't need to try to kill it.  Or myself.

Going with that attitude, I was pretty calm at the start - excited to actually be at a starting line after a 4 month hiatus!  I did wish for slightly warmer temperatures at the start and didn't shed layers until a few minutes before the race.

I love the yellow pants behind me - such a classy look!

At 7:28 (or thereabouts), we were off!  The beginning of the race is a on a descent, and people took off.  I looked down at my watch and noticed a faster pace than expected/desired, so I pulled back just a bit. I was at the back of the first wave, but I reminded myself that I wanted to pace the race, not have a great first mile and then fall apart at the end when the hills hit:

The first mile or two were pretty boring - typical suburban neighborhoods, but at some point in mile 2, we began to enjoy rolling hills and nice countryside - lots of wonderful oak trees and even some horsies!  Also, I felt great the first few miles and knew that there was a hill at mile 4, but once we were on the hill, I was able to easily keep my pace and pick off other people.  It made me quite grateful for the hills that I confront every time I head out on a run from our front door!  Finally, at mile 5, I decided to pick it up - there were still some hills remaining, but I was confident that I could keep a faster pace.  I almost regretted it when we hit yet another hill - the last one - but I managed to push it and ended just under 49:00. 

Michael snapped this awesome shot of me sporting my medal (can you tell that Dole sponsored this race?):

The medal and the t-shirt, by the way, are both pretty heinous.  Despite that, I would consider running this race next year because it really is a fun course.

After the race, Michael and I grabbed a 'real' breakfast at Brent's Deli, an old favorite which is in the area, and I inhaled eggs, toast, and hashbrowns.  We weren't the only racers/spectators who had this idea - I could tell because a few people were still wearing their awful medals.  (Not to offend anyone, but I find it so annoying when people wear race medals after the race if EVERYONE gets a medal.  If you won, fine, wear your medal, but if you just want attention, then it's lame! Okay, rant over, and maybe I'm alone in my opinion, but I'm okay with that too.  Same with people who don't try to wash off their numbers after a triathlon or cut off their wrist race wrist band for days.) 

My run wasn't a PR, but this is definitely a harder course than the flat-as-pancake race from which my current PR hails.  However, the course was not as hard as I expected, and a part of me wishes that I had tried for a PR.  Especially since I ended at 5th in my age group and maybe I would have ended at 4th or 3rd if I'd pushed myself a bit more.  Still, it was a good race, a good finish and a good overall place for me.

Ah well, ifs, maybes and buts.  At any rate, it feels good to finally line up at the starting line!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Identity shift - Good-bye Peter Pan!

It's funny - I hit the big four-zero last year, and while I wasn't psyched about the number, it didn't bother me too much nor did I feel that my life radically changed as I entered my forties.  In fact, nothing seemed different except that I moved up an age group, which I viewed as a favorable change, (not that I'm winning any races, by the way).

The past month has presented me with more potential and definite changes than I've had in years, all brought on by buying a house.  I knew that making the house decision would be a huge step for us, but  I had not fully wrapped my head around all of the implications.  Often, when I've made major life changes in the past, I went forward with the change, knowing that there was an exit plan, that I could go back - to where, I'm not sure, but a sense that I was not fully committed to the change.  There are, obviously, a few exceptions to this.  When I was 28 and, after spending 6 fairly miserable years in Philly, I moved to Seattle without a job, without connections and without much of a plan, I knew that it was a jumping off point, one of those "never-look-back" moments (yes, I'm being dramatic), but I needed an 'exit-less' plan so that I could move forward.  The other major change was getting married - but that was a lot more fun and exciting, fortunately, and has remained so.

But most of the other changes have taken the form of moving and also jobs - either changing schools or taking on a new position at the same school (that is the recent paradigm, at least).  These changes have a less permanent feel, which I definitely prefer.  I think about just being in the LA area - I moved here almost 9 years ago with the idea that I would have my southern CA experience before moving on - maybe to the Bay Area, maybe back to Seattle?  I wasn't sure about that next step, but I did know that I would not stay in LA for more than 2-4 years.  Well, those years stretched out, and now I've lived in this area for more years as an adult than any other place that I used to call home.

After living in the Silverlake neighborhood for our first few years here and getting a taste of the urban experience, we've enjoyed an easy situation recently - living close to the school where I work, not worrying about much and not, perhaps, taking much responsibility for too much either.  The decision to  buy a house was somewhat prompted by financial reasons, but the idea of moving from the bubble in which we live appealed to both of us. Now that the bubble has burst, as we plan to leave this easy, convenient lifestyle, I've felt excited but slightly overwhelmed.  We got the keys to the house last week, and just within the past 10 days, home ownership has been an education.  How much does a fridge cost?!  A paint job?  What ELSE do we have to do to do the house - if not this year, the next?  And then the next?

In addition to the sense of responsibility, I think the idea that there is no easy exit has freaked me out just a bit too.  When we adopted Gus and Milo, our dogs, we recognized that the option to just pick up and move somewhere else had closed.  Not that we couldn't do it, but it would be more challenging because we had to consider our pups.  Now, not only do we have to consider the dogs, but we'll have a house to sell.  It does seem that life has become more complicated and I feel that it is heavier, in a way.  There is some added gravitas to our life, in one way or another.

As a friend said when I told her that we bought a house "Congratulations!  You've become an adult!". She didn't mean it as an insult nor did I take it as such.  But the Peter Pan days for us are definitely over.  I suppose that's the identity shift to which I refer in the title.  Not that I'm trying to be a 20 or 30-something cool cat, but embracing the changes that come with the house has challenged me and the image that I've had of my life - our life.  Colorado or the Bay Are was always a decision away, if we wanted to make that move, and now it isn't that easy.

Michael has reminded me - the day that we got the keys and I thought to myself "Oh shit! What the hell have we done!" - that we can always sell.  This isn't a no-exit change, but it IS a change.  Especially now that I see a summer painting project in my future.

Oh, Peter Pan, where are you now?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

February - Where did you go?

So, I'm totally torn about the fact that we are now in March and the days keep marching along (ha ha, I couldn't resist).  Right now, I'm feeling a bit like our dog Milo:

You know, grumpy, humiliated and out of sorts because he's wearing a costume!  (It's amazing what you find when you start cleaning and clearing out as you have to move all of your shit!)

Okay, I have no costumes on, but things are kind of starting to freak me out.  The move is really happening.  We emptied our bank accounts.  We bought a house.  We are adults.  We have a lot of stuff to do.

But before I freak out about all of the changes that are taking place and will take place, I'd like to reflect for a moment on the month of February which was a pretty dam good month! School-wise, it felt like a long month, despite being short.  But, like most good things, I didn't know how great it was until it had passed me by.  I will say that the first weekend of March was pretty awesome too, but back to February - we went out a ton, saw good friends, had a long weekend, ate and drank well, and enjoyed some terrific weather.  What more do I need to say?

As for my priorities (more on the priorities thing in another post), I managed to focus more on training than I expected without feeling that I was "focused".  At the end of January, I reacquainted myself with my bike and remembered how much fun it is to spend time in the saddle!  As I've already written, my running has come back in a way that makes me very happy, although I'm still a bit worried about the occasional plantar fasciitis flare-up and take steps to mitigate that possibility.  Finally, swimming - well, I started to swim with a work colleague and she kicks my ass and makes me go faster and harder.  It's a humiliating experience, but I do think that I push myself way more because of her.  Also, she's a former D1 swimmer and still coaches, so she has great ideas for different sets.  Today, for example, we met at 5:30 am (ugh) and she had us do lots of 75s and then a 300 set that focused on breathing and then 25s that also focused on breathing (taking 3 breaths, then 2 breaths, then 1 breath then 0 breath - a different kind of challenge!).

The funny thing about my 'training' at this point - first of all, I don't think it's all that focused, in part because I've been afraid that I'd feel totally burned out by the summer, exactly the time when I need to kick it up, if I had a MAJOR PLAN.  So, no set plan but plenty of swim, bike, run.  More importantly,  I've really enjoyed the training I've done, and, when I look back on where I was last year at this time, I am - knock on wood - at a better place in terms of speed and distance and just how I feel in general.  I didn't plan on comparing, but out of curiosity, I took a glance at my very informal training log from last year (an agenda, I'm so old-school), and I'm kicking my own ass!  

Of course, all of this could change and devolve in the month of March which appears, at this point, to be a beast.  At least people aren't dressing me up in terrible costumes, taking pictures of me and posting them on the internet.  Life could be worse!

On a final note - Milos AND Gus, equally indignant and humiliated.  Happy packing to us all!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hiking La Jolla Canyon

So, back in February - a long time ago, or so it seems - Michael and I took advantage of a gorgeous Saturday and hiked La Jolla Canyon.  We had the added bonus of a long weekend, so it really felt like a getaway to head to the west side and enjoy the scenery!  La Jolla Canyon seemed a bit redundant, since I had just been on the same trails in November for the 30k trail race, but I wanted to actually enjoy and experience the trails, rather than focus on my footing and whether I could finish or not.  We, obviously, revised our hike and just did the La Jolla Canyon loop which was perfect for the day, especially since we'd had a late night and did not start out very early on Saturday morning.  

When we arrived, we parked on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to avoid the parking fee.  There were tons of other cars parked along the highway, so we knew that we would hardly be alone on the trails.  Still, we quickly separated from a large group and found ourselves mainly alone, which was great.  Despite rains earlier in the week, the trail felt dry, and because of the sunny skies and warmer temperatures, it seemed like an early spring day.  We hiked up and up for a bit and then the trail evened out - I really had forgotten what a great trail it is, and maybe it wasn't so great running, but hiking - it is in great condition and is a nice loop that takes you back into the canyon.

Eventually we connected with the La Jolla Valley trail which gave our legs a break as we strolled along the valley and took in the view of a bunch of satellites on a hill in the distance.  I am always amazed when I go on a hike in the LA area - it seems that you'll be in the middle of nowhere, and suddenly something pops up that serves as a reminder that you're not far from an urban landscape.  The Angeles mountains, in particular, are full of such signs, although many of them are now in decay, demonstrating our failed attempt to 'tame' that rugged landscape. 

 A few early wildflowers.

On the return down - it suddenly seemed like the hike had been too short.  We did cut off part of it, partly because we realized that we'd hiked it before - back in 2010 when we hike Pt. Mugu.  Funny that it was a warmer day in February than we had back in July of that year.  

 On the hike, we enjoyed lots of crazy plants that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book!

Before we ended our La Jolla Canyon experience, we walked across the highway and enjoyed the coast, watching a group of dolphins play for a bit.  I don't think I'll ever get tired of this coastline!

And that was our La Jolla Canyon hike!  I must say that I probably enjoyed the hike quite a bit more than the trail run - as I said before, it was nice to take it all in rather than focus on the push, push, push of a race, even if it is a slow race.  We don't get to the west side as often as we should, and this served as a good reminder to get out there!