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!