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)!