Sunday, June 28, 2015

Moving on...

Since "Out and about in LA" doesn't really work for Colorado, I finally set up a new blog space!
You can now find me here:  Elevated tales and trails 

Hope to connect with you there - or somewhere!

- Kristina

Friday, June 12, 2015

Leaving California: The Long Good-bye

Fitting that there is a Raymond Chandler book and a Robert Altman movie (based on the book), called The Long Good-bye.  Emotional ups and downs along with cramming in packing, finishing school, training, tying up all sorts of loose ends at school - both personally and professionally -  along with seeing different groups of friends for a good-bye reunion marked the month of May and the beginning of June.  We are excited to move to Colorado, but we do so with sadness at leaving a place that has been our home for a substantial amount of time.  When I think of my Southern CA chapter, in particular, I can't ignore the major milestones that I experienced while living here: transitioned to married life, adopted 2 dogs, lost a dog, bought and sold a house.  I made and lost friends, grew as a teacher and took on new and different challenges at work and extracurricularly.  We definitely have built a life here, a very full and good one, so leaving is hard.

Since it's impossible to sum up 10 years in the LA area, plus another 3 years in the Central Coast area for me, I won't even try.  I never expected to live in California - it wasn't one of the places where I dreamed of living, I just sort of ended up here.  I'm not sure that I ever felt like a true "Californian" (not being blond and not surfing), but even as transplants, we both grew roots to the area which are painful to pull up as we move away.  We've had an amazing life here, have appreciated the great variety of people, places, and options, and I'll never forget the friendships we made and the experiences that we had.

So, for now, here is a quick good-bye:

The last morning on our front porch - enjoying a moment before starting the long drive to Boulder!  And, by the way, my feet really aren't huge, but they look crazy big in this photo!

There is more to say, and I suppose the title of the post is a bit misleading since, well, this is quite brief. I'm still taking in the fact that we are moving/have moved.  So, this move, while certainly not a surprise to us and something that we've wanted for years, IS bittersweet as I think about what we're leaving behind.  It's exciting but scary as I think about the unknown and the openness of what's to come.

And we're off! I drove the important cargo - bikes + dog! Essential items for a new life.

Monday, May 18, 2015

IM Boulder - Training!

While I signed up for IM Boulder in August of last year (crazy?!), I only now feel that I am 'officially' training for that particular race.  I've only just realized the blessing of St. George 70.3.  While it wasn't my "A" race, it did keep me more or less on top of my training and I've found that I need some sort of mid-way goal, or I have this year, at least.  Last year, I think that I wrapped my mind around IM Coeur d'Alene and made that THE goal, but this year, there is so much going on with me life-wise that an intermediate or mid-way goal really helped.  Otherwise, the 'base training' probably wouldn't have ever happened!

However, base training has officially ended and I'm now building - and I miss the base training!  I know that I shouldn't compare myself to other people, and I try not to, but I'm really "comfortable" at around 10-12 hours of training a week.  Once I start to train over 12 hours, I really do feel it.  Also, my recovery from St. George didn't even last a full week!  I was back to a long tempo run and then a long brick (4 hour ride, 80 minute run) a week after the race.  Last Sunday, I thought to myself - "You're not in Kansas anymore".  Okay, it's lame to quote the Wizard of Oz, but I was officially out of my comfort zone with that workout.  I really did try to have a positive attitude, but I started the running with heavy legs and I ended the run with heavy legs.  It was about 10x harder than the St. George run was!

This week, plenty of ups and downs and new challenges.  I felt equally blessed and cursed on Saturday to ride part of the Tour de California Stage 7 course - up GMR (Glendora Mountain Road) which I'd done twice before, but then, for the first time, I kept climbing up to Mt. Baldy Village. The Tour finished at the Mt. Baldy ski lifts, but it was the COLDEST RIDE EVER - so the two other ladies and I riding together made a group decision - to not climb the extra 1,000 feet to the ski lifts.  Even though we didn't make it to the ski lifts, it was a  fantastic ride up to Mt. Baldy Village, and it was amazing to see so many cyclists and fans of cycling in Southern CA.  If I had been better prepared (had more clothes) and had more time, I definitely would have stuck around to see the pros go through, but it was a great ride no matter what.

 This is before we started climbing - and it looks like I have something weird growing out of my helmet, but not so!

Finally, on Sunday, I had my first double-run day EVER.  I actually thought that it was a mistake on my schedule until I read the information about said run.  Nope, not a mistake.  Honestly, the afternoon run felt better than the first run of the day, so I decided that double run days might be okay.  However, this is all new territory for me, which maybe is the point?  Yes, I managed an IM distance race last year and loved the experience, but now that I know that I can do the distance, pushing a bit more and going a bit harder is the challenge.

And, if that's not enough, taking in sights like these should be both the means and the end:
Huge shout out to CalTri and Harrison Shao for the Epic Ride on Saturday!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

St. George 70.3 - Race Recap

Back in February when I finally pulled the trigger and signed up for St. George, I felt great about my training.  As the weeks and months passed, doubts gnawed away at that confidence, and on more than one occasion I actually wanted to withdraw from the race - and would have done so, had it not been for the Michael who convinced me that I should stick with the plan.  I had some good rides, great runs and okay swims (note the theme?), but in comparison to Wildflower last year and Coeur d'Alene, it seemed that I hadn't fully committed to training during this training cycle.

So, I lowered my expectations - and remembered that this wasn't an "A race".  And then things went off the rails last week, as our plans changed about ten different times.  This was, without a doubt, probably the worst planned race trip for me.  We left early Friday morning, but I was in a mood because we didn't leave early enough, to my way of thinking.  Plus, my pre-race prep was an absolute disaster.  I just kept my fingers crossed that had my ID to check in and the necessary gear.  I was mainly right...

After a longish morning's drive, we pulled into St. George around 12:30 California time which was 1:30 in St. George.  Oops, I had forgotten about the time change!  Suddenly, the already packed afternoon seemed THAT much crazier.  Not only did I have to check in, but then I needed to figure out race day bags, check my bike, go for a pre-race swim/bike/run, drive the bike course and get dinner.  

Random stop in Baker, CA at the Bun Boy Motel - Driving CalTri1, 

Fortunately, packet pick-up went relatively quickly, and then I sat through most of the mandatory athlete meeting, making some quick decisions for my run/T2 bag.   Around 2:15, we headed out to Sand Hollow Reservoir where I would drop off my bike and fit in a practice swim/bike/run.  As we headed over to T1, I cursed the fact that I had chosen a race with two transitions, but once I saw the reservoir, all of my doubts about the race dissipated.  I'm not really much of a swimmer, but this was, without a doubt, the most beautiful 'swim hole' in which I'd had the pleasure of racing.  I was finally excited about the race!

This doesn't quite do it justice, but it's a gorgeous swim

I managed to get in a very short ride (from the car to transition), checked the Bat into T1, and then did a quick swim and run.  Okay, I was ready to go!  More or less.  I also saw Beth, who was racing on Saturday (and placed 9th!) right as I was finishing my run.  She gave me instructions for Saturday's race: Go hard on the bike and really push it on the downhill of the run.  
Looking and feeling a bit tentative

Saturday morning rolled around early enough (4:00 am, which was 3:00 am for me), and I ate cereal and a banana and made coffee in our room thanks to an electric kettle and French press that we brought along with us.  I was already dressed in my tri kit when I realized that I had a major wardrobe malfunction - I had brought BIKE SHORTS and not TRI SHORTS for my kit (I have a bike kit and tri kit that are the same pattern).  I really couldn't run in bike shorts - or didn't want to for 13.1 miles, so the question was to wear the kit that I had worn on Friday or mix and match.  The fashionable part of me (which does exist) pushed for the matching kit, but I didn't want to wear a solid black kit on race day due to the heat.  So, I begrudgingly opted for the mix-and-match look.  This, by the way, is the most RIDICULOUS thing to worry about on race day, but I also hadn't ridden that much in these particular shorts, so I was concerned for more legitimate reasons too (I'm happy to report that it worked out in the end).

For St. George 70.3, you can either take a bus from downtown St. George to the reservoir or drive - if you drive, you need to get there early to park, but it was a relatively easy process.  We drove, parked, and then took a quick shuttle to the reservoir.  I had plenty of time to set up my transition and get ready for my wave - Women, 40-44!  For the first time in ages, I didn't have a pink or purple swim cap which made me very happy!  Our wave went off at 7:18, but we got into the water around 7:15 and then swam to the "start" line.  This wasn't my first in-water start, but damn it was rough!  The water temperature was chilly but not freezing (around 62 degrees), and it was a beautiful venue with clear water (unlike the black silt and sludge of Wildflower), but it did not make for a fast swim for me.  I felt good in the water but not speedy, and I exited at just over 39 minutes.  Something of a disappointment, but only by a minute or so, which isn't a huge deal over the course of the day.

Once I exited, I took advantage of the wetsuit strippers (now called something else by the Ironman corporation), but it was still a slow transition, even for me, at 6 minutes.  But once I was on the bike, I focused on that leg.  We had driven the course the afternoon before, so I was somewhat aware of it.  The first 30 miles are fast and FUN!  Some rolling hills, and plenty of speedy sections that the hills break up.  

Getting passed by a bunch of dudes

I knew that the real work would start in the second half of the course, but knowing it intellectually/on paper/driving it is completely different from first-hand experience.  The most beautiful part of the course starts around mile 37, which is also when the climbing starts - up Snow Canyon.  I told myself, when we drove the course on Friday, that it wouldn't matter that it was hard with such beauty, but that was complete bullshit.  By mile 40, I would have happily quit if someone had driven by and offered me a ride - it was soul-crushing.  Looking back, I'm not sure why I was so surprised by the challenge or why I thought that it would be easier than Wildflower's "Nasty Grade" because it wasn't.  I finally crawled to the top - and then it was mainly downhill to the bike finish line.  Beth thought that I could average 17 miles, and I made it!  Woo-hoo!  
Other random details: I ate 2 bonk breakers, a packet of honey stinger gels and a packet of pro bar gels (just discovered those recently and I *love* them!), plus some salt tablets, and most of 2 bottles of Skratch (just switched to Skratch and I'm a huge fan), and I grabbed water and gatorade at the aid stations.

I racked my bike and had a much faster transition than T1 - under 3 minutes!  And then it was time for the run.  I usually look forward to the run, but I had no idea how my legs would feel after that ride.  Plus, once off the bike, I felt the heat.  But, Mile 1 passed by pretty quickly, so I was hopeful that it wouldn't be as slow and painful as I feared.  
Starting out on the run

The hills started, oh, almost immediately, and my pace dropped.  Seeing a 10+ pace for Mile 3 depressed me a bit, however, Beth had warned me not to focus too much on the splits.  That was good advice because mile 3 was my slowest split of the day - I managed to pick up the pace, especially on the downhill, and I hit the half-way point right around 60 minutes.  I told myself that if I could stay focused, I'd pull off a 2-hour run, maybe go under?  In the 3 previous 70.3 distance races, I've had a good first half of the run and then slowed down in the second half (I guess last year's Wildflower race doesn't really count because of the swim/run/bike/run course).  I didn't feel overly confident about the hill that peaked at Mile 9, but I kept trucking along, only walking on occasion.  
Getting the work done - in my mismatched kit!  Also, beautiful scenery, not that I even noticed

Two comments about the run course: 1.  Great support in terms of aid stations.  I took a packet of Clif shot blocks, had 2 of them, and then stuck to water, gatorade, cola from the aid stations which were every mile, more or less, and I frequently poured ice down my shirt.  2.  It was a great course to see other people - I was able to cheer for tons of CalTri people, when I had the energy to do so.  

Much of the run, however, was a put-your-head-down-and-work experience.  For the Mile 9 hill, there was a very small group - 3-4 of us - working together and keeping a decent pace (not walking).  Once we hit the top of that hill, a volunteer called out to us "Last hill!".  Although this was not quite true, it was the last long climb, so I started to pick it up.  For the first time ever, I actually negative split my Half-IM run!  The last miles were hard but fun (sub 8 for mile 13!), and I had enough energy for a good strong finish.  I also have to admit that I teared up as I approached the finish line.  It was a hard race, but I was really proud of how much I pushed myself on the bike and the run.

Smiling at the finish - representing Vanderkitten and Smashfest!

My final run time was 1:58:49 - just under 2 hours!  And my overall time was 6:05:34 - ¡A PR by just over a minute!  On the run, I knew that a PR was possible, but I certainly didn't expect it, so it truly came as a nice surprise when I checked my time.  

Noting that finish time - my splits were almost even with my 2013 Vineman race, but St. George is definitely a more challenging course, so I'm more than happy with my time and with my improvements! And while I didn't feel super confident, I never doubted that I could finish the bike course which is a shift for me.  Even last year, at Wildflower, I was nervous about the bike and making the cutoff - maybe a silly concern, but it's telling that I no longer worry about cut-off times.  

Not to do the Academy thing, but I need to acknowledge the support from Beth, who is a really great coach and manages to support, push, and inspire her athletes; from California Triathlon, a fantastic group of people - it was fun to ride to St. George in style and cheer for people out on the course; and, of course, I couldn't do it without Michael, who spent a long day spectating after putting up with my pre-race mood on Friday (not an easy thing!).

As I said in my abbreviated 'race report' from St. George - it really is a fantastic course.  Punishing, but rewarding in the end.  As I gear up for IM Boulder in August,  I know that plenty of hard work lies ahead, but I'm feeling good about where I am at this point and excited to work towards the next big race!

(By the way, I hope I don't sound like one of those assholes - although I probably do - who constantly talks about being undertrained and then winds up with a PR.  I think my issue isn't that I'm undertrained but lack confidence to realistically assess my expectations)

Sunday, May 3, 2015

St. George 70.3 - The short of it

Despite all of my anxiety, doubts, race-day snafus and suffering during the race, St. George 70.3 was an incredible experience.  It is equally gorgeous and tough, and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone who wants a great race-day experience.  

Pre-race - gearing up for a practice swim in Sand Hollow Reservoir

Post-race refreshment!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Racing dreams

So, St. George is a mere 2 days away - less, actually, if you count the hours - and I'm pretty calm.  Sort of!  I did freak out yesterday afternoon, realizing that there was NO WAY that we could leave this afternoon (our scheduled departure day).  Fortunately, we are driving to St. George, so we had some flexibility, and it won't screw things up too much to leave early tomorrow morning.  The other change in the weekend schedule/coordination is that Gus will be traveling with us!  We had planned on boarding him with this great woman (from - I'm a huge fan of this site), but his sleep issues continue, so he's coming with us.

As for the race?  We'll see how things go on Saturday.  I don't have huge expectations, but I might be a little crushed if it's a terrible day for me.  And, I'm worried that it might be terrible.  Signing up for St. George, I was well aware of the fact that conditions would probably be less-than-ideal, and when I started to stalk the app, the temperatures steadily rose . Last week, I think that the high was supposed to be 81 degrees on Saturday, and now, it's supposed to be 90 degrees.  As I checked the weather daily (obsessive?), I told myself that the heat would be okay, I'd raced in hot weather before, and I could cope, as long as it wasn't windy.  And it now looks as though it'll be a windy day.  Dammnit!

But the dreaming bit?  I don't have frequent dreams about races, but I've had a few - and they always make me laugh.  A few years ago, I dreamt that I had forgotten my bike and went straight from the swim to the run.  That was probably wish fulfillment.  Last year, then, I dreamt that I had the wrong Ironman date, a dream that freaked me out so much I was nervous to confirm the date.  And this year?  Apparently I missed my wave start and didn't have my ID at St. George!

Keeping that dream in mind, I guess it will be a successful race if I start with my wave, so no complaining about a slower-than-desirable day!

Monday, April 20, 2015

A first and a last - LA TriEvents 2

TriEvents marked one of the 'firsts' of the year -  a race!  In other ways, it also began what will probably be a long litany of lasts as we prepare to move to Colorado and say our good-byes to people, places and experiences.  So, TriEvents was my last "hometown", Southern CA race, which made the experience rather bittersweet.

As for this race...  I usually don't go on and on about my pre-race days for a smaller local event, but I think that I followed a good list of what NOT to do.  First of all, I've felt somewhat unmotivated training-wise.  Also, we have kept up an unusually busy social calendar as we're trying to get together with friends as much as possible (which may impact the first point).  So, not only did I eat some really rich Mexican food Friday night at Rocio's Mole de los Dioses (yes, that is the "Mole of the Gods" restaurant - if you like mole, which not everyone does, this place is for you!), but we spent part of Saturday at a toddler's birthday party, at which I ate several cookies and 2 pieces of cake, and then we had Middle Eastern Saturday night.  To top it all off, Gus, our dog, has been getting up in the middle of the night - at least once, but sometimes twice - to go outside.  On Saturday night, he got up, and subsequently woke us up, at 12:00 and then again at 3:00.  So, not very auspicious circumstances for the race.

However, I reminded myself when I woke up at 5:00 am (after not sleeping much between 3-5) that this was NOT my "A" race but more of the 'ripping-the-bandaid-off' type of a race.  With St. George very much on the horizon (next Saturday!), it was nice to locate all of my shit, some of which I hadn't seen since last summer.  I was about 100% sure that I would forget an essential item, but I somehow managed to make it to Bonelli with all the necessities.  That was the first surprise and relief, but it still didn't exactly calm my nerves which were a bit on edge.

Arriving at the park early Sunday am, I was initially excited to see all of the athletes and take in the energy.  Yay, a triathlon!  But once I checked in and started to REALLY prepare for the race, I just wanted to leave.  Part of this was nerves, plain and simple, but it also stemmed from the fact that Michael had opted to stay in bed after a rough night's sleep.  As much as I wanted him to be at the race as my sherpa and photographer, I also understood his choice.  Plus, he'll be there at St. George and Boulder, which are far more important to me.  But I still missed him, as weird/dependent as that sounds.  The other aspect of the race that made me nervous, strangely, was the fact that I knew so many people racing, spectating and volunteering.  Signing up, this was one of the bonuses, but as I started to get ready to race, I just wanted to be alone, to zone out and be with my thoughts.  Also, I felt a weird pressure because I knew so many people and, thanks to my awesome self-confidence, I was sure that they would give me the side-eye as a "triathlete".

Thanks to Harrison Shao of CalTri who took this photo - I somehow wiped my race number on my face, that is not a beard!

Despite my nerves, it was fun to see so many people I knew.  With that in mind, I tried to breath (just breath!), focus on my race and enjoy the experience, no matter the outcome and repeated to myself, time and again, that this was NOT my A-race.  Lining up for the swim, I felt okay - the water temperature was a great and it was a nice morning, despite haze from a nearby fire.  It was so exciting to see the first waves start, and then it was the pinked-capped ladies' turn!  My first thought starting out was "Holy crap, this is so much harder than I expected!".  There was a lot of contact initially, but then we spread out and I felt more comfortable.  The swim ended up being slower than I had hoped/expected - I exited at 20:56 for 1000 meters, for a 2:05 pace.  Coming out of the water, I grimaced at someone who was cheering for me.  Such good sportsmanship!
The ladies, lining up for the swim.  Photo courtesy of TriEvents.

Beth's only advice to me for the day was "Go as HARD as you can on the bike :)" - she included a smiley face on that 'suggestion'!  Not really what I wanted to hear, but after a quick-for-me transition (sub 4:00!!!), I was on the bike course, trying to pass slower people and also leave room for the faster people to pass me and attempting to push myself on the bike.  I've raced this course once - 3 years ago, although that was a full Olympic distance (today's race was just a bit short), and while it isn't Wildflower hard, it isn't easy.  Lots of hills, some tricky turns and some portions of crappy road.  Plus, it's a 3-loop course, and I get bored by that third lap.  Anyway, I tried to push hard and was happy with the split on the first lap, less excited about the 2nd lap split, and a bit disheartened by the third, but what could I do?  I finished the 33km course in 1:12:33 for 17.4 mph ride.  While it wasn't the ride I wanted, I looked back at my 2012 race, and my time definitely improved!  So, progress is progress.

After a quick transition (would have been faster than 1:24 except that I stopped to talk to a student from work in transition - he actually won the sprint division!), it was time for the run.  Recently, I've felt great running off the bike, so I was hoping for a strong run, but you never know.  I did try something different this time.  I usually switch from the Garmin Edge on the bike to the Garmin 110 to track my run.  Yesterday, I opted to stick with the Edge which gives me overall pace rather than specific mile splits, so I ended up running very much by feel.  
My one complaint - my race bib kept riding high which made me feel like I was wearing high-waist pants or something.

The run-by-feel strategy is one that I might implement in future races because, holy crap, I ran a fast 8km (for me!), holding a 7:30 pace.  I wonder if I would have backed off had I seen the pace, and, at the same time, I wonder if I had something left in the tank at the end?  

At any rate, I crossed the finish line a very happy camper - relieved that the race had gone better than expected, despite a rough swim and slightly disappointing bike, and I remembered why I keep pushing along.  These experiences challenge me time and again, and while I often question myself and my enthusiasm wanes at times, there are those moments when things click.  My strong run probably helped my attitude, but even with my less-than-great performance on the swim and the bike, I remembered to cheer on other people and felt energized by the support that was out there on the course and it was just fun to be out there!

Finally, the second "first" (a true first for me!) - a podium!  Before my training/attitude/eating went to total shit, I had harbored a secret hope to place at this race as a nice way to end my triathlon experience here in Southern CA.  As I headed into the race, I lowered any and all expectations, so it was a very pleasant surprise when I ended up 3rd in my AG!  I understand that it's a small local race, so it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I was excited enough to wait around for the awards ceremony.  Triathlon has been a challenging road for me - the swim and bike do not come easily, and I know that I didn't execute a perfect pre-race or race plan, but the accumulation of years of somewhat hard work is beginning to reap benefits.  While I have zero photos (at this point) of my podium, it was fun to get a cheer from the crazy CalTri folks as pictured below:

It's definitely a motley crew and I'm not the most dedicated member, but triathlon has become a somewhat significant part of my life, and, in one way or another, I've shared that with many of these people.  

So, the final take-aways from the race?  Transitions matter (for the first time ever, I tried to hurry and it might have made the difference between a podium spot or 4th place); I'm still a better runner than swimmer/biker, but I can improve, slowly!  And, the most important note - the camaraderie and energy on the course make the race experience.  Keeping that last point in mind, I finally feel excitement about St. George, rather than dread, and I can't believe that it's next week!  As I said in my last post, racing season is upon us!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's April! And racing season! And other odds and ends...

Happy tax day (tomorrow - and how is 'happy' a part of it, even if you do get a tax return?!).

Starting soon, I think that I need to have some sort of a 'regular' blog session, just so that I can post about my oh-so-exciting life.  I realize that many people in the digital age have moved on to Instagram and/or Twitter, but I'm not there yet.  In my defense, I still remember when I didn't even use email 20 years ago.

But, to at least give a monthly update...  Last year, I remember that February was such a challenging month, and this year, March certainly filled February's shoes, and more.  Now that April is upon us, and we have some certainty/clarity about life as we move forward, I feel lighter and much less stressed.  As I look back at March, I can't believe how much we weathered - figuring out job stuff for the short-term, dealing with a slight physical malaise (my back), and coming to terms with a death in the family.  It always amazes me, when I'm in the midst of a stressful situation, I tend to put blinders on and just push through, but once I have some distance, I can see how hard it was.  So, yes, March was a difficult month.

April, training-wise, has felt more focused, and I am looking forward to my first 2015 race this weekend!  TriEvents #2 is a local event in which I've participated without great success and, recently, I've come to know the race better as a volunteer.  This Sunday, however, I'll be donning my wetsuit for the first time since last summer and will force myself to remember how to transition.  I don't have high expectations - this race falls two weeks before St. George 70.3, which IS a 'big deal'.  Instead of racing, a part of me would rather have a big training weekend as a last-ditch effort to boost my strength/speed/endurance, but maybe this will boost my race confidence?  After all, I'm not sure how much "hay in the barn" I'd actually harvest at this point.  I do find it ironic that the more I train, the less I seem to race these days...

I don't have high hopes for TriEvents, but I'd love to put down a solid performance for me, swimming, biking (ha!) and running.  This is a tougher course than people give it credit, especially the bike, but I'd love to push HARD on the bike and see what that leaves me for the run.  I'm still not fast on the bike, even with the Bat, but I've felt so good transitioning bike-to-run, that I'm interested in seeing what my run will be.

And, despite my typical lackluster bike performance, I've had some good rides recently.  Well, some that left me scratching my head, like when I flatted BOTH tires at once.  It was the very end of a hilly ride and I just wasn't paying attention.  Fortunately, I was about 2 houses down from our house, so I just walked the bike home.  On the positive side, this past weekend, I rode what I remember from last year as a killer ride - GMR (Glendora Mountain Road loop), and while it was difficult, I enjoyed the ride SO MUCH!  I've been nervous about the St. George bike course, especially on the tri bike, but this gave me a sense that "Sí se puede".

(If I were a better blogger, I would actually have some photos, but I don't.  It was a gorgeous day to be out biking though and it's a great road to ride!)

Now, to end on a 'down' note.  While my back woes are definitely on the mend, to my immense relief, I feel that injury is something of a hydra for me.  Once I deal with a specific issue, another one (or two) raises its head.  I'm currently dealing with a bit of plantar fasciitis in my left foot/calf.  Ah, my old foe from 2012/13!  What is even more frustrating is that in other ways I feel that my running game is pretty strong right now, so I'd love to ignore this little niggle, but I know that I can't/shouldn't.  Last week, I pushed hard on the bike and then transitioned to a really fast run (this was probably the workout that tipped the scale to a full-blown flare-up of PF).  I'd love to see what I can do this weekend on the run, but I also don't want to sabotage St. George or, especially, Boulder.

There are a lot of 'lasts' that we are facing over the next two months.  Moving still feels a bit abstract, but I also know that this is the last local CA race that I'll do.  So, I want to have fun, enjoy the camaraderie on the course, and appreciate the overall experience.  It's also great to have a season 'launch' - to feel that I've built a solid base, worked towards this moment, and now I can take it in and see how I do.  Hopefully I'll have a bit of luck working in my favor too!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Break 2015 - A move/train-cation!

I'm not complaining about my spring break, but I think that I need a vacation now that it's over!  Productive?  Check!  Fun?  Check!  Relaxing?  NO!
But, we made major progress on the imminent move to Boulder - by taking a truckload of stuff to Boulder at the beginning of the week and then flying back home.  

 Just getting started!

Taking a break - somewhere in the Mojave


The drive to Boulder was fairly uneventful - we didn't have weather issues, which was fortunate in the lovely U-Haul.  And, we spent the night in Winslow, AZ, which I wouldn't recommend to anyone, despite the Eagles' song that made it famous (or somewhat famous?). 

Boulder was a lot of unpacking and thinking about our next steps, but I mixed in some training while I was there, on the bike and running.  It was a bit of a challenge to motivate a few days thanks to the weather:

We arrived on Monday (a beautiful day, but after 12 hours or so in the car, I was more than ready for a stiff drink), and then Tuesday, I set out for a windy bike ride.  During said ride, I think my HR was at about 90% for 90% of the ride - I was white-knuckling it, just hoping that I didn't get blown over OR blown into traffic.  Wednesday, I was supposed to fit in a brick, but as you can see, it was going to be 46 degrees as a high, plus rain.  So, I set out for an early morning run, during which it rained, snowed and hailed on me.  Good times!  Finally, I squeezed in the brick Thursday before we flew back to CA.  Also, please note the weather on Friday and then Saturday!  It was strange to leave my Trek road bike, Sunshine, in Boulder - it's now just me and the Bat!

For the end of the break, I drove down to Oceanside, CA on Saturday to spectate Oceanside 70.3.  It's always tempting to sign up for this race, but when it rolls around, I'm usually SO relieved that I didn't.  But...  Maybe one day?!  It was a gorgeous day to be out spectating - a little bit warm, but not too crazy.  I missed the men's finish but saw Heather Jackson cross the finish line.  Wow, she is so amazing!  She raced and won Wildflower last year, and I saw her exit the water but didn't see the finish (obviously - I was somewhere on the bike course).  It was also great to see and cheer for a lot of people that I know. 

Saturday afternoon, I spent working on my swim technique - Beth Gerdes, my coach (I always feel like a fraud when I use that term, but what else should I call her?), was very kind enough to offer a session in their endless pool.  I was SUPER nervous about swimming in front of people and it was kind of weird to be on a 'swim treadmill', but I did get some great feedback and I know what I need to work on.  Then, Sunday morning, Beth and another one of her athletes (who lives in Pasadena and with whom I should train!) and I set out on a ride.  I have major bike riding route envy now - it was SUCH a nice ride.  Lots of rolling hills, rather than crazy steep ascents and descents, and very biker friendly.  Also, it was a wonderful day to ride, a bit foggy early on but then it burned off.  Finally, I was super nervous about riding with other people, especially a pro(!), but this other woman and I were really well matched.  I obviously need to just get over my anxiety about how terrible I am on the bike and develop some confidence once and for all!  Anyway, it was so generous of Beth to spend time Saturday and Sunday with us.  Not only is she an amazing athlete (recently 5th at IM Asia-Pacific!) but a really great coach too.

Anyway, I was really excited about getting in 4 bike rides last week - some of them weren't very fun and none was very fast, but I do feel better about St. George and about heading into the next few weeks (although thank goodness this is a recovery week! and thank goodness I have Friday off!).  

Also, we have made progress on the move to Colorado (I keep saying Boulder, but, really, we could be anywhere).  We will be putting our house up for sale within the next few weeks which seems totally crazy to me.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Marching along

I had to check through my old archives to see if I had used that title before - apparently I hadn't?  At any rate, it's cliché but apt, so who cares?!

After my previous, rather sturm und drang, post, things have improved.  Well, they've been a bit wonky in our household, and the past few weeks have been something of an emotional ride, but I'm feeling better about moving to Boulder, about job stuff and, amazing, that has me feeling better about St. George 70.3 which is looming.  Yikes!

It also probably helps that my back is on the mend.  I'm not at 100% by a long shot, but I tried a new pain specialist (seriously, that's what her card said) on Monday afternoon, and she rocked.  I definitely feel as though I was cheating on Dr. Choy, who has helped me through plenty of aches, pains and woes, but the back situation was different enough for me that I wanted to go with another option.  The good news, to my thinking, is that the issue has nothing to do with my back.  Her diagnosis, as she was poking around at me?  I have a tight ass.  Strangely enough, cycling and running don't aggravate the pain, but swimming does - however, I'm sure that cycling and running are actually part of the problem (or they contribute to the problem).  But, I'm on a stretching regimen that has helped tremendously - who knew that stretching would make such a difference?  Ha ha! And feeling much better as a consequence.

There have been a few recent hiccups - we missed the Solvang Century last weekend, which was a major bummer, but there wasn't anything that we could do about it.  Again, this was definitely a 'life' decision/issue - Michael was out of town unexpectedly and returned late Thursday, so the idea of leaving on Friday for a fun-filled weekend was more than a little bit silly.  We were, however, disappointed to not get up to the Central Coast one last time.  And, maybe we can get up that way again before we leave, but hopefully we'll return to CA for the Solvang ride one of these days.

Despite missing that ride, I feel that I'm a bit more focused on riding, and both last Sunday and today I hit the Lower Big Tujunga loop which makes me feel better about St. George 70.3.  I've had moments of SERIOUS doubt and don't feel super confident at this point, BUT (sorry for all of the all caps), I think that I can get in some solid training and be ready for a May race.  Lower Big Tujunga is a great little sufferfest, and I usually complete it once a season to see where I am.  Riding it last weekend and then again this weekend (and less than a week apart), kind of sucked, especially today - when I did not want to get up and ride.  But, it was definitely worth it - and I had some visitors before starting my descent down Angeles Crest Highway:
Well, that's me - but there is Gus!  He obviously didn't ride with me, but it was nice to see him before starting the long descent.  Also, I'm wearing my new Vanderkitten kit - mostly covered up with my vest, but the shorts are so cute!

The other positive - I still feel a bit slow climbing with the Bat, but I feel stronger too, so I'll get there.  Also, the saddle is getting more and more comfortable - I think I'm just getting used to the bike, overall.

Finally, did I mention that it's officially Spring Break 2015?
And March Madness?  This is the first time I've actually filled out a bracket, and it's looking pretty rough at this point!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ironman Take 2 - Just a few bumps along the training road

Had I written this update a week ago, I think that it would have been vastly different from the "report" that I'll make tonight.  It's not that SO much in my life has changed in the course of a week, rather a few things have shifted, but the shift has made quite a difference.

I'll back up, however, and say that up until last week, I had a solid 'base' training cycle.  Despite feeling a bit ambivalent about training (yes, I want this, no, I just want to stay in bed), the vast majority of my Training Peaks boxes were green for January and February - success!  I was completing my workouts with more consistency than last year, and, even better, I felt that the workouts were high quality, especially in the pool and running.

I will admit that the bike has been something of an issue this year, despite the Bat (who HAS been getting plenty of love, but a lot of it on the trainer).  Last year, I really prioritized getting in solid, long rides, and woke up early every Saturday, committing myself to some good saddle time.  This year, I'll be honest and recognize that I have not dedicated enough time to biking as I really need.  While I love the Cervelo - it is a wonderful ride, I still don't feel as confident on it as I do on the Trek, probably because I still think that it's TOO nice a bike for me and I get nervous on it.  Or something idiotic like that.  The other issue, before I blame it on a complicated love/hate relationship with my bike, is that, as we make these major life changes, triathlon/training is not first priority.  I want to spend time and connect with friends, something that I could sacrifice a bit last year but am very reluctant to do so this at this point.  While running and swimming seem more forgiving in terms of a time-commitment, biking is less so, and that has been an issue this year.  Because of that, I made my peace with a few long "rides" on the trainer which were good and painful!  Last weekend, I finally got in a great ride along PCH and felt pretty strong, especially in my new Vanderkitten kit (of which I have zero photos - sad face; I'm the worst so-called "ambassador" ever).  The extra bonus on the ride - we saw whales swimming south!  It was so fun to look for their spouts - and to spy them.

As I said, cycling aside, running and swimming had felt good.  While I had plenty of swims and runs that felt slow, overall, I saw gains from last year (in the pool) and enjoyed being healthy for my runs.  The only issue was niggling back pain while swimming, which probably started in January or at the beginning of February, but didn't really slow me down elsewhere.  Well, last weekend, after a long swim and a long trainer ride on Saturday and a long run on Sunday, the pain wasn't severe but I had to admit that it was more than just a minor issue that I could ignore.  So, at this point, I am trying to figure out what is going on with my back, not just scouring the Google, but also seeing a pain specialist and going from there.  What's interesting about the back pain is that running and cycling don't seem to be an issue, and I suspect that it is related to tight hips/glutes and other imbalances rather than something more major (or that's my hope!).  However, I'd rather err on the side of caution rather than try to push through the pain.  What is a challenge is that I've never had back pain before (unlike the array of leg/foot maladies that have plagued me), so I don't know how serious it is.  The optimist in me is confident that it's a strain that just needs time to fully heal, but I have concerns that it is more serious.  Either way, it's frustrating to not know, and I hope to have answers soon!

Obviously, I hope that this won't sideline me for the next few months, especially, my plans for Boulder IM.  I have questioned the decision to commit to another Ironman with everything else going on in our lives, but I also know that it wasn't a flighty decision. It's a goal that I'll continue to work towards, despite some challenges that life and my body have decided to present along the way.  But, training for this second IM has been harder.  Again, I recognize that there are a lot of life things going on that I have to prioritize, and maybe some of the excitement that comes from the new and unknown has worn off.  I do have hopes, goals, expectations for this second race, but I'm also more stressed about moving, finding a job, saying good-bye, and figuring out my life.  Small details, I know!

So, a bit of a rough go at this point, but I'm trying to trust the fact that I *do* have a good base to work from.  Also, I've (knock on wood) stayed healthy in other ways and am grateful for that.  I really hope to have answers to the back issue soon, and get back to some solid training!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hello, midlife crisis!

It's cliché but...

I've officially decided that, yes, I am in the midst of a midlife crisis (and I started this post, somehow published it without finishing it, so maybe that's enough said, enough proof, do I really need to add other thoughts and/or examples?).

But, I think that this is where I am "at" in my life.  Mid-40s, lots of transitions right now, a healthy dose of uncertainty, and, yes, I'll take that crisis.

To be honest, I probably felt this coming on last year, but triathlon proved to be a fantastic diversion for most of the year, and then the fall is always a busy time with the return to school.  So, right about now - the February doldrums - the stars should align for that crisis moment.

Much of this is provoked by major changes that we are planning - good changes but stressful.  I've alluded to this before, so I should put it out there, although I kind of hate to make a life announcement in the same breath that I'm talking about a crisis.  Oh well, not much to do about that.   Yes, the major change - we finally decided to bite the bullet and move to Colorado this summer!  

Not a bad place to be...  But, at the moment, I don't have a job yet and am kind of/really freaking out, even though it IS still premature.  However, with so many people in my life asking me about said job, it doesn't exactly calm me down.  And there are plenty of other "known unknowns" along with those "unknown unknowns" a la Rumsfeld.  

Before I focus too much on the anxiety that this change is provoking (or is a part of?), I have to say that the move to Colorado is NOT a midlife crisis decision.  It's actually something that we've wanted to do...  probably ever since we married.  Year after year, we return to Colorado at least twice to visit friends and family and to enjoy skiing, biking, hiking, you name it.  We definitely love the opportunities to pursue an active lifestyle there, but that isn't the only motivating factor - after all, we live in CA and there are plenty of opportunities here too!  Being closer to family and friends (we have several friends who have migrated to the Boulder/Denver area over the past few years) is a major factor, and, we feel that long-term, this is where we want to be.  Rather than continuing to delay the plan ("Maybe next year, maybe in five years..."), we decided that we needed to just do it, as Nike recommends.  

All of these changes are unfolding, and I am trying, without much success, to wrap my mind around the complex equation of finishing out my school year in an active and engaged manner, looking for a job (without taking rejection too hard), training for triathlon, and, the big one, picking up and moving - leaving friends, relationships, patterns that have all developed over 10 years.  It's a bit much to handle at times, but I'm trying!  

And to return to the midlife crisis moment - I can't totally separate it from all of the other changes happening in our lives.  It does provoke me, in a good way, to think about what's next and to think about what I want to do, how do I want to live.  These are questions that sprawl, once you pose them to yourself, and once they take up residency, they REALLY take up real estate in your brain.  Or they have for me.  Most days, I enjoy teaching, and on a good day, I *love* teaching, and Ican definitely see myself in the classroom until I retire, whenever that is.  On the other hand, I also think that I would be okay with stepping away from the classroom, or taking some sort of a break and doing something different.  But what that "different" is, I'm not sure.  Not knowing is kind of scary, and leaving a job that has been so rewarding in many ways while also secure does unsettle me quite a bit.  I think that it's a good moment in my life to be unsettled, but it's not easy.  I'm sure that there are about two dozen, if not more, quotes about things that aren't easy being well worth the challenge.  And I agree with that in theory, but living that experience is different.  

However, as much as I'm a bit afraid of the unknown, I'd also like to embrace it.  I used to pick up my life on a more regular basis, but I haven't in a while.  So, maybe I need to get used to the unknown again.  And, maybe I need to do the same for this little crisis -  embrace it, ride through the storm and see where I end up on the other side.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekend with the padres - wining, dining and hiking, oh my!

In January, my parents decided to make one last visit to see us in the LA area (more on that 'last visit' soon!), and the only weekend that really worked out was President's Day, so we all quickly made arrangements for their visit this past weekend.  It was a bit of a whirlwind of a trip for them since they arrived Friday afternoon (4:30 - just in time for traffic!) and left early this morning.  We packed in quite a few activities and tried to ensure that they enjoyed this visit as much as possible.  

On Saturday, we drove up to Santa Barbara wine country.  It's a bit of a haul for a one-day visit, but we had a willing driver and a beautiful day to explore the countryside, so we took advantage of those factors.  We started out in the quaint little town of Los Olivos.  The first time we went wine tasting in the Santa Barbara area with my parents was probably 7 years ago, and at that time, it seemed that if you blinked, you'd miss Los Olivos.  That isn't the case anymore, and especially not on Valentine's day (we had sort of forgotten about that detail, but, apparently, wine tasting is a very popular activity on said "holiday").  Fortunately, we were early enough that when we stopped at our first tasting room, Byron, it was still low-key.  That was a fabulous first stop, and, since it wasn't too crowded, we were really able to take our time and enjoy the wine - which was excellent!  Byron specializes in Pinots, like a lot of Santa Barbara wineries, and they were all fantastic.  

Starting out our day

Making decisions - what to drink now?

Perhaps the best thing about Byron, after the wine, was the recommendation to eat lunch in Buellton at Industrial Eats.  It's super casual but the food is fantastic - and we definitely needed something to eat after the visit to Byron.  It's also conveniently located, right next to Alma Rosa, our next stop.  We had visited Alma Rosa with my parents a few years ago when it was in an old farmhouse, which I still prefer, and Michael and I (and Gus - it's a dog-friendly tasting room!) visited Alma Rosa back in October.  So, it's a bit of an old favorite for us, I suppose, and their wine is awfully good!

Some full belly happiness

After all of the eating and drinking and driving on Saturday, we opted for a more active day on Sunday - and set out for Mt. Lowe in the Angeles National Forest.  In the end, we did not summit Mt. Lowe but we did hike San Gabriel Peak!

Looking east

The start of the trail was through a wooded area which was nice and shaded, with lots of manzanita all around!  And then we hit a fire road which led us to this area that was once part of the Nike Ajax Missile Defense Plan (according to  Kind of crazy?!  Hikes in the western part of the Angeles are always so interesting - you feel like you are 'away from it all', and then you are suddenly reminded of the fact that Los Angeles is really right there.  

Fromt his platform, we then headed up to San Gabriel peak.  The final push wasn't technical, but it was steep.  

Ah, success!

We finished off the weekend at Angelini Osteria, another favorite from a previous visit, and we shared some excellent Italian food there.  It's always hard to choose because there are so many option, but I opted for a pasta with black truffles - and then they shaved more truffles on top.  It was kind of ridiculous!



It was a fun-filled weekend with my parents, no doubt, and even though I'm an adult, they still spoil me.  I also feel lucky that we can still do things together, like go on a moderately strenuous hike, which is a wonderful way to spend time with them. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The most expensive bike ride

Sadly, I'm not talking about a fun ride, like a cool century ride or some sponsored event.  No, my expensive ride on Sunday looked like this:

Oh, Baños, Ecuador, what a fun visit we had; Michael snapped this photo of the guardia lecturing this little girl for riding her bike through the plaza rather than around it.  How would I know, 8 years later that I'd totally feel her pain?

Anyway, substitute me in my Smashfest Fly kit and the Bat for the girl and a Sheriff for the guardia and then you would have a more accurate picture.   Yep, I got ticketed on Sunday for not stopping at a stop sign.  I was totally guilty - I didn't stop, and I know that this makes me an irresponsible cyclist.  I could defend myself and say that it's not an intersection where cyclists need to stop unless they are turning left (which is true, but anyway).  What really frustrates me about the ticket is that I knew that the sheriff was there - I passed by him on one street and took note, but then when I cruised down the hill, I just totally forgot that he was there.  I didn't even think about it until I heard him signal me.  And then I was so pissed, I really wanted to tell him to go fuck off, which is irrational because, as I said, I ran through the stop sign, no doubt about it.

Meanwhile, as he gave me my ticket, all of these other bikers totally cruised by us - and I would bet that half of them ran that stop sign too!  They should have at least thanked me!

Anyway, it's not the end of the world, no one was hurt, and, fortunately, the ticket doesn't go on my car insurance.  But, still, it was a total killjoy moment and somewhat humiliating too!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January - It's a wrap (almost!)

Yes - January, despite my sense of lackluster motivation and a slow start, ended up being a good month and has concluded on a positive note.  Returning to work after the holidays is always a bit brutal, but the Jan. schedule at the school where I teach is pretty awesome and allows for much socializing.  Add to that my birthday and some solid training weeks, and the month rounded out quite nicely!

Yes, my birthday - another year older but not necessarily wiser.  I used to hate having a January birthday (mainly when I was a kid because I wanted a pool party which was never possible, not even in South Texas), but I've obviously gotten over that and now embrace getting older.  I think that, once I'm closer to the big 5-0, I might enjoy celebrating it a bit less, but for now, I'll continue to raise a glass to my health and happiness.

Drinking a home-made margarita by the resident mixologist and sporting a great little Smartwool pullover that my parents got me - total win!

With my birthday, I didn't move up an age group, sadly, but hopefully it will be a good year for me in the 40-44 group!  My actual birthday was filled with some star power - I attended a CalTri season kick-off meeting and met the very inspiring Hillary Biscay who talked to the group.  I admit that I didn't know who she was until I got my first Smashfestqueen kit, but then I started reading about her and wow, she's pretty amazing.  And I really do love the kits that her company makes - the designs are awesome and the kits are comfortable.  Anyway, I wavered - to introduce myself as a fan girl or not?  I finally decided that it would be kind of silly to not say anything to her, so I ended up talking about how great the kits are, showing her a picture of me wearing the Fly kit, and then we blabbed about triathlon. I was a little starstruck, I must admit, and she was very nice.

Hillary with Maik Twelsiek - the following photos are courtesy of CalTri (and Harrison Shao)

No pictures with Hillary but Harrison snapped one of me with Maik - he only came in 11th at Kona this year!  He was swiping my credit card so that I could make the following purchase:

I know, I know!  Another kit. But so cute and I love the fish scales on it!  And Maik also talked with me about the St. George course - and the hills!

My "real" birthday celebration followed - Michael and I spent an afternoon hanging out at LA's Grand Central Market , visiting the Hudson River School exhibit at LACMA and eating and drinking quite well.  To be honest, there might have been a bit too much over-indulgence over the course of the month, but how can I complain about *having* to spend time at some of my favorite places - Amigos, the York, Golden Road Brewery and POV (this last place has forever ruined pizza elsewhere for us) with friends.  Also, I had my first ramen experience - since the days of Top Ramen - at Tsujita.  The LA Weekly claims that you can find better ramen, but you have to get on a plane to do so.  I'm not a ramen expert, but I can say that it was one of the most decadent meals I've ever had.

Perhaps my favorite part of the meal (except for the ramen) - Glad that no one died while we were eating the ramen!

I mentioned drink, and I know that serious triathletes and runners eschew alcohol.  Sigh.  Obviously I'm not one of those serious athletes, and I've developed a recent crush on the Old Fashioned and variations of said drink (such as the Claremont).  Also, Golden Road's "Better Weather IPA" is one of the best beers I've had in ages which I would drink on a more regular basis except that it has 9% alcohol or something ridiculous like that.  In other words, it packs a punch.

Despite a month of eating and drinking a bit too much, I would say that the rest of my training regime is on track.  Yes, despite my mid-month groaning and moaning and belly-aching, it's been a solid training period.  I started off the month with a great run in Boulder on New Year's, and I started today with an early morning long, slow distance run.  Many of these have felt like a slog, at least at one moment or another, but I enjoyed every moment of today's run. I feel that some of the training is beginning to click, and I'm looking forward to a more focused month in February.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 - It's happening!

I know, 20 days into the year and I finally decide to embrace it.  Good for me!  It's been somewhat of a low-key start to the year, so maybe that explains my reluctance to exuberantly celebrate the start to the new year.

Or the end to 2014, for that matter, which was a memorable year but wasn't exactly a *fantastic* year.  I think that I declared around this time last year that it would be a 'bold' year which, ultimately, it wasn't.  It's funny, in foresight, I believed that the whole Ironman thing would be an audacious experience, but that wasn't really the case.  As a family friend said to me on this topic, there is something militaristic about training for such an event.  He didn't say that in a negative way but rather matter-of-factly, and he was quite right.  By undertaking IM training, I ended up with a regimented schedule for about 6 months.  Not to say that it was easy - it wasn't - or that it wasn't a fantastic experience - it was -  and I certainly took risks and grew and learned about myself and about the whole swim/bike/running thing.  However, Ironman wasn't THE defining moment of the year, which is okay.  Maybe it's hard to find one moment in any given year, or, if you do, are you reducing all of the other moments that are pretty great?  I can say that 2014 was a year of growth, which came with good times and also harder ones.  Seeing relationships ebb and flow is natural, but it's not always easy, and I experienced some of those growing pains this past year.  Also, I know that it sounds silly to non-pet people, but I still miss Milo, our dog, who passed away last February.

I hope that 2015 is also a year of growth (I suspect that it will be!) and of tackling new challenges.  Despite some of my moaning, groaning and grumbling about lack of fitness, I have committed to another Ironman experience!  My plans in 2015 are Ironman 70.3 St. George and Ironman Boulder!  St. George was a tough choice because it's the same weekend as Wildflower, which will always be near and dear to my heart in terms of triathlon, but after last year's swim, I don't know how the conditions will be better this year (with the continued lack of rain), and Michael, Mr. Sherpa, said that he'd prefer to go to St. George anyway.  The only issue I'm currently experiencing with St. George - mentally at this point - is that it is a harder course than Wildflower.  Gulp.  This means that I need to get in gear, especially on the bike!  The bonus is that it looks like an amazingly beautiful course, so I can't wait for that.

And Ironman Boulder - it was the only 'obvious' choice for different reasons.  Summer plans, for instance, and also for the emotional pull that Boulder has had over the past 9-10 years.  It was my first Ironman experience, at Boulder 70.3 a few years ago, so it will be exciting to tackle the full distance this year.  Plus, we'll be there in June which will give me the chance to train on the course - what a concept!  Even better, I love the idea of seeing friends and family on the day of the event.

My only issue right now, is that... despite working with the same coach as last year (who is awesome) and despite the long off-season that should have reenergized me, I'm feeling...  Oh, a bit 'off'.  I was so excited to begin to train and to focus on 2015 training, and I still am, but I'm also worried that I bit off more than I can chew this year.  Maybe it's just that I'm nervous about the idea of another Ironman and I'm still waiting for things to come into focus.  I was so excited in July, still riding on the post-Ironman high, that I couldn't wait to sign up for another race, but now I feel somewhat intimidated about fully committing to the training program again - but here it is!

In the meantime, I recognize that I have much to look forward to in 2015 and exciting changes are afoot.  But there are also some scary unknowns (the Rumsfeldian "known unknowns" along with the "unknown unknowns").  I hope that I can embrace all of the experiences, good and difficult, and the changes that come my way in 2015.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The 2014 Christmas edition

I know, I know, it's 2015 already yet I'm still stuck in 2014.  With the return to work looming (ack, tomorrow!), I want to express gratitude for the fun times that we had over the Christmas break with good friends and family in Colorado.  Although it made for a busier trip, I felt particularly lucky this year that we were able to see both sides of our families, spending time with Michael's family in Boulder and skiing with my family.
Our trip preparations included dressing up Gus in his Christmas costume.  He was a very unhappy doggie as an ice cream sundae.

As usual, we drove from Pasadena to Boulder, however, we stopped in Santa Fe this year rather than Flagstaff.  We arrived late and left early, so we couldn't fully appreciate the sights, but wow, is it a beautiful place at Christmas with the lights! Also, the sunrise to which we were treated as we left town was so beautiful - such pinks and blues!  I sometimes think that Georgia O'Keefe's work is a bit cheesy with all of the pink, but when I saw that sunrise, I thought - "Wow, she didn't make any of it up".

After a few quick days in Boulder (most of which we spent running errands, although we hit some of our favorite places - Salt, Backcountry Pizza which is notable for an outstanding beer list, and Southern Sun), we headed to Keystone, Colorado to meet up with my family.  This was a repeat of our trip two years ago which was fine by me.  We discovered that a ski trip suited everyone - giving us enough freedom yet still allowing us to be together.  One of our first stops was Keystone Village where I posed with the ice sculptures alongside my niece and nephews:

And then we spent the next few days skiing:
Michael, my brother, sister-in-law and I

 Panorama view of the mountains

More posing at the top of the mountain!

Michael taking a break.

The skiing was really great this year thanks to a few days of major snowfall right before we arrived (and the day of our arrival).  I don't ski all-out, super hard-core these days, largely because I'm nervous about injuring myself, but we had several great days out there.  What most surprised us was the lack of lift lines - we rarely had to wait at all, and when we did, the lines were quite short.  It was fun to see my niece and nephews on the slopes too.  We didn't ski too much with them, but they are becoming very good skiers and it's fun to watch them on slopes!

The last day was probably the warmest, so we got in one final morning before returning to Boulder for a New Year's Eve celebration.  We closed out 2014 and brought in 2015 with a competitive game of Cards Against Humanity, plenty of champagne and caps that Michael's mother made for all of us.

A motley crew

Boulder - The Flatirons with snow

We spent New Year's Day in Boulder - going for a walk, visiting family, and I even motivated for a New Year's Day run in the cold (for me, it was freezy!), the perfect way to start 2015.  It was a full Christmas/New Year's break, and while at times I missed the low-key nature that often defines our holidays, it was great to see so many people and share the holidays with them.  We definitely ate and drank and played pretty hard, and I'm now ready to focus on 2015 and all that it will bring!