Sunday, February 24, 2008

Quotes from the Weekend

You need to learn to fall on your left side. The right side of the bike is where all the expensive stuff is.
- Ride Mentor

You have very dainty scapula.
- Radiologist who read my x-ray.

I'm fine, if a bit bruised.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Goin' Nowhere and Lovin' It

I'm still loving the weekly TNT spin classes even though it's a tough workout. There are lots of cool TNT'ers there. Some of the people are training for the century ride, but others are training for a triathlon. (Note to the Lavaman Triathlon - I'm coming for you in 2009.)

Spin is fun because I'm not worried about falling or gear shifts or disappointing my teammates. Riding the bike on the road has to become fun too. The key is to stop pushing myself outside of my comfort zone on the Saturday rides. From now onward, spin class is to build my strength and endurance. On Saturdays, my only job is to feel safe on the bike.

This is hard for me because I don't back-off well. After the ride on Saturday my mentor said, "You're fighting too many battles." He's right; I'm trying to learn too much at once. It's self defeating to think that I can start a new activity and be at the same level as people who have been doing this for years.

The world will not end if I ride a bit slower for a few weeks.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I'd Like To Thank - My Mentor, My Teammates and My Helmet

Saturday's bike ride was, well, unfun. Cycling is one of those things that when things start to go wrong, the wrongness just keeps building on itself.

The short version is -
  • My bike saddle was too far forward; therefore, my leg stroke was inefficient.
  • Between my pedaling inefficiency, my poor shifting technique and riding with a faster pace group, I managed to exhaust myself after 20 miles with another 10 to ride.
  • The bike saddle position put pressure on my knees and my right knee was super painful and cranky.
  • Because my knee hurt, I couldn't quickly unclip my foot from the pedal on my right side which meant I was frightened that I was going to fall whenever we needed to stop.
Do you see how the wrongness builds exponentially?

To get around the cranky right knee/unclipping problem, I started unclipping my left foot. It worked until we got about 500 yards from the end of the ride. We stopped and I needed to unclip on the right side and get that foot to the ground. I couldn't do it fast enough and fell over. At that point, I just couldn't take it any more - the painful knee, being afraid for hours, being so close to the finish, the fall. It was simply too much for me and I started to cry and babble (humiliating, I know).

I have never appreciated a Team In Training mentor or group teammates more than I did on Saturday. I was ruining their ride - they couldn't go as far or fast as they should have been able to go and they were still so incredibly supportive to me. I'm not very comfortable needing help and I was incredibly frustrated. My teammates put my bike back together, pulled a clump of grass out of my helmet, wrapped an arm around my shoulders, cheered me on when I got back on the bike to ride to the finish.

The fall gave me a whippin', but at the time I didn't notice it. Now I'm sporting a very tender shoulder and swollen elbow and some nice bruises on my legs. That begs the question, why can't I just stop now? Last week, I got an email from one of my first Honored Teammates. Honored Teammates are people who are fighting blood cancers who agree to dedicate time to TNT teams. Each Honored Teammate is special to me and several are young children. Children fighting cancer is sad, but childhood Leukemias now have a high survival rate which is a direct result of money raised for research.

The email last week was from an Honored Teammate, Michele, who has always touched my heart. She's just a bit younger than I am and from a similar background. She's me, only she's fought back cancer 4 times. The cancer has returned and this time things look bleak. Chemo isn't an option this time and she's looking to alternative treatments - an alkalizing thing, an oxygen thing. Before they talked about a cure, now they're talking about quality of life.

That helps to keep things in context. I had a bad couple of hours training, but I'm healthy enough to train for an endurance event. It's hard to quit knowing that my Honoree won't have that chance. If I just wanted some training partners for every Saturday, then I could join a running club or a bike club. I picked TNT, because I wanted to raise money to fight blood cancers.

Michele is going to be featured on TV program about understanding cancer which does a great job explaining her story.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More Yoga Required

As a sort of belated Valentine's Day date, Steve got us tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Corteo on Saturday evening.

I'd never been to see Cirque du Soleil, but I had avidly watched the TV series about how difficult it is to be selected as a Cirque performer. Having watched the TV show, was very excited to see Cirque du Soleil and my expectations for the show were very high. I was not disappointed. My favorite part was watching tiny Valentyna Paylevanyan floating above the crowd suspended by 5 huge balloons. Every time she'd land in the hands of an audience member, that person would gently tap her back aloft. She moved across the crowd like a beach ball at a Jimmy Buffett concert. I wish I could float on balloons like that. It seemed so carefree.

Even with my high expectations for Cirque du Soleil, I found the show amazing.Those are some fearless, fit, flexible people. No matter how much yoga I do, I'll never be that strong and flexible. Amazing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Truer Words Were Never Spoken

Trips to the bike shop have become all too frequent for me. All the employees know me. Today I stopped in because I needed some advice on my saddle, but ended up chatting to the store manager for awhile.

He gave me some really good advice on several topics, but mostly we talked about my legs being much stronger than my cycling skills. Coming off the marathons, my legs are pretty tough. Because my legs are tough, I never switch gears.

He correctly predicted that I almost always run in too hard of a gear which allows me to pedal at a much slower cadence. I replied that I thought it was because I didn't like trying to figure out the gears (which is true, I don't like fiddling with the gears). Then he said something so accurate that I had to concede the point.
"It has nothing to do with the gears. You'd rather burn in your legs, than burn in your lungs. Cranking in the heavy gears is way to avoid doing what's hard for you."
Ouch. The truth in that stings a bit. Bring on the interval training.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Spinnin' it - TNT Style

Tonight was the first spin class of the Team In Training season. The team has spin training sessions every Tuesday and Thursday. I've been to plenty of spin classes in my time, but none like this one.

First, you spin on your own bike. You lock the rear wheel on a bike trainer and the front wheel on a block. So you're spinning on your road bike. Second, spin class is held outside in the parking lot of a bike shop. San Diego cooperates by having lovely, slightly cool evenings.

It was a really fun way to spin. The class was tough, but I could have challenged myself more than I did. Fresh off the (16 mile) half marathon this weekend, it seemed like a good idea to go easy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Race Notes: Hansel and Gretel Host a Marathon

Did the San Dieguito Half Marathon this morning. My first inkling that this event was a little jacked was on mile 6. The course marshal drove by and said he was doing his last pass through. He asked if I needed anything. That struck me as incredibly strange. I was halfway through the race and on pace to complete within the time frame. Yet, the course marshal - the person responsible for the safety of event participants - is driving off the course.

After mile 9, we never saw another person from the race event staff. This is incredibly, incredibly irresponsible. You have people out there without water available, without anyone to help them if they get hurt. It was a warm day today - not terribly hot, but warm. To have no course support when you know people will need it is a horribly reckless choice.

While we couldn't find anyone from the event staff, we did see some lost participants. The roads there are very winding. At most turns there was some flour used to mark the course direction. However, at some spots the flour was completely gone. This is not surprising considering cars and tons of participants had trampled on the course. There were no signs, no flour and no course staff. We ended up off the course and waving down motorists to get directions back. In total we did about 16 miles - three miles beyond the half marathon total. At the end of the race, I hunted down the race organizer and the course marshal. Steve went to alert the EMTs that there were people lost out on the course.

We found the course marshal in the beer garden. He was happy to tell us that he'd been there for nearly 90 minutes. Good for him, too bad for the competitors that are his responsibility. He saw no need to have volunteers on the last few miles of the course. The course marshal maintains that the course was marked with flour. He neglected to consider that cars and runners may have obliterated the flour markings. Dude, you left the course nearly 2 hours ago. I left it 10 minutes ago. Which one of us is a better judge of its current condition? Flour markings aside, when there is a turn in the course there needs to be a volunteer there to direct people. I've done tons of races in the last year - this is the only one with no marshals or volunteers on the course. Those volunteers don't just provide direction, they also can call for help if it's needed.

I told the marshal that I thought he needed to drive the course and surrounding area to look for participants in trouble. His response, "No, I've been drinking beer. I won't drive." Fine. Get someone - anyone - to go drive the course. In retrospect, we should have gone and driven the course ourselves. We passed quite a few people, but there are 6 people that I'm worried about - a much older man, a guy in his twenties, 2 women who were half running/half walking and two teenage girls. They all looked as though they were struggling. Some of them didn't have full water bottles and were relying on course support. I hope that they all made it safely home.

Race Notes -
  • It was hilly and challenging, but certainly within my abilities. My left hip was a little cranky with all the hills, but I was fine.
  • Nutrition and hydration were good. Used a new electrolyte tab; it was fine.
  • I'll start carrying my own map in case the event staff abdicates responsibility for the safety of race participants.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dear Steve Ross,

I had forgotten how much I loved Steve Ross and his yoga show Inhale. I practiced yoga on and off for more than 15 years. Lately, I've been skipping it, because I've been sort of lazy. Most days I'll do a quick pose or two, but quick isn't really the way that yoga works.

Last week Steve brought me a copy of Yoga Journal. That inspired me to add Inhale back on to my Tivo. Today at lunch I thought I'd do a few minutes. Instead, I hung with Steve for the full hour because it felt so incredibly good. My body feels more strong and flexible than it has in ages.

Steve Ross, I love you man!

Monday, February 04, 2008

California, Always Amusing

Jack Nicholson just called me.

He asked me to vote for Hillary tomorrow. Well, it was one of those automated phone calls, but still. My first thought when I heard that voice was, who's prankin' me?

Thus are the joys of being a registered voter in the state of California.

Race Notes: San Francisco Half Marathon

What a race.

The day started beautifully for an event. The weather was crisp and lightly windy, but no rain. It was a little bit of a hassle getting to the race location, because the cab driver couldn't figure out the directions. I had to walk over a mile to get to the race and missed the start by a little bit.

I was pleasantly surprised that it was a Team in Training event. There were a lot of purple jerseys out there and I met tons of really wonderful people.

It was a good race for the first 6 miles. That changed when I turned onto the Great Highway. It's right along the ocean and I expected the winds to be intense there. What I didn't expect was that the skies would select that moment to open up a downpour. I had bought a bright yellow plastic rain poncho the night before the race. It was so windy I couldn't get the thing on me. The poncho kept blowing all over the place and I couldn't find the spot for my head. The cold, wet plastic was slapping me. My efforts to continue walking while putting my poncho was like a Jerry Lewis sketch. Nice to be the comic relief for the runners.

The rain and the wind got to be so yucky that I squatted down and made a sort of teepee out of my poncho and tucked the bottom under my sneakers to that the wind couldn't blow it away from me. Why I bothered, I'm not really sure. By that point I was completely drenched - my hair, pants, shoes and socks. I got rid of my gloves because they were soaked and making my hands even colder. I squatted there in my yellow poncho teepee and ate my Chocolate Powerbar gel. That was the closest I've ever come to just giving up during a race.

When I got myself going again, the skies mostly cooperated. There was some light rain, but nothing horrible. I finished the last few miles in relative ease.

  • It's long past time that I learn to run my own race. I love walking with people and encouraging them, but I'll slow down to support them. It's not good for my own finish times.
  • The weather did not bother the San Francisco locals nearly as much as it bothered me. They were trained for it, while it was a completely new experience for me. There's nothing that can replace training in the same conditions as the event conditions.
  • I'm not sure what my actual time was for the race. Between the late start and the teepee, I was slooowww. Unfortunately, the race didn't have chip timing, only gun timing so I'm not sure how long I was on the course. It was slow.
  • As wet as my feet were, I did not get blisters. All hail the miraculous Injinji running sock.
  • Feel great today. The tendons in my right knee were tender yesterday, but today I'm fine without ice or ibuprofen. I'm going to try to baby my knee this week.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

News Flash - It's Cold

Growing up we were never allowed to say,"I can't." My Dad would always respond, "Can't means won't." Sure it was annoying, but it instilled in us a "Can do" attitude. When my nieces would say that they couldn't do something, I would always parrot back, "Can't means won't."

Tomorrow is the half marathon. While I'm sure I can do it, I'm not sure I want to do it. Here are 5 good reasons to skip it.
  • It's cold and windy and rainy here. It's an unholy combination of bone chilling misery. Who thought February would be a good time to hold a race in San Francisco?
  • I've finally gotten over the cough I picked up last week.
  • We walked quite a bit today and my legs are a little tired.
  • Rest would be a good thing. I start training for the century ride this week and I'm doing another half marathon next Sunday.
  • If I do the half marathon it'll be a big inconvenience for everyone.
If I was smart, I'd simply skip this event. However, I'm no quitter. I'm may be stubborn as a mule and dumb as a bag of hair, but I'm tenacious about it. I've laid out all of my gear for the event. I'll take a look outside in the morning. If it really, really looks bad I'll skip the event.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Postcard From San Francisco

We're in San Francisco for a film noir festival. I'm sitting in the historic Castro theatre listening to the organist during intermission. Cool. The theater is beautiful. It reminds me of the restored 1920's vaudville theatre where I had my first professional job.

We're here through Sunday when I'll do the half marathon. Before you think of robbing my house, you should know my vicious attack beast Toby is there waiting for you.

More soon...