Monday, February 23, 2009

Test vs. Truth – Week 8

I have to admit, I’m a little tired tonight. After a looooong ride on Saturday and a Sunday double run (1:45 in the pouring rain and whipping wind, capped off by :40 on the treadmill that evening), I was happy to have a full day’s vacation from training. I’m also proud to report that I followed my plan 100% last week. There’s not much else to say at the moment aside from, “Goodnight!”

Swim workouts – masters x 3

Bike workouts – 1:30 spin, 2:00 (trainer intervals), 1:00, 7:30 (an hour and a half more than I had planned!) + :30 T-run

Run workouts – :70 (intervals), :40, :60, 1:45am/:40pm

Weight training – 1x

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Looooong Ride

With a brief respite form the inordinate amounts of rain we’ve been experiencing in California, I was greatly looking forward to my long Saturday morning ride. Of course, 7.5 hours in the saddle was a little more than I had bargained for.

My training schedule called for a 6-hour ride and a 30-minute T-run. The longest ride I know in the Berkeley area (shameful to admit, after living here a year and a half) takes a mere 4 hours. Not wanting to do multi-loop repeats, I enlisted the help of a cycle-savvy co-worker, who mapped out impeccable directions for an adventurous new road trip. The only trouble was that the start and finish point of my home added more distance than she had expected, so the entire loop was longer than we both estimated – by about 25-30 miles.

When I reached a familiar landmark and realized I was still an hour from home, I have to admit I got a tad bit cranky. In fact, I was SO totally whining to anyone who would listen - which of course was only me. Then it hit me that if I want to be tough come race day, I’d better suck it up big time in training. So I kicked myself back into gear and kept pedaling.

The final few miles of the ride approached my home from a different direction than my usual route. I was armed with explicit instructions, but somehow I missed one critical turn. I ended up lost in inner Richmond, which, as my mother often reminds me, is ranked as one of the ten most dangerous cities in the US (and Mom, you may want to stop reading right here!).

My physical address is actually in Richmond, though I live in a pseudo-secure gated community on the brink of the badness. It’s far enough that I’m greeted outside my door by a bike path filled with non-threatening friendly folks and a view stretching across to the San Francisco skyline. It’s close enough that a stray bullet recently traveled over a mile, from the worst part of Richmond, straight through one of my neighbor’s upstairs windows, lodging in their bedroom wall. There’s a certain area known as the “iron triangle” where shootings in broad daylight and FBI drug raids are normal fare.

Now imagine me, on my bright shiny tri bike, clad in skintight lycra, cycling through the grid of oh-so-lovely Richmond, desperately seeking a familiar street name and a pathway to home. I was ogled and hooted at and glared at by spooky looking dudes and dudettes, who I couldn’t help but imagine might have concealed weapons under their clothes. I was a moving target for a handful of cars which came uncomfortably close to my gaudy two-wheeler. In my mind I repeated the mantra, "Please don't shoot me, please don't shoot me." I’ll admit, I even teared up a bit under my sunglasses, a combination of fear and exhaustion. I wanted to stop and ask for directions, but that seemed a poor choice, so I just kept pedaling until finally I found my way to a main road that I recognized.

I have never been so relieved to see my front door. And for the record, I promptly strapped on my run shoes and cranked out 30 minutes, penance for my moments of weak whimpering.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yellow Fever

Phil, me & Viggo

Santa Cruz finish chute

Dylan Palmer, spreading the yellow love.

I’ve never actually been in a road bike race (aside from triathlons, which, as you know, are a completely different beast), nor am I particularly savvy to the finer nuances of the sport. Yet every summer I tune into the Tour de France with a borderline obsessive viewing tendency. In part, it’s because I greatly appreciate the pinnacle events in any discipline – I mean I’ve even watched the Superbowl, and not just the commercials. In part, it’s because I have a rapt fascination with shaved legs and tight lycra bum-huggers (c’mon, what girl doesn’t?).

But aside from the boys on bikes, there’s a whole separate side to the Tour that captivates me: the commentating crew of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Craig Hummer and Bob Roll. Something about these men’s voices and style draws me in, lulling me into sidelined satisfaction. They team up in a perfect balance of melodic, humorous, informed, ad-lib-ish, engaging and Brit-infused rapport. All this, as they ride their own stage race from venue to venue, surely suffering silently from sleep deprivation, missed meals and vocal overload. These guys are hard-core!

I was absolutely tickled over the weekend, at the Santa Cruz stage finish of the greatest race on American soil, the Tour of California, to meet in person with Phil, Paul and Craig. They’re even kinder than they seem on TV; not to mention they earned major bonus points by coddling my dog and commenting on his handsome good looks and exemplary behavior.

I’m following this Tour, and the impending Tour de France, with eyes and ears wide open. Thanks, guys, for keeping me (and a million or so other fans) so wonderfully entertained.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Smack Talk

I’m feeling all sorts of spunky, now that I’ve had a solid week of decent training. With my newly gained confidence, I engaged in a volley of smack talk with pal Mike Nichol, a late addition to our traveling Ironman troupe:

Me: How’s your training? Ready for me to throw it down in Oz?

Mike: Two out of the first three big weeks done! One to go before an easy week, then another batch of three. I guess that means I'm 1/3 thru the hard stuff. Bring it on sister! Wagers will be taken in cash/US currency only!

Me: How 'bout beer???

Mike: A case (as in 24) it is. I get an age-related handicap however, 10 minutes per year that I am older...

Me: Wait, don't you have to finish before midnight?

Oh yes, I have no business taunting Mike in this way. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the various friends I have racing will have been massaged, fed and showered by the time I cross the line. At times it can be intimidating to hang with the pro/elite crowd. But most often it’s pure fun, with plenty of room for faux-inflated egos and friendly ribbing. Plus, the longer the race takes me, the greater the chance they’ll have had time to freshen up and return to the finish, ready to catch me as I collapse in their caring (and incredibly ripped) arms!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Test vs. Truth – Week 7

I am an athlete! In fact, I am an Ironman. Yes, I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit studly this week, quite the turnaround from the previous week in which I was bogged down by illness. I conquered every workout on my plan, save for one masters swim, which I forfeited due to an overwhelming urge to sleep!

One thing to point out to those of you who are reading my training tallies in detail: I’m not including every detail. I’m simply tallying the individual workouts with a few specifics as to their focus. My plan, authored by MJ, contains far more direction as to the exact intervals, pace and heart rate zones. You can’t expect me to disclose all of her coaching trade secrets, can you? She’s done the work of putting together a well thought out plan, informed by her massive experience as a pro, her own tried and true schedules from her coach and consideration for the fact that I have other commitments that limit my time. It’s up to me to do the work, and this week I did a darn good job!

Swim workouts – masters x 3

Bike workouts – 1:15 (trainer intervals), 2:00 (trainer intervals), 1:30 (road), 5:00 (trainer – OMG!) + :40 T-run

Run workouts – :70 (intervals), :40, :60, 1:30am/:30pm

Weight training – 2x

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pavlova Dreaming

If you call me crazy, I won’t take offense. I just finished riding FIVE hours straight on my trainer. I needed to log a long ride, and the rain has been fairly relentless, so I gave into staying dry and watching movies and the Tour of California prologue.

At times the rain let up enough for me to wonder whether or not I was simply being a girlie wimp by staying indoors. But to be honest, I’m a bit spooked by the wet roads. I had a rather unfortunate crash during a race back in September (nothing to do with wet roads, simply an errant water bottle tossed under my front wheel), and five months later I’m still slightly gun-shy on the bike.

So I jammed away for five hours – 5:10, in fact, as I kept pedaling long enough to see the final finishers in the prologue – and topped it off with a 40 minute transition run. Incredibly, I felt great on the run! I had strong, fresh legs – legs that could keep going for another three hours or more. For the first time, I’m starting to have a good feeling about this race!

While running, I thought back to one of the first conversations that MJ and I had about our impending trip to Australia. It wasn’t anything to do with training or the race itself, no mention of heart rates or tempo runs or mental focus. This inspirational chat was all about the dessert we will eat following the main event. There is something called pavlova - a massive indulgent fluffy concoction of meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit – and when MJ describes it she sounds near-drunk with the prospect of the sugar-rich fruity dream.

There are apparently several sweet treats native to Australia (or New Zealand, depending on who you ask!) that verge on obsession for MJ and various other Aussie athletes residing in San Diego. When MJ travels home, she goes armed with an empty suitcase and a wish list from her friends. On my one previous trip to NZ and OZ I became a fast fan of Milo, a chocolate malt drink similar to Ovaltine. I hear talk of a cookie called Tim Tam and various other unique candy treats. And while I’m actually not a sweets fanatic, I’m really looking forward to my education in decadence down under. Perhaps I should pack an empty bag!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Test vs. Truth – Week 6

Ben and Viggo. Can you guess which one hasn't had breakfast?

The disappointment of a week spent sick was lightened greatly this morning with a visit from my buddy Ben Schloegel, a pro triathlete, firefighter and triathlon camp director from Kansas City, Missouri (or KC-MO, as the locals like to say). Ben could easily add a fourth career to his collection as a stand-up comic, as he’s absolutely one of the funniest people I know – just check out his blog:

He’s also one of the coolest, and I say that because he habitually sends actual handwritten thank-you notes. I mean first of all, who does that? And second of all, what GUY does that??

Ben was in town to celebrate his birthday and escape the Midwest winter chill. We met up for a long coffee and a short swim, which perfectly suited my need to take it easy and his desire to slack off. Notice how the same swim served a dual purpose? It was great to catch up with my friend, and also to have him echo MJ’s assurance that I have nothing to gain and everything to lose by overdoing it before I’m 100% healthy.

The sum total of my workouts this week is almost not worth reporting, due to the lack thereof! But for the sake of consistency, here is what I managed to squeak out:

Swim workouts – 2k EZ

Bike workouts (EZ, low heart rate on the trainer) – 1:10, 2:00 + :30 T-run

Run workouts (EZ, low heart rate) – :40, :60

Weight training – 1x

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wash Your Hands!

Chances are good that wherever you are while reading this blog, a fair number of folks around you are suffering with late season colds and flu. I made the cardinal error of thinking myself fortunate for having escaped without any bouts of major illness this winter – which is exactly when it got me. I’ve been miserably sick all week, so much so that I’ve been completely homebound, missing work and all my training. MM ticked off a series of texts suggesting the possible cause of my illness:

Severe flower allergy? (After I alluded to how he might make me feel better.)
Count Draculitis?

Along with a few others which, though providing me with a good laugh, are most definitely not appropriate for print.

It’s painfully frustrating as an athlete to be ill – in particular when your very specific training plan is sidelined. Today (Saturday) is the first day that I’ve felt any semblance of normal, so I am gearing up for a very easy spin on my bike, followed by a jog of a run. While I’ve been pulling my hair out due to inactivity, I also know that attempting to come back too hard, too soon would be a serious mistake – as would allowing myself to get seriously stressed out over missing a full week of Ironman prep. This is one of those times when I have to remind myself that some (if not many) things are out of my control, that I must focus my usual training drive on getting healthy and that there is a certain finesse to the sport of channel surfing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Party Time, Times Two

Neily, the birthday girl

HPP, MJ and Maney


I spent last weekend in San Diego, celebrating my friend Neily’s birthday (photos above), attending the Competitor Endurance Sports Awards and enjoying a few days full of relaxation and training. And of course a bit of shopping – in particular at my favorite boutique, It’s a Luv Thing in Leucadia. In fact, MJ, Neily and I are such fans of Luv Thing that we asked the owner to come on board as an official sponsor of the 2009 triathlon team. We may like to workout hard and get mighty sweaty and dirty, but we’re also fashion fiends who clean up pretty nicely!

Speaking of fashion, I had planned to share some glamour shots from the awards party, but I committed a major blog faux-pas and forgot to snap the photos. Between juggling a wine glass, an evening bag, a water pistol and a whack-a-monster hammer, the photo opportunities simply got away from me. You see, the ESA takes place at Sea World in San Diego, with the first few hours dedicated to drinking, eating and game-playing in the arcade. There’s nothing quite like watching the top multi-sport athletes in the world compete for stuffed dolphins, orca whales and Sponge-Bob Squarepants dolls.

I played several rounds at the shooting gallery with Craig Alexander and Greg Welch, and not surprisingly, I lost consistently. But I certainly couldn’t begrudge Craig the giant Kung-Fu Panda that he proudly took home to daughter Lucy. I fared much better at the whack-a-monster game, scoring a toy dolphin for my dog and releasing some major aggression on the creepy little pop-up creatures.

Once the games were over, the party moved into the banquet hall, where I had the honor of presenting the Female Offroad Triathlete of the Year award to my dear friend and fearless athlete Melanie McQuaid.

The best speech of the night was a toss-up between cyclist Taylor Phinney - an exceptionally well-spoken eighteen-year-old, sporting perfect comedic timing and sweet white camo compression socks – and motocross-rider-turned-Ironman Ricky James, forced by Bob Babbitt to publicly admit to having a tattoo of a squirrel – reaching for his nuts!

I wish I had the photos to show off the amazing fashion from the evening – but I’m sure they will emerge elsewhere. It’s always interesting to see how the athletes you usually encounter in swim caps, cycling shorts and sweaty run singlets primp up for a night on the town. MJ looked particularly stunning in her black and white floor-length gown, with HPP on her arm in a dashing suit. And I doubt anyone could tell that they both wore compression tights under their black-tie duds!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Test vs. Truth – Week 5

I definitely did not stick 100% to plan this week. Between a heavy workload, a bit of travel and feeling somewhat rundown, something had to give. I was concerned about getting sick, and knew the smart choice would be to cut a workout or two and opt for some additional sleep. I axed a 2-hour bike ride and an easy 2k swim, and made it through the week and a trip to San Diego in decent health – only to return home and catch the nasty cold that’s been swirling around the bay area. I have my fingers crossed that I’ll kick it quickly and stay mostly on track.

I did get back in the swing of masters workouts this week, and it feels wonderful to be a pool regular once again. When I’m able, I plan to swim the actual coached workout. When my schedule won’t allow me to swim with the group, I’ll swim one of a number of favorite workouts I’ve recorded over the years. Either way, these workouts are currently in the range of 3k.

This week was still very easy in terms of running, giving my legs an opportunity to fully recover from the marathon. Between the rest and an excruciatingly intense ART appointment with DTM to address my various aches and pains, my legs felt rejuvenated by week’s end, just in time for a lovely one hour run.

The total this week:

Swim workouts – masters x 4

Bike workouts – 1:00 trainer, 2:00 trainer, 3:30 bike

Run workouts – :20, :30, :30, 1:00

Weight training – x 2